Program: Asheville in the 1980s/ A Look at the Arts

THEATRE – If you look in a thick enough dictionary, you’ll find the fifth or sixth definition is “A place of action.” Theatre is not just the staging of dramatic works or the place where plays, music, dance, and movies are presented.  There also is the theatre of war, where battles are staged, and in medical terms, the theatre is where surgery takes place.


Theatre, a place of action, and it’s also a place where you can die – literally on the battlefield and the operating table and death also can be present on the boards. You’re on stage and have no idea what the next line is, but you know it’s yours, or you’re out there alone and the phone doesn’t ring or the actor who’s supposed to run on and engage you in a lively discussion critical to the plot does not enter.  You die.

The theatre also is a place where you swear you’ve never felt so alive. Soldiers under fire swear to it.  Even after minor surgery, waking up in the recovery room brings a wave of “Ahhh! I’m alive!”  And on stage, there are special moments of awe. Time stops. You are in control.

My first experience with this ultimate sense of power came in a Montford Park Players performance of scenes from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM for students at The Christ School.   Throughout the 1970s and 80s, MPP performed at meetings of Rotary, the Lions, women’s clubs, in classrooms, nursing homes, outdoor festivals, community centers, anywhere there was an audience to hear the proclamation, “Shakespeare has come to Montford Park.”

We were doing the Rude Mechanicals scenes – Bottom the weaver and his fellow workmen decide to put on a play. They choose roles, rehearse in the woods where Bottom has his adventures with the fairies, and their play is chosen to be performed in court for Duke Thesuses and his bride Hippolita.  I’ve always thought of this “Midsummer” subplot as Shakespeare’s affectionate salute to amateur actors.

I played Flute, the boy who reluctantly takes the role of the female lover in the story of Phyramus and Thisby. We were the entertainment for a special evening at the school. The students were polite, but Shakespeare was not their idea of entertainment for any evening.


We got to the play-within-the-play. Phyramus and I had on our Athenian robes and I had a bit of lip stick smeared over my lips; Lion had claws on his gloves cut from a milk jug, a great panel of cardboard bricks was worn like a sandwich board by the actor playing Wall; and Moonshine had a lantern, thorn bush, and a hand puppet of a dog.  We were the Rude Mechanicals.

[Correction on photo: Mark Wilson at front center.]

All of a sudden, every line, every motion, every moment brought waves of laughter. I was in complete control of the room.  A flick of my head, a pause with a twitch of my eyebrow had them doubled over. It felt like that scene could have held them till morning.   I was all powerful.  I was in the place of action.

Post by Deborah Austin, Co-Moderator for A Look at the Arts program.

“Asheville in the 1980s:

A  Formative Decade Told by Those Who Shaped It”

Fourth Program in the Series

A Look at the Arts

Music, Crafts, Dance & Photography


Moderators: Deborah Austin and Phyllis Lang

Panelists: Connie Bostic, Ann Dunn, Dick Kowal, Ralph Redpath

Wednesday July 27, 2016 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Pack Memorial Library, Lord Auditorium

Further programs in the series:

Wednesday August 31, 2016: Downtown Housing & the State of Buildings. Moderators: Kevan Frazier and Erin Derham

Wednesday September 28, 2016: Politics and Civic Engagement. Moderators: Leslie Anderson and Becky Anderson


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