I am not a thief. That said, I have taken a few things over the years and I’m not proud of this. A library book purposefully not returned, a bowler hat from a prop shop, a peanut butter, five-cent candy I took at age five that sent me into paroxysms of guilt which were not assuaged until an extra five cents was left at the grocery store on the next trip. I also have in my possession, in the very vestibule of my home, a black leather chair with wood arms and a base which swivels. I kinda took it. My defense: it had been discarded and was on its way to whatever the final destinations are of a theatre full of chairs removed to make room for a totally remodeled “temple of theatre.”
Trinity University’s beautiful Stieren Theater is just that, beautiful. I quite enjoy going to shows and sitting in the lovely, clean, acoustically sound, comfortable house. To me, this will always be the “new” theater – I remember the old mess, and part of me will always miss it.
It was perhaps misguided. I’d say, definitely misguided. An enormously wide, disastrously shallow stage, meant to have acts performed on different sides. Begin on far stage right, shift to the middle, shift to far stage left, and the chairs swiveled so that the audience could comfortably watch every angle. Brilliant. Except that by the time I arrived, stage left was just “backstage” and stage right was storage, so we only used the middle anyway. And when they converted the monstrosity known as Theater One into the Stieren, they didn’t need fancy, Scandinavian swivel chairs anymore.
My chair, a number “7” embossed in a metal ring on one arm, is an artifact of a bygone time. A bygone time of Trinity Theatre, certainly, but also a bygone time of me. I declared my Drama major at the beginning of my junior year. As soon as I realized this was a real possibility, it was my only choice. History, art, literature, performance… I could study them all in Drama. I had already fulfilled most of the required classes to graduate, so I spent the last two years of college in the theatre, mostly. Was this wise? I can honestly say no. It was in many ways a miserable time, but that was immaturity and bad interpersonal skills. The theatre itself, the space, retained its magic for me.
I sat in those chairs during Welcome Back to School parties, callback auditions, acting classes, work days – endless shop work days - rehearsals as an actor, rehearsals as an assistant stage manager, rehearsals as an assistant director, the last by far my favorite job. I wasn’t a theatre kid before college, but I became one of this odd collection of quirky folks there. It’s where I belong – not just philosophically or personally, but physically. We all have our happy places. Theaters, on the boards or back stage or in the house working, are one of mine, a lesson I learned at Trinity. I love the Café Theater and I love the Attic, but Theater One is the one I liked to run to and just sit in. Sit in those weird, swivel chairs. Breathe the dusty air, listen to the special silence that fills a place that is meant to be filled with sound. Echoes of shows past swirling lazy in that theatre quiet. Premonitions of shows to come throbbing in that anticipatory quiet.
So I took the chair. It had been dumped outside with its brethren, waiting to be hauled away. I nabbed a top and a bottom and spirited them away and they have been a part of my home, of my many homes, since then. Now, it is merely a unique chair, one I doubt many people have. It’s handy for taking shoes off at the end of a long day. It’s a perfect place to toss a purse. Right now it’s piled with notebooks waiting to make their way upstairs. It’s become, with time and use, my chair.
But it also remains a purloined chair. One taken from a place that once meant the world to me, and from which I discovered a world I love. A world I have a place in. A quiet world, always poised for the noise of voices, music, pregnant pauses. Here in the quiet of my house, the chair holds its own, imbued as it is with the magic of a quiet theatre. I prize it for its functionality. I prize it for its history. I prize it for its mild illegality. I prize it for the reminder that theatre is something I do.
Copyright © 2017 Emily Fitzgerald. All rights reserved.