Coffee With Purps

Coffee Conversations with a Purple Girl

In Honor of the Studio Theater

In Beaver Falls, PA, there stands a small building, owned by Geneva College, which was once a bank. It is most often referred to by it’s location next to the Sheetz frequented by the students. Sheetz has coveted this building for some time, or rather, the space it takes up, desiring to expand their presence. For years the college has refused to give up this little known, but well loved building, but, as is the way with large corporations, if you hold out long enough, and eventually they’ll hit the right price. So, the little building has been sold to the Sheetz. It no longer belongs to Geneva college, but it’s new owners were kind enough to allow them to use it one more year. I knew this building as the Studio Theater, and it’s one more year is soon ending.

The information above is all I know of the situation. I know that the theater was sold over the summer, but that Sheetz agreed to allow Geneva to use it for one more fall show and one more spring show. I don’t know when it will be cleared out and turned into whatever Sheetz has in store for it, but I do know that it has just seen the end of its final show, and I missed it. I was there for the last matinee it will ever see, but not it’s absolute final show and I regret that. However, I’d rather not dwell on what I didn’t get to do, and instead, share with you what I did get to do in the theater I loved. These are the four shows I did in the Studio Theater and why I loved them.

The Little Prince

The Little Prince, directed by Mindy Williams

The Little Prince, directed by Mindy Williams

The Little Prince was my first show with Geneva Theater in the Fall of my Junior year. It was my introduction to the theater family and possibly still my favorite show of all time. The Little Prince was full of whimsy, but also full of deep meaning. It carried with it deep emotional ties with the theater family itself. The idea that “What is essential is invisible to the eye” was one that we carry with us, even to this day. We were all tamed by the theater and, as the fox has said “One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself  be tamed.”  And each and every one of us has wept a little, or in some cases a lot, in that theater.

"They have no roots, and that' makes their lives very difficult."

“They have no roots, and that’ makes their lives very difficult.”

What I loved about this production was the imagination behind it. I was part of the ensemble and thus I got to play a volcano, a baobab, a tree, a flower, a wall of roses, and several other parts, all in one play. With the exception of the planets, we created everything with our bodies and some fabric. The memory of the desert scene still gives me chills and I smile every time I look at the pictures of our sunsets. They were a pain to put together, but I learned to be so in sync with my fellow ensemble members, and to have some fun with the part I was given.

My favorite memories: The tree scene. I played an apple tree under which the Fox hid while talking to the Little Prince. He stole my apple and took a bite, throwing it off stage to be caught by a stage hand. During one show, the apple bounced out of the stage hand’s hands and rolled back out on stage. After that he started putting it back in my hand or in one of the other trees. I loved creeping up on the Fox’s conversation with the Prince about being tamed. I loved our taming routine, even if I did slip and fall during the duck, duck, goose portion the one night. Being a tree was great fun.

The last night of the show Mindy took us all out into the freezing October air to look at the stars… which were behind the clouds. So we pretended to look at the stars while she told us to think of this play every time we saw them and remember what we’d learned there. It was then, shivering with the cast behind the theater, that I realized I’d become part of something bigger than myself. I had become a part of the theater.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream 

A Midsummer Night's Dream directed by Dr. David Kuhns

A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Dr. David Kuhns

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was my first Dr. Dave play and I’m pretty sure I only got in because Mindy wanted me for a fairy. While The Little Prince was full of childish wonder and lessons to learn about holding onto that childishness, Midsummer was full of whimsical antics and crazy humors. It was a lot of hard work, but it was so much fun, it was totally worth it. Sure, we didn’t take any grand lessons away with us, and it’s not one that we tended to quote over often in years following, but it was a great cast, if large, and a lot of good fun.

Mindy and the Fairies

Mindy and the Fairies

Mindy and Dr. Dave wanted to do something different with Midsummer. They wanted to set it somewhere unusual, somewhere unique. Colonial India was chosen, how, I’m not quite sure, but it was a brilliant stroke of genius on their part. It was colorful, and vibrant, and full of visual humor. It also gave us the excuse to wear bindis. The stage was set in the round with a tiered platform in the center for central action to take place on. One corner was a temple ruin, another jungle, another civilization, and the fourth a tree. My tree. The tree was mine.

The tree was very simply made of four platforms with ladders for climbing up the back to get to them sneakily, or you could walk up the front during the play. I always entered from within. I’d sometimes just sit inside the hollow center of the tree and watch from behind the sheer fabric that acted as bark. Every time I entered it was from inside the tree, one way or another. I really did love that tree. It was such a sad thing when it had to be taken apart for the following year.

Titania's Faries

Titania’s Fairies

I loved being a fairy. I played Cobweb in purple, naturally. Mustardseed was orange, Peaseblossom was pink and Mote was red, and the only boy. The costumes and make-up were crazy, colorful, and full of fun. I was the only one actually wearing pants, oddly enough. Mote’s were more shorts than pants. We also got to do henna. There was a lot of vacuuming needed after we were done, but it was a good time. I brought in my little sister to put her arm drawing skills to good use and it was awesome. I will admit, I may have washed my arm less than strictly necessary during that time to try and preserve the design as long as possible.

My favorite memories: Doing henna in the green room was a lot of fun. We also may or may not have had a slumber party after one of the shows. The cast party was probably the best one ever, or at least the best one I ever got to attend. There was some swing, some line dancing and of course, a lot of flailing about like mad. Good food, good friends, good music. It was great. We got to dance in my tree and that was lovely. Over all, it was a great show to watch and to be in.

Spoon River

Spoon River directed by Mindy Williams

Spoon River directed by Mindy Williams

Spoon River was the fall play my senior year and I was so excited for it. This is exactly the kind of thing that I’m into. The original Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters is a collection of poems from the perspective of those buried in a fictional grave yard in a fictional town in Illinois. For the play Mindy took the poems straight from the book and blocked them for the stage. It was hauntingly beautiful and a bit macabre. It was tragic and funny at times, a little hopeful and a little snarky. Okay, so mostly it was depressing, but there was a bit of everything mixed in there with it.

Theodore the Poet

Theodore the Poet

I loved Spoon River for amount of characters we got to play. We had nothing but minor costume changes to differentiate the characters visually so we had to act to our fullest abilities to bring a new character out of practically the same costume. I braved a Scottish accent for my first character and actually pulled it off. I played first the self-named Katie reciting “Theodore the Poet,” then Minerva Jones, Aner Clute, Rebecca Wasson, and Faith Matheny and took part in Petit the Poet and Dippold the Optician. The good part was, I got to play a variety of characters and act as background for others, immersing myself in the fictional town and becoming part of it’s people. The bad part was there was very little down time. The green room was left practically empty during the play and the quick changes had to be very, very quick.

My favorite memories: Theodore was by far my favorite. I used the poem again for my Sign Language class the following semester. Some of the actors had a game going to see who could make a certain gesture at the other the sneakiest, usually during the performances. A friend of mine made fried egg glasses to put on as a joke when he came to his like “And my eyes burned crisp as a couple of eggs.” They were, naturally, passed around the green room between acts and before shows.

Spoon River was the first in a year of hard shows. It wasn’t as funny or fun as Midsummer had been, and though it was beautiful, it was draining. We all came away from it tired and ready for a long break. I actually caught a cold the second week and lost my voice for the Friday performance, having strained it too much the night before. Somehow I made it through the next three shows with the help of a bag of cough drops, lots of tea, and a handy dandy note book for back stage and in class. I felt really bad about it in my workshop class, though.

The Odyssey

The Odyssey directed by Dr. David Kuhns

The Odyssey directed by Dr. David Kuhns

The Odyssey was one of the hardest plays I’ve ever done. Scratch that: it was the hardest play I’ve ever done. It was long and intense and full of conflict and changed plans and last minute additions and the story is so serious and depressing and there’s not much cheerfulness in it at all. I’m told it was enjoyable to watch, and some parts were fun to be in and the cast was full of really amazing people, but over all, the experience was just exhausting. I did get to work with Mindy on stage for once, though, so that was pretty cool.

I’ll be honest, when I think about the Odyssey I shudder a little. I will say, however, that it was really beautifully done. Dr. Dave is a perfectionist and that combined with Mindy’s creative vision produced something wonderfully precise and well executed. To pull off the Odyssey on stage with a college theater budget we used the ensemble for almost everything we could get away with. The boat, the cyclops, the lotus eaters, the cave, monsters, whirlpools, wind and water; just like in The Little Prince, everything was done with our bodies and some fabric. Drowning Anticlea was the most beautiful scene in the whole play. The spirit world was haunting and the massacre at the palace was stunning.

Nausicaa and her maids at play

Nausicaa and her maids at play

The ensemble was given various speaking parts through out the adventure. I was given the part of Princess Nausicaa, which as a little funny as my primary scene had me pretending to be a bride while in reality I was planning my wedding. This was probably my favorite part of the play as it held the most whimsy. The scenes near the beginning when my maids and I were just playing around, being silly girls, and the one that followed during the tournament are just good fun without that hint of tragedy that comes to saturate the story. It was also early on while we were still fresh and full of energy.

The biggest problem the Odyssey had, I think, was the length and the amount of stage time everyone saw. With the exception of a few major characters who didn’t take part in Odysseus’s story everyone was on stage practically all the time. The ensemble almost never got a break. Again, the green room remained mostly empty during the play. Trying to keep the energy up for a three hour play with maybe a five to fifteen minute break here and there is hard and it took its tole on all of us. But at least there weren’t a whole lot of quick changes.

The death of Antinous

The death of Antinous

My favorite memories: Getting to act with all the people. The cast was so big and so full of people that I love, if I had to suffer through it, I’m glad it was with them. Mindy’s visions are always beautiful and this was no exception. Her costumes were lovely and the choreography brilliant. Dr. Dave has a reputation for being hard, but getting it done and he certainly came through for this play. It was certainly epic. It was tiring and hard, but it looked amazing in the end. Also, I got to kill a good friend of mine, so that was fun.

As you can see for yourselves, the Studio Theater has housed a lot of great memories for me, and some super stressful memories as well. But over all the memories are cherished and the friends I made there even more so. It is sad that the building that has seen so many different stages, so much laughter and so many tears will see no more Mindy plays and no more Dr. Dave productions. There is so much more I could say about this place, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. The Studio Theater has been a safe haven and a good friend to all the Geneva theater kids, myself included, and it is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye.

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