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Tales from Beyond the Stage

Backstage used to frightened me, to be honest. My elementary school days encompassed my first nights wandering behind the legs and Cycs in the theaters of downtown Wichita. It seemed at the time that I had discovered another world that was so unimaginably different than any world I had known before. And, that was scary.

It is unimaginably dark; the opposite of what we see in under the stage lights from the vantage point of an auditorium seat. It's a parallel universe. Picture a world where thespians wander around in the pitch, with pupils wide and muted voices. Communication is limited at best and often unnecessary as well as risky. Therefore it is eerily quiet. It is akin to the environment you inhabit when you stir for a midnight snack; an empty household or otherwise containing the feeling of being occupied.

The backstage is a labyrinth laced with hazards; booby traps. It is a jungle of cables and ropes. Darty eyes of glow tape peek at you from the darkest corners. It is chandeliered with sand bags and drapes. As if a scene straight from Limbo, some of the walls aren't real. Many of the doors do not lead anywhere. Of course, the real traps are the curtains; walk through the wrong one and you suddenly become an actor.

Amid this cave of curiosities is an undercurrent of logic and rhythm. The people backstage are neurons in an intelligent system of moving parts. Everything happens in sync backstage. The world is in a constant loop; repeating itself over and over. The sense of Déjà vu hangs like a mist.

And, then there are the oddities. Every set piece, furniture unit, and prop that is ever on stage lives in condensed areas in the wings. Large units can roll through the blackness unable to see you should you be in its way. Queerly dressed actors may be stripped down by strange, black clad night dwellers.

Waves of deep blue paint the heavy traffic areas near the wings. Though they make visibility possible, the blue lights somehow reinforce the idea that there will be no escape from the darkness. Eyes begin to adapt to function in low light. You learn to survive it.

The world behind the curtain is alien. And, yet, it is a beautiful place to be. It is a world where, willingly, the inhabitants are creating strange conditions so that the alternate reality, the world on the stage, can exist in its certain, spectacular way.


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