This past weekend something special happened during a performance of A Christmas Story here at ZACH Theatre.
Toward the end of the play, actor Marco Perella’s character Ralph says, “It was a good Christmas because we had love; we had each other. And in the final accounting, that’s what it’s all about after all.” A woman in the packed Topfer audience spontaneously shouted “AMEN!” which inspired other audience members to affirm this sentiment out loud, while others clapped. I love it when theatre unexpectedly turns into church. And when I say that I mean the communal experience of gathering together for a shared experience in which we are lifted up in some way. I’ve sat in enough theatre audiences across the country to know how special this is, and it doesn’t happen in many places.
It is a great reminder for me this week of how thankful I am for Austin audiences and their spirit! Lots of our audience members this week are telling the house managers at our theaters how thankful they are for us putting them in the holiday spirit at This Wonderful Life with Martin Burke’s delightful performance, as well as at A Christmas Story. Many said they came in feeling a bit tired from Thanksgiving or not ready for Christmas to be here, and they find themselves leaving ZACH in the spirit of the holiday season. As people who make theatre we value the experience of transformation, and this past week it was so gratifying to see so many folks in our lobbies smiling ear to ear, hugging loved ones, and laughing after the performances — the persons who had walked in the door were transformed.
At ZACH we revisit our mission, vision and core values on a regular basis to make sure we are in alignment and to see if we feel like anything needs tweaking based our continued maturation and growth as an arts organization. Our mission currently is: ZACH creates intimate theatre that ignites the imagination, lifts the spirit, and engages our community. In a recent staff meeting we discussed each part of our statement for about two hours with a very lively and passionate conversation. This idea of “lifting the spirit” in particular had a lot of dialogue around it. This week it has been an especially gratifying experience to hear these words being reflected back to us by the audiences at the performances. We love this community and the ways in which we get to participate in it and contribute to it. We are lifted by the experience of what I believe to be the finest audience in America. Amen, indeed!