Open Forum: Why Wayside?
Posted: February 5, 2013
In our many years of community partnership, one of the organizations my family has always tried to support is the Wayside Theatre.
My father was a longtime board member in our early years, a hard worker and advocate of the theater. My first real exposure to live productions came in that tiny little theater in Middletown, and I have since shared that experience with my children, extended family of employees and customers, and the community at large.
As Wayside has struggled for years financially, it has only been more recently that it’s become so public. I’ve been asked on many occasions why I continue to support the theater. Certainly a fair question in these challenging economic times, so after some introspection, here is my answer:
I have never been a gifted actor or had a passion to even attempt acting on an amateur or professional scale, but I have been deeply moved by many live performances I’ve had the good fortune to witness whether on Broadway, at SU’s Summer Music Theater or Wayside. As our resources for public education have continued to dwindle the last three decades, the first programs eliminated from most public-school curriculums are arts and music programs. Lately, we even find our schools struggling to support sports programs. So without local community/summer stock-type theater programs, where will our young people have the opportunity to express themselves or hone a God-given talent?
Let’s go back to the sports issue for a moment. Does anyone actually think our area could produce the string of state championship runs our region has been able to achieve (in multiple sports, at different schools, I might add) without strong developmental youth programs? The Kelly Washingtons, Erick Greens, Devon McTavishes, etc. may never have had the drive, exposure, and motivation to compete at a higher level.
Who knows where our next generation’s great actors will come from? I know one thing for certain, I have never read a biography or seen a documentary about the life of an actor that didn’t mention years of honing their craft in community theater and summer stock — theaters like Wayside.
Not to mention the greats who struggled as kids to “find their path” or “deal with a challenging home life” or myriad other situations. Many “found themselves” and went on to become contributing members of society who have the compassion and social conscience to give back and attempt to make a difference. That next great actor could be your neighbor.
These are just a few positives I see an organization like Wayside contributing to our community and why I feel a passion to try to help them not just survive, but thrive. We’ve progressed to an age where our attention spans are growing short. We live in a world of instant gratification and special effects. Live theater is not just entertaining, but it forces actors, producers, directors, and set and costume designers to work together to reach into the heart and soul of viewers.
Wayside Theatre offers that opportunity for we, the audience to experience true emotion and be moved by the combination of talents that go into the final production. If you have never been, please try the experience. If you are a past supporter or find some credibility in my words, reach out and offer some support.
Wayside is a gift to our community that has been taken for granted for too long. As with many situations like this, only after it’s gone will people begin to appreciate what a truly amazing gift it was and lament for its return. Let’s not be the generation that allows that to happen on our watch.
Jim Stutzman Jr. owns a Winchester auto dealership.