Origin Stories

My first memory, as I refereed to in my last post, was a class field trip in preschool to see a high school production of Once Upon a Mattress. The memory is from the final moments of the play, the denouement of the court jester pulling an odd assortment of uncomfortably sharp things out of the mattress (for those of you unfamiliar, the musical revolves around the “Princess and the Pea” story). I do not remember anything else about this experience other than a feeling of vague anticipation on the car ride over, but I very clearly remember that jester (who it is worth noting-was played by a female actress, possibly the inciting incident in my thoughts about the importance of cross gender casting?) pulling pointy object after pointy object out of this mattress. How did everything get in there? How did she not feel it? Theatre is a unique stage for the only kind of magic left in our universe.

Origin stories have such an important place in our communities at large, but the further and further I crawl down the theatrical rabbit hole, I realize that we, as theatre, have our own origin stories as well. I have no memory of a life without theatre, which seems both casual and profound to me. Ask any person to tell you their story of how they got into theatre, they will recall exactly how it happened, how they felt, and how it changed their life. We are a people with a keen sense of origin because we are constantly acquainted with the living organism of text. We have the text of our two origin points (for the purpose of western theatre{particularly as it pertains to the English speaking world which is the reference point I come from}, I believe that we have two points of origin; Ancient Greece and Elizabethan England) that at any moment are given breath and life. We live our history in such a way that the potential to return to the past happens at any moment (theatre as time travel-I’m getting to that post). Our origins are important and more relevant than most because we are capable of returning to them.

Because I believe in the dramaturgy of my own life, I googled “once upon a mattress high school Virginia 1994” (approximately the time and place this memory occurred). It led me to a few results, mostly of modern production of Mattress taking place. But there was one promising result, Glenelg High School to Present Winter Musical. Published in February of 1994, the director said that the cast “has had a ball rehearsing the show” and it promises to be the “best bet for weekend entertainment”. It was about an hour away from where I was being raised in Fairfax, but I do remember a sense of anticipation in the long car ride.

I have no way of knowing this was the performance I saw, but it’s nice to think “this could have been it”.