By Eric Severson
Storytelling has been around at least since the invention of fire, and a good storyteller is a glowing treasure to behold. Ever since the ancient Greeks and others harnessed the power of storytelling to captivate and inspire people with fundamental truths, we humans have gathered en masse to hear stories.
After 10 years at La Crosse Community Theatre (LCT), I have come to appreciate the power of storytelling and theatre in our lives today. The Seven Rivers Region is blessed with several venues and troupes offering theatre for all ages.
This summer you will find “Peter and Wendy” at Viterbo Fine Arts Center, “All Shook Up” at UW-La Crosse, and “Fiddler” at Onalaska High School. You can also catch the Old School Variety Show and “Wouldn’t It Be Lovely” (musical revue) at Weber Center for the Performing Arts, Coulee Region Unscripted and Heart of La Crosse at the Pump House Regional Arts Center, and Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” at Appleseed Community Theatre (La Crescent, Minnesota). For more options during the warmer months, farther afield will be “Souvenir” and “The Three Musketeers” at the Commonweal Theatre (Lanesboro, Minnesota), and multiple offerings at the Great River Shakespeare Festival (Winona, Minnesota).
Summer is a time of transition for many people. As an introvert, I have always appreciated transitions—pauses, moments of calm, time to take a breath. But in theatre, the audience experience of a pause in the story isn’t necessarily what’s happening backstage.
I recently discovered, as Big Davey in LCT’s “Billy Elliot: The Musical,” how tricky scene changes can be. Cast members exit and enter the stage, crew members move set pieces on and off, 1000-pound walls rise or descend from above. Light, sound and music cues happen, too. As in life, there is so much more to these transitions than you might think.
Each stage of our development holds experiences that most of us share: the self-centeredness and innocence of childhood, the embarrassment and confusion of puberty, strong feelings of affection for someone, the excitement and anxiety of reaching adulthood. Beyond this, our stories may be quite different, filled with triumphs and tragedies, disadvantage or privilege, struggles and failures, or blessings and successes.
It’s the details that make life so full and rich. If we are lucky enough, we have the opportunities and support we need to share our stories—not as obligations, but as gifts, because stories have the power to bind us to one another and our past.
Live theatre brings stories to life in ways that can inspire, heal, and change people’s lives for the better. I hope you will take some time this summer (and beyond) to enjoy a bit of our local thespian offerings. You’ll be so glad you did.