Thursday, June 20, 2013

My First Live Theatre

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

A couple of days ago I wrote about the first concert that I ever attended – Gary Lewis and the Playboys at Southwest Missouri State College in the early fall of 1966.  It wasn’t more than a few weeks after that when I had my first opportunity to see live theatre.  The play was Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and it was presented in the auditorium of the Administration Building at SMS.

Not only was live theatre a new treat for me, it was also my first practical introduction to the works of William Shakespeare.   In high school we had read snatches of Macbeth and Julius Caesar, but this was real Shakespeare, funny Shakespeare, happening right in front of me!   I was amazed - dumbfounded  - and in complete and absolute awe of the acting company and the story they were telling.

I went by myself that evening and was hunkered down in a theatre seat waiting on the curtain to go up.  I had no idea what to expect, and hell, it was Shakespeare so I might not even understand what I was watching.  Boy howdy Hamlet, was I ever wrong about that!

I remember that the curtain went up on an empty stage.  Suddenly there was a swell of screaming and yelling behind me as the entire cast came rushing down the aisles toward the stage on stick horses.  And they had me at the noise and stick horses!  For the rest of my college career, I doubt that I missed over two or three stage performances.  Although I had no talent of my own, attending all of those plays gave me ample opportunity to enjoy the talent of others.

A young lady names Felicia Soper starred as Kate, the shrew, in the 1966 SMS production.  She was great.  A couple of years later I ran into her at a small Springfield grocery store and introduced myself like the star-struck fan that I was.  She was so nice, and I couldn’t have been more impressed meeting Sandy Dennis or Elizabeth Taylor!

(I would love to hear what became of Felicia Soper if anyone knows.)

Missouri State University (as SMS is now known) is noted for its superb theatre department.  Kathleen Turner, John Goodman, and Tess Harper are all veterans of their program.  

Southwest Missouri State College and wonderful people like Felicia Soper helped to spark an interest in theatre for me that has lasted a lifetime.    It is one of the things of value that I acquired in college, something that would have never come my way if I had remained in the wilds of McDonald County. 

Going to college has worth that goes well beyond a bank statement!


Xobekim said...

Missouri State is our new moniker. Missouri Southern remains in Joplin.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Thanks, Xobekim. I went ahead and changed it. It will always be Southwest Missouri State College to me. My uncle, Fred Marble, went there in the 1940's when it was a state teacher's college.