This story either begins in the summer of 2010, or it begins ten thousand years ago, when people first settled at the confluence of the Susquehanna River and Fishing Creek, near what is now Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. The ten thousand year story is too long to tell here (though it is told musically at
www.myspace.com/paulloomismusic – click on Susquehanna.mp3), so I will tell the short version.
Which is this: That summer I was at the Smoked Country Jam bluegrass festival and heard the winners of that year’s Pennsylvania Heritage Songwriting Contest. I thought “I can do that”, and wrote the song linked to above. It won 3rd prize the following year, good enough for free admission to the festival (well worth it!). I play that song live fairly often, and in January, some folks mentioned it would be appropriate for BTE’s upcoming production of Flood Stories, Too, telling the stories of the flood of 2011, the highest on record in Bloomsburg. We had long thought that Anna and Zeke would enjoy being in a play, so all four of us went to auditions – well, technically a casting call, as anyone who was willing to put in the time and work could be part of it – in January. Six weeks of rehearsal and one weekend of shows later, we are close to the end – there are five more shows, on March 14-17.
There isn’t room enough to talk enough about the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (BTE) and all the things they do to make this community a richer, livelier place to live, so I’ll talk about my experience of being in this play. I play that same song, as well as two Van Wagner songs. I rarely play other people’s songs in public, but playing these songs again and again in practice, then rehearsal, and now in front of 100 to 200 people at a time has been a great learning experience. I can do things on guitar and harmonica that I couldn’t do before. Leticia, Anna, Zeke, and I all play local people, and we are part of a cast of 35 (plus a choir of 30 more) that moves like an intricate machine through the two hour play. Every performance is the same on the page, but in real life, of course, every one is different. The audience reacts differently, the way we play off each other is different, the type of energy each of us brings each night is different. Anna and Zeke normally go to bed between 7 and 8, but our evening shows end around 10, so we are sometimes in the post-bedtime twilight zone. They have been great, though – it seems like they have more poise and fewer nerves than the adults. Each night feels a little easier than the last. “We are cutting grooves through space and time,” I said to Leticia, and then I had to explain more. There is a zen-ness to it, a sense of being in the moment, a mix of intense concentration with breaks when you go into power-save mode. All these things about theatre have, I am sure, been expressed before, though perhaps not in a blog that started out being about South American bus travel.
Aside from all that, being in this play reaffirms our decision to be in Bloomsburg. It is, perhaps, only natural to want to be among the people who responded to the floods with such grace, generosity, resolve, and humor. If you are anywhere near Bloomsburg in the next 4 days, you should come see this play.
Go here for more dress rehearsal photos, courtesy Bob Rush.