There was young laughter in the audience at The K of D last Sunday. I'm more aware of it now, seeing young faces in the audience at intermission and hearing their voices as I leave the theater. Often they are students clearly there for a class, maybe for an extra credit paper. But it makes me glad to see them fall in love with the theater as I did, twenty years ago. You can see it in their faces, the excitement, the thrill of it all. It means that a new generation will carry on, will make art, will support art. There is hope, now. A few summers back I sat in half-empty theaters and worried about the future. That's not to say the tide has completely turned; it's still hard for theaters to make money, to keep actors and directors employed, to keep producing works both old and new.
The first play I remember is a production of James and the Giant Peach (based on the novel by Roald Dahl) at Seattle Children's Theatre. Back then it was at the Woodland Park Zoo, the old Poncho Theatre tucked away in a park. We screamed when the giant peach came rolling down and cheered when the ghastly aunts get squashed flat. That was my first memory of the theater. The second came three years later at ACT, with Shadowlands, followed immediately by The Revengers' Comedies. The love and admiration I felt for the actors in these plays has continued unabated for nearly twenty years now, for Michael Winters and Laurence Ballard and R. Hamilton Wright and Suzanne Bouchard. The list is longer now, the list of actors whose names attached to a production guarantees that I will want to see it.
I felt, that recent Sunday afternoon at the Seattle Rep, there will be another generation enthralled by the joy of live theater. That they will remember Renata Friedman's electric performance the same way I recall Suzanne Bouchard's as Karen Knightly 19 years ago. That it will keep them coming back the same way I keep coming back, again and again.