Time to Slow Down and Pay Attention

By Audra Baakari Boyle

June 28, 2007

Our 72nd season has begun!  After attending a dress rehearsal the night before opening, blowing wind, rain and hail had me a bit apprehensive about the weather for our grand opening night.  How foolish of me to doubt. Within hours of first curtain the winds died down, the temperature warmed up and the evening was wonderful.

Prior to the opening curtain of “Angel Street,” the classic Broadway thriller, our Executive Producer Todd Schmidt greeted the audience with a brief curtain speech thanking them for their support and reminding those of us in attendance that attending an evening at the theater is a communal event and a time for us to slow down.

In this modern fast-paced age of television, internet and cell phones, Peninsula Players is one of the few theaters in America where one can arrive early and stroll along a cedar-lined shore, relax with a cocktail or bottle of wine purchased at the beer garden, and slow down one’s mind before settling into a unique audience pavilion that is both indoor and out.

Our daily lives are bombarded by media all around us, cell phones and pagers attached to our hips, and telemarketers invading our home phone lines – how nice to come to the theater and share an event with those around you.  It gives us a chance to make a face-to-face connection, and not one just through an e-mail note.  The actor interacts with the audience, and the audience reacts to the actor.  Perhaps, even after the show, the play and actors have given the audience something to talk about with each other.

As Todd gave his speech I was reminded of my theater history professor, Dr. William Stock.  He loved Shakespeare and would often quote the Bard in the hallways in between classes.  A point he always emphasized to us was that once upon a time in the history of theater, people did not go to see actors.  They came to hear them.  They were orators.  The audience listened.

As opening nights were on my mind, I also thought of last season’s grand opening of “Master Class.”   Carmen Roman’s character, opera singer Maria Callas, also touched upon this theme – “People are forgetting how to listen.  They want everything blasted at them. If you can not hear me, it is your fault.  You’re not concentrating.”

Today’s modern world has images flashing by us, 10-second news bites, 30-second commercials.  Have we become so attached to immediacy that we are unwilling to forget ourselves in the moment?  To take the time to sit back and listen?

As I thought about that, I heard a conversation between two characters in “Angel Street” discussing going to the theater for an evening, “I want to laugh.  I want to cry … I want to be taken out of myself.”  And I thought, don’t we all.

If you would like to be taken out of yourself for a few hours and visit the home of Bella Manningham, where things mysteriously vanish, join us for “Angel Street.”  Patrick Hamiliton’s classic thriller takes us into Bella’s life for a few hours, a life in which she thinks she is going mad as her mother had before her.  But is it all as it seems?  One has to sit back and listen and find out.

“Angel Street” is performed Tuesday through Sunday, July 8.  Visit our website at peninsulaplayers.com or call the box office at 920-868-3287.  Perhaps I’ll see you by the bay, where the sun shimmers over the water, the curtain rises and the stars shine.

Audra Baakari Boyle is the Peninsula Players Business Manager celebrating her 13th season with the Players.