A heartbreaking truth of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it poses a great challenge to the very things that keep us going — the arts that inspire us despite our circumstances, the entertainment that allows us to laugh, cry, and escape. Federal Way’s Centerstage Theatre paused and held its breath with all of the other theatres during COVID-19, leaving a hollow space in the Federal Way community.
The bad news is, this pandemic isn’t over, and we must still practice social distancing, mask-wearing, and staying home whenever possible. The good news is, Centerstage Theatre is back, and we can attend outstanding virtual performances. In pajamas, if we like. From the comfort of our beds, with a snack and a cup of tea. This is precisely how I watched last night’s performance of “Theatre Magic (and Other Things We Need).”
The play is made up of separate scenes, each technically unconnected, but all timely, many exploring themes of connection-seeking. This is true in the scene in which a separate group of freeway travelers experience something profound together. It’s true in the unlikely friendship struck up by air traffic control and a man floating above an airfield via a lawn chair and 45 balloons. And it’s true in the Christmas ghost story, in which a woman is seeking a connection to her deceased mother while somewhat oblivious to the connection her husband is seeking. In “Real Art,” the final scene, and one of my favorites, a painter connects with a new fan in a way that is touching, inspiring, and haunting — the artist has painted a room that makes a woman feel safe, which is something she does not feel regularly.
And then there is “Workout.” Nothing else so perfectly reflects mothers during this pandemic. In “Workout,” a woman monologues while exercising. She discusses all of the implausibly accomplished things she does every day, working up a sweat and exhausting the audience all at the same time. This is a woman who has written a novel, saved a city, supported her husband’s run for governor — perhaps all in one day. At the very end of her day, she cries. But only for a moment, because there is so much left to do.
I am a mother with three young kids during this pandemic. I’m a mother who has released a novel this year, and written two others. I’m a mother who sits with one of her children for all five hours of remote school every day, hoping that her other children are somehow managing on their own. I am a mother who cries at the very end of her day, too. But only for a moment, because there is so much left to do. “Workout” is for the mothers.
The virtual experience at Centerstage Theatre isn’t the same as the in-person experience. But it is so nice to be back to the theatre, even virtually. It is so nice to see these actors — many from past Centerstage productions — perform again, in both a brand new and a very familiar way.
“Theatre Magic (and Other Things We Need)” is showing through Nov. 15. Tickets are available at CenterstageTheatre.com.
Renee Beauregard Lute is is the author of The Exceptional Maggie Chowder (Albert Whitman & Company, October 2020), and the Winicker Wallace series. She lives in a blue house outside of Seattle with her husband, three young children, two cats, and one cockapoo. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN.