“Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and hull and a deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is… what the Black Pearl really is… is freedom.” – Captain Jack Sparrow
I have always seen the good Captain Jack’s relationship with the Black Pearl to be an allegory for the theatre artist and her long-term theatrical home.
Whenever I walk into a theatre, I am instantly ensconced into its world. By that I don’t mean the world of the play I’m about to see or the world of the rehearsal I’m about to enter into, but I mean the world of the theatre itself.
Every theatre has its own feeling and it’s impossible not to feel like you’re being hugged when you walk into it. Proscenium auditoriums always feel cold to me. Wooden theatres always feel warm. Blackboxes are kind of creepy, thrust stages are more inclusive, round theatres are nurturing, the list goes on.
There’s also a difference between working in a theatre and belonging to a theatre. Nobody owns a theatre, a theatre owns you. She takes on her own life; between her technical requirements, her unique acoustics, her nooks, crannies, quirks, sightline foibles, wing space, and a hundred thousand other things that could (or maybe could not) have been foreseen in the building and/or acquisition of the theatrical space.
I’ve had the good fortune to belong to a couple of different theatres over the course of my career and, every time, it feels like coming home. Because when you belong to a theatre,
you spend so much time there that it may as well be home. When you belong to a theatre, you can’t help but long to be back treading the boards. It’s a place where you absolutely, without a doubt, and without hesitation, know that you fit.
An empty theatre, to me, is excitement. It’s possibility. It’s freedom. It’s somewhere that longs for the reverberance of sound. It’s somewhere that cries for creativity; Brooks’ empty space. It’s a feeling; an allegory for a life without art. It’s a canvas, a lump of clay, a house for the heights and depths of human emotion. It’s a place of humanity, a place of understanding, a place of convergence, divergence, passion, cruelty, kindness. It’s a place of longing, desire, fulfillment, communication.
Having a key to a theatre is the best kind of responsibility. It means that you can access any of this whenever you want or need to. When I walk into the empty theatre at the beginning of the day, there’s a certain reverence to the notion. I’m not just unlocking an office or opening a common door; I’m starting my day somewhere exciting. I stand at the brink of something imminent, something sacred. And standing there reminds me why I do what I do. It reminds me why I got into this field, why I keep working in it, and what I’m working towards. I often pause to take in the seats, the stage, the walls, and smile because it reminds me of this.
So when I say, “I want my own theatre” (which I seem to be saying a lot lately), I mean all of these things. I mean a place to put it all, a place to orchestrate it all, a place that owns me rather than the other way around. You see, a theatre is not just a building with a platform, seats, and lighting fixtures… that’s what a theatre needs. But what a theatre is… what my theatre really is… is freedom.