First let me say that it’s a small miracle if you are even reading this today: After this weekend’s Wizard of Oz–like rain and wind storm, it’s a wonder any of us still have standing trees in our yard, let alone Internet access. And for those who are still without electricity (and most likely perusing this on Friday), your literal “power-less” existence is not unlike a modern-day American settlers’ experience except, hopefully, sans bonnets, cattle, and the ubiquitous gruel (so 1800s). So, kudos to you, oh Princeton pioneers!
And with that said, we go from the ridiculous (those winds were upwards of 55 miles per hour, for the love of Pete) to the sublime: the theater. Sigh. Is there nothing more beautiful than rows of tufted red velvet chairs beckoning in the semi-darkness against the gleam of a foot-lit stage? As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a full-on theater habitué, and in fact dedicated many of my formative years to the siren call of the stage (that is if debuting as “Mitzi,” the third U.S.O. girl on the right, in a high school production of M*A*S*H can be referred to as a “siren call.”) Through high school, college, and even in a few community productions, I fancied myself a thespian of the Streep Order, immersing myself in such multilayered roles as Gloria “Bubbles” Upson in Mame; Constanze “Silly Stanzi” Mozart in Amadeus; and Mae “Mama” Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, for which I endured the ultimate sacrifice for my art: donning badly drawn age makeup, a matted grey wig that looked more like a dead animal, and a horrid fat suit. As you can see, my dedication ran deep.
Which is why I convey to you with great enthusiasm (“uncontrollable hysteria,” more like) that this Wednesday, March 17 marks the beginning of “Behind the Fourth Wall,” the McCarter Theatre Education Department’s brand-new lecture series for adults. McCarter has always done a bang-up job with programming that gives the Scooplets a 360-degree view of what the theater is all about, and now the grown-ups are getting in on the fun, too. (I’d like to think this series was a direct result of my begging a McCarter Theatre acquaintance to draw back the curtains for the adults, but apparently it was already in the works before my groveling commenced.)
Unlike anything McCarter has done before, “Behind the Fourth Wall” offers a chance for theater enthusiasts to learn about the process that results in McCarter’s many acclaimed productions. The first class bows with costume shop manager Cynthia A. Thom (and former costumer of The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C—forsooth!) examining the inner workings of McCarter’s Costume Shop. It moves onto Act Two on March 24 with resident stage manager Cheryl Mintz’s talk “The Collaborative Process: The Production Stage Manager’s Point of View.” (To wit, Mintz is in her nineteenth season at McCarter Theatre and has served as production stage manager for more than 65 productions, including Nilo Cruz’s Anna in the Tropics, Emily Mann’s Mrs. Packard, and A Christmas Carol.) The series draws the curtain on April 14 with “The Managing Director’s Report” led by managing director Timothy J. Shields, a 30-year veteran of the theater industry. (Tired of my “theater puns” yet? I could go all day, people, so don’t tempt me.)
McCarter Theatre’s “Behind the Fourth Wall” is $65 per session, or $150 for the entire series. To register, call the McCarter Education Department at 609.258.6510. Space is limited, so I beg of thee: Pick thy phone up today. I mean, when you have a Tony® Award–winning theater practically in your backyard, you go and you experience the brilliance first-hand, knowing that undoubtedly you will become a better person (and a much more entertaining dinner companion) for doing so.
Jennifer Henderson is the editor of Princeton Scoop online and a freelance writer who has worked for several magazines, including Vanity Fair, Talk, W, and New Jersey Life. She lives in Princeton with her husband, daughter, and chocolate Labrador. She welcomes any inside scoop on what to do and see in the area. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.