Rusk youth wins Cherokeean’s summer writing contest

by Meg Kovacs

There’s something quite magical about a small town like Rusk. Maybe it’s the quiet alleyways that wind through the buildings or the arching trees over the main square. The way that at night, it feels like a fantasy world; the lamp posts cast their lights, causing shadows over the cracked and faded pavement.

However, there is nowhere in town quite as magical as the Cherokee Civic Theatre. Even before you step into the building, one can immediately feel the pure imagination that pours out of every seam and crack of its walls. It even looks the part -- on the night of a show, the bright neon sign almost shines brighter than the spirits of the people who perform and direct and work inside.

The experience of seeing a show is something out of a dream. I’ve only seen a few shows, simply because I enjoy being in the shows too much.

However, of the shows I have seen, being in the audience of one of these brilliant performances is amazing.

People laughing in unison, and occasionally crying in unison, is an atmosphere like no other.

When one walks across the stage, they can feel the presence of the hundreds of other actors and actresses who have done the same, all with the same goal in mind; to make the audience feel the beauty of the stage. When they hold a prop, it almost gives off an aura, like the shows that it has been used in gives it a unique personality that no other inanimate object has.

And I haven’t even started on the people. The Cherokee Civic Theatre has a community like no other. People from all over East Texas, some driving from hours away, just to be a part of this quiet theater.

All the people who work there are volunteers, whether they be volunteering their time, their talents, their leadership skills, or their abilities.

I think that’s what makes it so tightly knit; these people come together, not because they get paid to act, or to work the lights, or to direct. They come together simply because they have so much joy in what they do.

I’ve thankfully had the opportunity to both act and work backstage at that Theatre. I vividly remember the very first play that my family was in, and it’ll stick with me for a very long time, because that’s when I first discovered the stage. The theater became a place of comfort to me, a quiet place in the storm of emotions and difficulty that teenagers often go through. I’ve laughed in that theater, I’ve cried in that theater, there have been many things I’ve experienced in that theater that I’ll never, ever forget.

However fun the theater may be, there is always an overtone of seriousness when interacting on that stage. The theater is a fun place, but once the curtains open, all is quiet backstage; everyone has concentrated their efforts on creating the best show possible with the time that they’ve had to practice.

The laughter comes after, when the actors and actresses exit the stage to go meet their enthralled audience, or later, when removing their costumes and makeup. But when it is time to perform, a heavy blanket of hushed determination lies not over just the stage, but the entire theater.

The Cherokee Civic Theatre is not just made up of actors and actresses. The countless number of people behind the scenes are really what makes the show possible. In fact, there would really be no show without the determined directors, the steady-handed stage directors and crew, the skilled sound technicians and light crew, and the set builders.

No matter what a person’s skill set, there is always a place at the theater for you. Those skilled in sewing work with the costuming and tailoring that bring the characters alive.

Those who work with their hands aide in building the sets that bring the stage to life. Those skilled in art paint the sets, bringing a blizzard of emotion that rounds out the already-built sets. Without all of these people, the theater would simply be an empty stage.

There are no words to describe what that theater means to me. Any person who has ever worked there might say the same thing. That’s because the theater isn’t just a building with walls, a floor, and a collection of dusty and beautiful costumes and props. The theater is a family, an amalgamation of the hopes and dreams of any person that’s ever gone there. Why? Because that beautiful, paint splattered, pocked, sometimes saw-dust covered stage can be any place, at any time, about any person. That stage is any person’s dream, come alive.

I used to miss all the characters I ever portrayed, until I realized that they never really left. They just became a part of me, or rather, I became a part of them. It’s almost impossible to play a character without putting a little bit of yourself into them, and when it comes time to close the theater doors after a long performance, you realize that a little bit of yourself stays with that costume and those props. That used to make me terribly sad, that I’d never be able to be that character again, but then I figured out that even if I had left a piece of myself in that theater, there would always be a little piece of the theater inside of me.

So whether you pass through the idyllic little town of Rusk, or if you’ve lived here your whole life, I encourage you to go to the Cherokee Civic Theatre for one of its brilliant performances. You may come out of it with a fresh outlook on life, or a new fervor to start a project you’ve put off.

You might just come out of that theater with a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. Either way, the theater needs you. Not just you as the audience, but you. You, the villain of the murder mystery, or you, the brave Robin Hood, or maybe even you, a cowboy born out of the hardships of the Wild West. The theater needs you, the blossoming artist, and you, the artist who works with wood and nails instead of paintbrushes. The theater needs all of you. Because without any of us, the theater is just a building.