The juxtaposition was jarring. While on vacation (remember way back in August?) our family did our share of Olympics-watching. Best of the best in heated competition – the nations of the world sending their strongest-and-fastest, with the measurement of success often determined by a fraction of a subjective point. The international spotlight of hundreds of millions of viewers. Pretty heady stuff.
At the same time we were on a self-directed tour of some of Utah’s and Colorado’s best- and least-known regional theaters. Proud – or at least unashamed – Broadway stage fans, we were over 2,000 miles from the closest Tony Award-winning cast. The venues ranged from a gorgeous, cut-from-the-rocks outdoor stage to a tiny 83-person “black box” theater; from 1930s Cole Porter (“Anything Goes”) to Assumed-to-be-Argentina of the ’80s (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”); from social commentary (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) to grand epic (“Les Mis”).
While London featured the household names of the international sporting world, the actors and singers in Grand Lake and Dillon Colorado and in Cedar City, Utah are probably not known beyond their home towns (yet). Tens of millions may have been spent on the world class arenas, and the sweat and worry of hundreds of staff and volunteers produced the magic of The Games of the XXX Olympiad. Contrast that with the director who doubled as the ticket taker at the Lake Dillon Theater Company (in all likelihood he locked up at night). But here’s the pleasant surprise: the quality of the theater experience in tiny Lake Dillon and its even tinier theater was stunning. The production was on-the-edge-of-your-seat riveting, and not solely because of the material. The script and score are brilliant, but to say that anyone would look good reading those words and singing those notes does a severe disservice to the ones who genuinely are good at what they do. And in this case, they were very, very good. The kind of good that keeps you in your seat during intermission; the kind of good that keeps you thinking and talking about what you saw and heard weeks (now months) after the fact.
Reminder number one: אַל תִּסְתַּכֵּל בַּקַּנְקַן, אֶלָּא בַמֶּה שֶׁיֶּשׁ בּוֹ (Al tistakel b’kankan, eleh b’ma sheyesh bo – “Don’t look at the jug, but rather what’s in it.”) This is the Mishna‘s version of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” – written around 1,800 years ago – and is as profoundly true today as it was then. With the possible exception of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Death of a Salesman (not exactly a fair barometer – Hoffman and Arthur Miller), teeny, tiny Dillon Lake Theater produced the most exciting theater I’ve ever seen, in the most surprising of venues. Don’t judge!
Reminder number two: There are wonderful, talented and brilliant actors and artists and engineers and doctors and teachers – and not all of them are singing in New York, studying at MIT, practicing medicine at Harvard or teaching at Agnon. We do ourselves (and worse, our children) no favor by only holding up Those Places as the only places. There are diamonds in the rough all over, and they sparkle just the same.
Jerry D. Isaak-Shapiro
Head of School