by Katherine Lacaze
I’m going to give you the inside scoop – a raw, unfiltered exposé of the Coaster Theatre’s backstage dealings. Considering my involvement with this particular theatrical establishment has spanned two whole years, you should confidently and unquestioningly adopt my perspective.
First, I’ll inform you of my credentials to corroborate my authority. My completed work at the Coaster Theatre encompasses four shows, three of which I performed in (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Dead Guilty and The Apple Tree) and one I stage managed (Bell, Book and Candle). You currently can find me giving life to Roz, the antithesis of my real-life persona, in 9 to 5: The Musical, one of two shows that comprise the Coaster Theatre’s summer repertory.
At the Coaster Theatre, each production experience is surprisingly singular, influenced by copious factors including the director; the size, age distribution and other demographics of the cast; the rehearsal schedule; the occasional addition and distinct temperament of the music director/accompanist; or maybe just the season of year and concurrent Cannon Beach happenings.
But what is it actually like to be “on the inside,” to encounter the secrets, mysteries and drama surrounding the Coaster Theatre? Don’t be fooled by this community organization’s outward appearance of idyllic, friendly, small-town charm. Behind the curtain, it is not all fun and games.
It’s a dark, seedy existence filled with nigh impossible missions, like trying to find a parking spot on Memorial Day afternoon because you were called to a 3 o’clock music rehearsal; sabotage, like being mandated to put on pantyhose and a fitted dress after getting served irresistible stuffed potatoes for dinner; intrigue, like being forced to wait from moments to excruciating days before learning how the director cast your show; scheming, like the times I … ahem … you sneakily execute a plot to insert a gimmick or bit the director advised against while onstage during the closing night performance; and two-faced hypocrisy, like spending your weekends performing as one character and your weekdays rehearsing as another. It is not for the faint of heart.
You may be wondering, “Aren’t you taking this a bit too seriously?” In short, undoubtedly. After all, we have full-time jobs, volunteer commitments, families, side jobs, pets and/or the occasional, obligatory appearance at Wednesday night karaoke in Manzanita. Theater is, for all intents and purposes, our playtime. But like children trying to make pies out of mud, traverse a playground over a mentally conjured lake of lava or follow rabbits to unearth the location of their warren, à la Watership Down, we take our play very seriously.
Many of us pour not only hours of time, exorbitant amounts of energy and precious mental focus, but also the very essence of our beings – our passion, courage and spirit – into the rehearsal and performance process. Which makes me grateful there is at least one common thread that unites each Coaster Theatre project I have experienced: It is like being part of a family.
That has become a clichéd concept, I know. Yet, I can’t contrive a better succinct description. Much like with my own siblings and parents, I feel frustration toward fellow thespians, and certainly vice versa, when rehearsal is not going the way I or they thought it should. I feel supported by their patience when I have no option but to rehearse with my toddler running upstairs and downstairs, stealing pencils and rearranging props. I feel envious when someone, even a friend, is given a role I desperately wanted or gets to sing the best song of the show. I feel dependent because a production can’t function without all the integral components – from each ensemble member and stage technician to the director and title characters.
These untamed emotional responses alone don’t produce the intricate, familial connection to which I allude. Rather, it is the way we handle and process these emotions that merge us into an eccentric collective unit. It is how we transform moments of intense frustration and failure into humorous stories to share with future generations of the Coaster Theatre family for years to come; dispose of petty envy and sincerely hope to see our colleagues succeed; and allow support and dependency to spread deep roots of empathy, consideration and even love. The Coaster Theatre, and theater in general, fosters an environment for people to discover and explore new facets of their identity, to overcome their personal demons and learn to cope with others’, to fail and start afresh, to be accepted just as they are and encouraged to be all they can. It’s family.
Well, you have learned the truth. My job is done. I dare you to view another Coaster Theatre production in the same way, now you are aware of the the angst, the stress, the laughter, the tears, the work, the patience, the camaraderie, the love – the drama – that make it possible to give each show a beautiful life of its own.
Katherine Lacaze can currently be seen in our 2016 summer musical, 9 to 5: The Musical as Roz Keith. Musical theater always has held a special place in her heart, a love that was reawakened and provided an outlet when she joined the ensemble for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in the winter of 2014. Since then, she has stage managed for Bell, Book and Candle in the fall of 2015 and performed in Dead Guilty and The Apple Tree earlier this year. Besides acting, singing and dancing on stage, she enjoys writing, jogging on the beach, reading classic literature, hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest.