Backstage Blog

Reading Between the Lines…

(How Literature and the Local Library Turned Me into an Actress)

There is an oft-told family story about one of my trips to the pediatrician.   Only 4 years old and unable to read, I sat in the waiting room with my favorite book – a Little Golden entitled, Bugs Bunny…Something’s Fishy I loudly “read” it to the antsy parents and feverish children, whether they cared to listen or not.  Each character had its own unique voice; each page provided a new set of madcap capers, deft drama and screwball comedy.  The Looney Tunes were a wacky bunch and I suppose, in the mind of a toddler, the perfect diversion for the circumstances at hand.  I felt I was donating a much-needed service.  Anyway, I could hardly be held responsible for the “medical drama” I provided or the nhs complaint claims I did.  You see, my mother read to me.

My twin sister and I grew up with the standard fare of Goodnight Moon, Caps for Sale and The Pokey Little Puppy.   My mother animated every page… enlivening each drawing with a distinctive importance.  Each writer had a new, glorious story to tell, and each one was told by a brand new cast…puppies and moons and spoons and cap-sellers.   By the time my twin sister and I were 8 years old, my mother had moved on to over 1500 page novels like Sacajawea (The Lewis and Clark Expedition) by Anna Lee Waldo.  My sister and I would climb into bed and listen to tales about terrifying treks through precarious terrains, a papoose strapped to the Indian woman’s back, lean strips of buffalo jerky – her only source of nourishment for days.  The stories my mother read were as good as any movie.  Better, in fact, because the “visuals” (the teepees and bison and feather headdresses) were mine alone.  The stakes were as high as I made them, the cliffs as steep…

My mother imported her love for reading to her children.  Many hot summertime days were spent in the local library.   With my sister by my side, we’d choose one book a piece – conferring with one another for trade upon our own completion.  Then off to the bay, with books in hand, my mother and sister and I would eat picnic lunches in silence – each of us deep within our own individual saga, epic or comic adventure.  Sometimes we’d ask one another to listen as we read a particularly intriguing section from our library loaner and then, after a bit of conversation about today money loan, we were back to world of our own selection – separately experiencing new dramas, love stories, history lessons – all within each other’s company.

My conversion from reader to performer started early and my love and connection to the written story has never left me.  I owe so much to my mother and to the libraries where I spent so many of my days.  For this reason, it has been a particular honor to head Cygnet’s TUESDAY ON TWIGGS STREET Event.  These quarterly free theatre parties (aimed at supporting local libraries) have been delightful introductions to others who, like me, are in love with stories and great books.  They too understand the excitement, the escape and the unique perspective these penned pieces can provide.  In my life it has only been matched by the magic of live theatre.  Both fill me with same sense of joy, emotion and awe.  Both invite me to participate in the story being told.  Both pay respect to my own uncapped resource…my imagination.

So this is my personal invitation to those of you who remember being read to, appreciate the gift of good storytelling or who simply owe your local library a “thank you” for years of free reading.  I hope you’ll join us at one of our TUESDAY ON TWIGGS STREET Events.  Cygnet provides the food, the drinks, the enter-to-wins, backstage tours and a nice group of like-minded company.  All YOU need to bring is a new or gently used book or a cash donation (of any size) for our specified neighborhood library.   In turn, our libraries will provide you unlimited days of travel, riches, poetry, laughter and drama; a private world of untouchable props, scenery, characters and costumes.  And you will be the producer, right in your very own living room.