Community theaters are a boon to local playwrights.
  • Community theaters are a boon to local playwrights.
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The theater is in a strip mall, up an ugly staircase. On the landing stands a sad, dusty, fake ficus. The door is unmarked and doesn’t look inviting, but it’s the only door, so I try it. It opens into a comfy room filled with mismatched furniture. A vintage-y bar lined with candy bars and soda holds honor-jars that say “$1 per item.” I ask a volunteer about bottled water, and she bustles off to the fridge to bring out a tray of tiny ones, remonstrating with herself the while: “I don’t know why I always forget the water!”

I choose an old love seat that looks comfortable. It isn’t. I ask for the restroom. It’s a large room doing double-duty. There are bookcases holding old books and a beautiful tea set, areas hidden by room dividers that no doubt hold old props, locked doors, and, thankfully, the required facilities. I am tempted to stay and snoop, but knowing that potty time is in high demand before curtain, I reluctantly hurry out.

It is opening night, and the lobby is full of nervous and excited faces, including those of the director and the playwright, who mingle easily with the crowd, on a first-name basis with nearly everyone. A corner of the lobby brags a nearly life-sized cow, a beanstalk, a gavel, golden eggs, and big, fluffy clouds. An older couple clambers behind the cow to get their photo taken, and onlookers are treated to “More cowbell!” as Bessie totters. I overhear a patron praising a volunteer for her work building the beanstalk, and she glows.

Other volunteers recruit audience members for the jury. There’s no lack of takers.

We go in to take our seats. The theater is tiny, smaller even than the lobby, only six rows. It is filled with parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and opening-night congratulatory bouquets. I eavesdrop on it all while pretending to look at my phone.

In front of me sits a large multi-generational family, one of whom is a juror. They use her seat to pile coats, scarves, purses, and a large bouquet of yellow roses. The juror’s teen brother is autistic. His reactions to the jokes are pure delight, and make me wistful for innocence. A few times, the stimulation gets too much for him, but no one shushes, and his mama soothes him with kisses and hugs.

There are bottles of bubbly in the lobby afterward.

I love community theater.

People v. Beanstalk runs PowPAC (“Poway’s community theater) through February 10.

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