March 2, 2014

KNISELY: My first glimpse of stage life


---- — I’m a chick, but I have seen many a dude movies. And, from my observation, a fair share of dude movies are of the sports variety.

Whether these flicks are about a famous athlete or a sporting event or a tragedy, all sports movies seem to have one thing in common — the tunnel scene.

It’s the pinnacle of this brand of movies’ greatness. The camera follows in slow motion every move of a diminutive football player who never gave up and now finds himself on the brink of taking the field that had so long eluded him. (If you’re thinking I ripped that plot off of “Rudy,” you’re right.) From the dark depths of the tunnel to the blinding lights of the stadium, Hollywood just can’t seem to avoid this cliche. And you know you just eat that stuff up, fellas.

I never quite understood the appeal of this scene. Maybe it’s because I never played football and thus never experienced the rush out onto the field. But, this week, I did have my very own tunnel scene experience. And I can safely say I get it now.

I’m performing in next weekend’s Civic Players of Logansport’s production of “Stage Door.” We’ve been in rehearsals for months now. The thing is, though, we rehearse in the Civic’s building on Erie Avenue. It’s a small, cramped space.

Because the space is so small, it throws some things off. In saying a line while walking off stage, we actors found we were off stage long before the line was finished.

As we heard so many times in rehearsals when certain scene weren’t working, “It’ll make sense at McHale.”

But like some many things that seem they’re never going to arrive, move-in day was upon us before we knew it.

I’ve been to McHale as an audience member, but this was my first trip behind the scenes. We entered through the dock to find stacks of woods, tools and remnants of past plays on the walls. Minus the wall art, I felt like I was in my father’s woodshop. For a place I had never been before, I felt oddly at home.

And then I encountered “the tunnel.”

For as bright as the shop was, the rear stage area was equally dark. It created a surreal space between the two. As I walked onto the backside of the stage, the sheer enormity of it all seemed to be swallowing me whole.

As I continued to walk forward, I transitioned back to a bright space. A walk that spanned only seconds and merely a few feet seemed to take an hour. It was as if time had come to a crawl. With each step that brought me closer to the front of the stage, my eyes focused only on the bright lights out in front. All other sights fell away to darkness.

Standing at the head of the stage looking out into the seats that would soon be filled, the fact that I was going to perform in my first play sank in hard.

The director came to stand next to me, likely to get a closer look at the combination of amazement and fear that had swept over my face.

I turned to her and said, “Wow, those are bright.”

With a laugh and a devious smile, she said, “Honey, those are just the working lights. Wait until they turn the stage lights on.”

And in that moment, this just got real.

Misty Knisely is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5155 or at Follow her on Twitter: @PharosMK