By Dale Conklin For InPlay Capital Region Read contest rules here
The play that transformed my life was "Slow Dance on the Killing Ground" by William Hanley. I was a high school junior and my English class had a field trip to Syracuse Repertory Theater, but only the seniors were allowed to attend due to its “subject matter"
I was disgruntled and spoke to my teacher pleading, but to no avail....
Feeling angered, I engaged in a dinner table discussion proclaiming that I felt it was discriminatory. Completely unbeknownst to me, my mother a very quiet, unassuming woman, unless riled - took my concerns to the school administrator and signed a waiver for my permission to attend. Subsequently my teacher, with a twinkle in her eye, then informed me that I would be joining the seniors heading to the playhouse! I'm certain my spirits were heightened by a feeling of superiority for that opportunity.
But what astounded me during the show was how just three diverse characters thrown into a setting could alter each other's long standing perspectives, biases and expectations in a scant two hours! Breathless from that experience I also realized how the physical setting had captivated me by being the perfect background. The set was a tall, dark, foreboding storefront that ensnared the characters in reckless, but hopeful discourse. Yet it was the actors’ authenticity that had untethered me towards a flight of undying love for live theater!
I had chosen Landscape Architecture as my vocation. Once I had some successes in that field, the realization with all my technical arsenal and training that I actually would have to wait several decades to see my creations mature to fruition. Then the immediacy of becoming a theater set designer intrigued me once again…
Several design talents I Already possessed in creating unique spaces outdoors could all be found in creating theatrical productions as well. This realization propelled my desire to spend hundreds of hours backstage! All at once my previously stilted world was filled with anticipation which unlocked exciting perspectives: light, color, sounds, pattern, textures and movement were all there for the melding process.
Instead of raw land forms before me, I had only my imagination, construction abilities and the love of paint to begin to soar! Thus my avocation Gave me an awakening along with the allure of immediate gratification. Within a short six weeks, I could create an entire world for actors to play freely about. While there was magic happening throughout the process, I never actually needed to feel the thrill of the spotlight on my brow, by stepping onstage to gain self fulfillment.
It was only after seeing that show’s set that I realized the power that a solitary lit candle could have on an entire audience!