My Madlab - by cat mcalpine
I have written before about the way that light plays a part in the backstage experience. When I was in Spring Awakening at OSU, there was a small alleyway behind the bleachers, illuminated by yellowing and cracked rope lights. In that dim light I would lean against the wall and sing quietly along, waiting to bustle out with a tea tray at my next cue.
When I participated in theatre at the park this summer, we had the stars as light, and with those came the red flashes of helicopters and ambulances. Most enchanting though, was the way the stage lighting burned through a second-story doorway. From backstage we'd look to this blazing rectangle in the sky and try not to think about how the sweat was seeping into our costumes.
Every theatre has its own light, I've found. At MadLab, that light is purple, and it drifts in under the back curtain. It has something to do with the way the theatre is shaped. There's a small current of air that flows from the back shop/green room, past the stage, between the seats, and into the lobby. It’s not a mighty wind. It’s more of a whisper.
As the curtains sigh, ever so slightly, the stage light dances underneath them. That's MadLab's light.
I don't think that this single little light is indicative of the MadLab character, or the MadLab vibe. In the same way that, while our fingerprints are individual, they don't tell you if a person prefers tea or coffee. But, that light is unique to MadLab, and it is my quiet place, and when I find myself longing to be on stage, I think about that fluttering purple light.
I wish I could say that I found MadLab, but in truth, MadLab found me. I graduated college with two
degrees, a whole lot hopes and dreams for the future, and no idea what to do next. When Colleen
Dunne suggested I join the mailing list, a door opened.
Suddenly, my inbox was full of volunteer opportunities. Whats that? You need people to show up and read scripts. I'm there. Volunteers to move stuff? I'm there.
One weekend afternoon I sat in a dark theatre for hours on end, watching cold readings of short scripts. Afterwards, we gave feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? How would you rate this script? It went on and on and on. I was absolutely delighted.
The opportunities kept coming. I wanted to be involved and they were happy to have me. I discovered my passion for new works theatre. I found an outlet for my art. Someone put my obsession with Instagram to work. I felt like I'd found my purpose, and my people.
I was invited to the cast parties of shows that I wasn't even in. I made bad jokes about how my face would look on the ensemble wall.
One evening at home I found myself on the verge of a panic attack. I felt like I couldn't breathe. When I was younger, these moods would jettison me out across our small town, racing across sidewalks until I was miles away from home in the middle of the night. I needed to move, to crawl out of my skin. I showed up at the theatre instead.
"Hey, do you guys need help hanging the lights?"
Sweating and shaking at the top of a ladder, making jokes and learning about the lighting grid, I forgot that I had been descending into nervous chaos.
MadLab has a lot going for it. They foster new works, develop talent, and are a breeding ground for
ideas and inspiration. But MadLab is my theatre because the door is always open for me. MadLab was an opportunity for me to get involved even when my auditions were crashing and burning. I got to act, I was able to make art, I was included.
MadLab can have my sweat and my tears and my countless hours sitting on the lobby floor trying to
make lobby displays out of magazines. They can have all that and more, because someone held that red door open for me and said "Come on in!"
Under that slowly swaying curtain, bathed in purple light, is a place for me.