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Arts and Entertainment

The power of live theater: More than make-believe

Mona Wood-Patterson

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Merely Underground. Which seems like an understatement, because it is. With Merely Players’ production of “Chicago” opening in only two weeks, our team of five dozen people spends daytime hours envisioning and organizing, choreographing the numbers, painting scenery, hanging lights, preparing sound, reviewing songs and dances, designing costumes, and building props. In the evenings, we come together for more hours to rehearse.

It’s a process that we all trust, despite the obstacles to be overcome as we make discoveries along the way. Still, sometimes I admit to an inner ironic smile that recognizes that I have devoted my life to creating make-believe worlds. Why, I ask myself, is it passionately irresistible for me to guide people to realistically portray people that they are not?

If you go

WHAT: Merely Players presents “CHICAGO: A razzle-dazzling musical.”

WHEN: May 3-19.

WHERE: Merely Underground, 789 Tech Center Drive.

TICKETS: $35-$38.

MORE INFORMATION: For tickets and details, visit www.merelyplayers.org.

The answer is always clear. It’s because of an unwavering belief in the vitality and power that theatrical storytelling brings to a community.

Engaging with theater means that we have to slow down enough to allow a new experience to enter. The allure of being transported into a narrative brought to life before our eyes is breathtaking. Unlike film or television, theater offers captivating immediacy and authenticity. There are no rewinds or fast-forwards here – just the raw, unfiltered experience of being present in the moment, swept up in the drama and emotion unfolding onstage. It’s a reminder that, in a world driven by screens and algorithms, there’s still immense value in gathering together to share in the joy of storytelling.

Creating with local talent creates another profound level of meaning. The cast, crew and creatives imagine, collaborate and connect in meaningful ways as we create our own little community within a community. With collective passion, we are spending 12 weeks together as we bring this story to life – tirelessly working toward excellence that we can share with the audience.

Theater thrives on the energy exchanged between performers and audience members. Audiences aren’t just a collection of spectators; they’re active participants in the alchemy of storytelling. Laughter, hushed anticipation, gasps of surprise or empathy – all blend together to infuse the atmosphere with vitality. It’s a communal journey where every reaction ignites the creative spark onstage.

We love the connection that our local audiences have to our work. Seeing a touring production or a play in another city is exciting and fun, but there is no inherent bond to the performers or fellow theatergoers. Our audiences consistently tell us that they look forward to seeing how we have configured our space to present the story. They are excited to see familiar actors take on new roles alongside those who are new to the company. They see neighbors and friends onstage and in the audience. The dynamic of this community gathering is profound.

So, here’s to make-believe and live performance. Together, let’s continue to celebrate the power of presence, the excitement of storytelling and the beauty of shared experiences. It’s Merely wonderful.

Mona Wood-Patterson is the artistic director of Merely Players, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing quality theater to Durango and the surrounding area.