Celebrating theatre

This entry originally appeared on The Post (www.thepostsd.com) on August 19, 2010.

After four solid days of nonstop fun and foolishness, the Prairie Repertory Theatre‘s 40th season reunion came to a brilliant finish. The weekend, organized by Joshua Westwick and Allison Weiland, brought together alumni who participated in Prairie Rep since its humble beginnings at Prairie Village in 1971. Through three days of beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres and more wine, alumni shared in storytelling, reminiscing and reigniting friendships from seasons past.

The first night featured a packed reception to welcome alumni from across the country. After an hour of schmoozing, drinking and eating as much cheese as possible, everyone was ushered into the Concert Hall where we enjoyed highlights from the past 40 years’ seasons. With multiple selections from each decade, the performance wore on late into the night, but no one was disappointed. It was a treat to see people perform selections they hadn’t done for 30 years. I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into putting on such an incredible performance, but Ray Peterson did a magnificent job of organizing the evening and representing each of the four decades of PRT.

Following the performance, most of the alumni journeyed across campus to the Tompkins Alumni Center to share more stories and reminisce. After a few more drinks and a couple of stories, I made my way downtown to Jim’s Tap and Skinner’s, where I relived some of my college days by sitting out on the patio and over-imbibing Stella Artois. As I whiled away the early morning hours catching up with old friends, the alumni from the ’80s and ’90s were doing the same back at Tompkins until 5 a.m.

The next morning I awoke at 8:30 a.m. with an hour of sleep under my belt and the world still slightly off-kilter. As I walked to the Performing Arts Center with my aviators shielding the morning sun, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what the day would bring. Upon entering the lobby, I was greeted with half-enthusiastic smiles from the hungover faces of over 100 alumni who had spent the previous evening reliving their summer nights of Rep seasons past. After we loaded up three buses, we began our caravan through the SDSU campus toward Prairie Village in Madison. During our journey, various alumni came to the front of the bus to recall stories of foolish accidents and entertaining mishaps from their time at PRT. As the buses rolled onto the gravel roads of Prairie Village and I disembarked into the summer heat, the boozy haze lifted over my eyes and I took in the sights. Walking through the old opera house was both eye-opening and somewhat terrifying. For over 10 years, performers endured the terrible heat and otherwise unsafe conditions of performing in that rickety old playhouse.

As the day wore on, we moved from Prairie Village to the Dakota Prairie Playhouse situated on the Dakota State University campus where Prairie Repertory Theatre also performed through the 2005 season. It had been five years since I had performed at the DPP, so it was fun to return to the space where I once pretended to be a cowboy and a dancing hippo. Following some witty conversations about the viability of producing theatre in that venue, we all jumped back onto the buses, cracked open some beers, and told more stories on the way down to Brandon where lunch awaited us.

After we gorged ourselves on fried chicken, caught a performance of PRT’s “Leaving Iowa” and rode the bus back to Brookings, it was time for the final evening of the alumni celebrations. When the evening began, I couldn’t help but be sad that the event I had spent all month looking forward to was about to wrap-up its final night. Dr. Johnson launched into a great speech about the history of Prairie Rep and its ability to bring people together to create not only a show, but to form a family. Later, Doctor J. brought a quiet to the crowd when his mention of friends gone by struck a chord in each of our hearts. In his authoritative professor voice, he reminded us all that it shouldn’t take a 40-year-reunion to reignite the friendships we formed in our years of PRT. Slightly admonished, we made commitments to see each other more often.

It was with that idea that we all went into the final night of celebrations. Against the protests of our livers, we all engaged in one more night of revelry. After the wine and beer was gone at The Shamrock, we moved to Skinner’s patio where the celebrations culminated in broken glasses, spilt beer, tears and an after party of epic proportions.

Despite the next day’s hangover, the four days of celebration were well worth any suffering. Never before have I seen a group of people so excited just to be together. Through all the laughs and tears that everyone shared over the reunion, the one unifying thread that brought people together from across the country is the love of and passion for the theatre.


~ by Geoffrey on 19 August 2010.

One Response to “Celebrating theatre”

  1. […] I’m sure partying like freshmen will be in my future again someday, but until I recover from that Rep reunion, I think I’ll settle for laundry and video […]

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