KEARNEY
Articles

Stages and Stagings



At this stage in the life of the gray wolf.

What? You expected me to begin “All the World Is a Stage”? But stages, in all shapes and sizes and for all purposes, are stages of life, in the same way stages in the rocket blast off are stages of an orbital mission’s life.

Once, possibly in ancient Greece, watching the plow run down the field, then back, then again, or possibly before that in Egypt watching boats sail up and then row down the Nile, or in the to and fro motion on the threshing floor, somebody caught the notion of dramatic turns, of turnings in time. Which in turn gave us the life of the stage. Gave us strophe and antistrophe and . . . catastrophe.

From scenery to soliloquy, stages throw the spotlight anywhere that might illumine the darkness of each long day’s journey into night, each night’s trip on the starlight express, each new day’s dawning.

From dawn to dusk, the world may belong to dirty diapers and dirty crooks, to making the evening’s ratatouille to the rat race to Cardinal Ratzinger, may belong to figures in the ledger, figures lying and liars figuring, broken arms cast in plaster and bad habits cast in concrete. But from dusk to dawn there appear the stages where the moral compass is challenged and reset, and we can hear the laugh track and sound track we intuitively feel accompany human folly, noble acts, and divine grace.

The skating rink, the proscenium stage, the boardwalk, cat walk, and runway, wherever figures on a page become figures of speech and speeches move the mundane aside for a moment, wherever the band stands, the village players appear, the oboe calls its motley crew of companions into a being orchestrated sound, there is a stage. One was in the window of the old Black Sheep Coffee House. And nearby the stage, a makeup mirror, a costume shop, a props room, a stash of music stands or flats, an array of pulleys and tools, a sound booth, a rack of bright lights . . . or maybe just a chair or a stool.

Schools build them at the end of gymnasiums, social clubs erect them at the end of the dance floor, the floor itself a stage at the side of the seating, and every four years they convert the Capitol steps to a stage on which music and speeches and poems and spectacle share space, share the limelight, produce a stop-action moment in history, a stunning display or a non-starter.

Before the Drake, The old Kearney State College-now University of Nebraska Kearney stage lent its flanking statues of Washington and Lincoln to two academic buildings, in one of which Joan of Arc holds center stage. At the old Tru Café, you got sound stage and art show all at once. The Merryman stage is the stage of the school that was once center-stage in Kearney. Hal Holbrook appeared on it. So, in a way, did Sandburg!

The World Theater stage has been the Blacklist post-show space newly renovated behind the movie screen used for Senior College and UNK’s documentaries and foreign films. Crane River stages its production wherever imagination might place a play—a horse barn will do, Yanney Park will do, any dream will do. KCT’s stage first moved from motel to club, wherever a business or organization would give over its space to some staging or other. Then, to an old Presbyterian Church (still later a Jubilee Center moved out of the basement of an Episcopal church), then to its own building where its stage thrusts audiences into the comedies and tragedies of its annual seasons and the productions of the American Academy of Children’s Theater.

Audiences of parents and grandparents and fellow students flock to UNK’s Drake and Fine Arts Auditorium, where KSO performs, and the stages at KHS and Kearney Catholic, to see the results of rehearsals of, rehearsals for life . . . in these to see plays, soar to the sounds of The Messiah, ponder the latest in musical recitals or experiments, listen to a one-handed saxophone, or watch fingers working their ebony and ivory magic.

The stage is where Wes Hird played, the Forts performed Afro-Psalms, Cunningham’s fed listeners in the beer garden. It is the MONA parking lot where demonstrators gathered to stage their protests, the annual PRIDE walk ending at Harmon Park, its drag show on the same stage where the arts council puts on its summer concert series.

It is wherever, in sound or action, words or impressions, people create for a moment a holograph of the human heart. Tens of thousands of Kearney area folks have had their heart transplant procedures in the operating theaters of our community stages.

By Chuck Peek

Categories: Music, Theatre

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