Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Morning with the Newspapers #132

In this morning's News Journal, I find an article (Georgetown DelTech to offer theater productions) that describes an effort by Delaware Technical and Community College to bring regular theater productions to the stage on their Georgetown campus.

The goal, said Vice President and Campus Director Ileana Smith, is to get area residents into a habitat of supporting the arts and to "think about this theater as a place to come."

Smith said campus leaders believe the time is right for a theater venue in central Sussex County. Many new residents in nearby Bridgeville, Millsboro and Lewes moved to Sussex County from larger communities with vibrant culture and arts scenes, Smith said.

While I applaud this idea -- I'm in favor of theater, after all -- I do have to point out that Georgetown already is home, and has been for many years, to the Possum Point Players and their Possum Hall theater. In fact, Possum Hall is less than two miles from DelTech (as the Google bot suggests that the crow drive).

I used to be closely involved with the Possums. In the days before kids, the Lovely Karen and I were both a part of that group. Our first date was dinner at Adriatico (when it was on First Street at Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth) followed by a Possum performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

That performance was at (wait for it) Delaware Technical and Community College, in the theatre now proposed for the addition of theater programs.

In those days, before the refurbishing and expansion of Possum Hall, the Possums did their larger productions at Del Tech. And we were a part of many.

Karen, a talented flautist, was a member of the orchestra for almost all of the Possum musicals (back when they used real orchestras). I can act and can fake my way through a song as long as I'm in a "character part." And I used to help out backstage for shows that lacked a suitable "Mike part." I did props, or sound, or helped shove things around on-stage between acts.

Between us, we were involved in The Good Doctor, Wait Until Dark, the Sound of Music, Nunsense, The Crucible, Oklahoma, The 1940's Radio Hour, The Man of La Mancha, Big River, and I'm sure there are others that I am now forgetting.

The week before I proposed, in 1987, we helped out at a Possum Kid's production of The Emperor's New Clothes. It was the last show of that production, so we stayed behind to help tear down the set. I wasn't paying proper attention and put a foot down in the wrong spot. I twisted my ankle over so severely that I pulled the connector-thingy (tendon?) that connects shin to foot completely out of my foot. Technically, it was a bone break. So I proposed on crutches. Never underestimate the power of sympathy.

When the Possums did Nunsense, I was the props master and Karen, then large with Colleen, did sound effects and turned pages for the pianist. Nunsense is a show-within-a-show show. The idea is that a group of Nuns is putting on a performance, so anyone seen onstage should be wearing a Nun's habit. As the show started, the stage manager (our friend Nina) and I would be out on the stage, setting props for the Nun's "stage." At that point I had only a mustache, so I kept my back turned to the audience until the very last second, when I would spin around, face the audience just long enough for my facial hair to register, and then exit, stage left. Those were the easiest (and somehow most satisfying) laughs of my stage career.

We also have a photo of the two of us from that show-- both in Nun drag, Karen clearly quite pregnant, me mustachioed. We like to haul it out to scare the girl's friends when they visit.

So, when I see a story about how the fine folks at DelTech are going to rescue a culturally benighted Georgetown by bringing in theater, I bristle. Just a little. The fact is that Sussex County does not really lack culture. You just have to seek it out. You just have to support it in any way you can.

We have the Possums. We have the Sussex Ballet (where our efforts, and those of our children, now center). We have the Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre, whose Board I served on for many years and whose web site I still manage. There is a new theater group working in the old Epworth Church building in Rehoboth Beach. There are good programs in the local high schools. And there is the Southern Delaware School of the Arts.

There are fine music programs all summer at the Bethany and Rehoboth bandstands. There is the Rehoboth jazz festival and the Rehoboth film festival. There is a music festival in Dewey Beach. There are weekly concerts in Stango Park all summer in Lewes.

We have culture. We just have to do a better job of supporting it.

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