It has been several months since I composed a piece and posted to this blog I refer to as my “theater blog”. Even though I post to another blog (firstname.lastname@example.org) I began this theater blog as a sort of Martin Theater Journal written by the wife of a theater instructor. If you scroll back through the archives of this blog, you’ll see some of the fun times our family has experienced through live theater.
Since my husband, Kim, became the drama instructor at Lee College in our hometown of Baytown, TX, another avenue of theater has revealed more to learn about the art form of drama. Kim teaches theater classes, directs not only college aged people, but also includes some who are past college age in his shows. He has directed productions at the college such as Treasure Island complete with a beautifully crafted “ship” at full sail. He directed a musical, The Addam’s Family Musical, which involved the dark, but comedic macabre style of theater. In-between the large productions, Kim brought to Lee College audiences a show about the real life struggle of a woman in a man’s world. Rocket Girl was about Mary Sherman Morgan life as a genius who invented jet fuel for the United States space program during the 1950’s. The college science community seemed to enjoy Lee College’s production and were present to support the arts. Kim also directed the college students in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, which tells the story of Henry Thoreau, a writer and philosopher of his time. Audiences learned about two real people they might not have already known, through a live stage performance.
The Lee College theater department has collaborated with Baytown’s community theater, The Baytown Little Theater, on several of the BLT’s summer musicals. One of those collaborations, Fiddler on the Roof, I wrote about in an earlier post, was a special production for our family when ten Martins, four generations, appeared on the Lee College Performing Arts Center’s (PAC) stage together. It has been mine and Kim’s joy to perform and work with our family over the years. It has been especially fun raising our sons in theater and performing with them on stage. Kim and I have been BLT members participating in all aspects of our community theater for over 40 years. We have served on the board of directors, performed, directed, worked on crews, sold tickets, served refreshments and cleaned up restrooms over the years. The walls of our home display framed posters from past BLT productions that we look on with fondness reading the signatures of those who played with us in and behind the scenes.
Ryan, our youngest son, currently works with his dad at Lee College as the PAC production specialist. He recently volunteered his knowledge and experience in theater to direct the Tony Award winning play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, at the Baytown Little Theater. In their freshly completed new building, many BLT members supported Ryan and did all they could to prepare for the production’s opening night this past weekend. Ryan cast his dad in the lead role of Vanya, making this the second time he has directed his dad. Kim worked very hard to learn the many lines of his character to play the part. Watching my son direct his dad, my husband, in this production has been a delightful added experience to our family journey of theater life.
Each theater experience continues to broaden my understanding and knowledge of what it takes to produce a story on stage. There is nothing quite like a live performance to tell a story whether it be comedy, drama or fantasy, with music or without. The techniques and skills used to bring characters’ tales to life are a learned craft honed with practice. Some individuals appear to have natural talent and will excel in the art of performance or the technical aspects of theater. With every show they work on the theater bug grows within them and they will forever have a love for staged productions. The beauty of community theater is all of its participants are lending a helping hand while evolving into a splendid show for its audiences. As a theater organization we are a community working for a common goal. That goal is to evoke a conscious awareness of life’s lessons, struggles and humor, which are daily shared by all, through the dramatic art of staged productions.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike has added depth to our community theater’s history. The message that the Chekhov named characters teach audiences is that family and those close to you are important when facing certain trials and truths about our lives. It has been another theatrical challenge that by the time VSMS closes this Sunday, and set strike once again renders a blank stage making way for the next show, we will have all grown and learned another valuable lesson.
Thank you, Baytown Little Theater for opening your doors, the minds of your audiences and a community awareness to the dramatic art of theater.