I’m missing many things these days, including community theater. Although most folks easily identify me as a ham (hush!), it’s the backstage work that I really love. Something magical occurs when many talented folks lean into the work of creating a space where stories are shared on stage.

I love attending the productions I’ve worked on, but not for the show itself or even the final applause: I live for the intermission. As the final scene in the first act draws to a close and the lights come up in the house, the audience responds. At times there is a communal exhale, or the twittering of critiques. I’ve seen folks bolt for the door and others scan the program for additional information. Something happens during this time that suggests the audience will be different once the lights go down. The audience is part of the production at this point. They know what to expect and adjust accordingly.

According to the online etymology dictionary, the word “intermission” dates to the 15th century and was used to describe a lapse of time between events. It wasn’t used in the theatrical sense until centuries later. The rationale for an intermission in productions runs the gamut from the practical (see also: line at ladies’ restroom) to economical (popcorn!). Some psychologists have suggested that an intentional and expected gap in a performance allows for a mental “breather” – a chance to think critically about what has occurred before once again suspending disbelief and entering the world of the performers.

This summer has been a grand intermission, but I’m afraid the pandemic isn’t quite over.

As the fall approaches and our numbers continue to rise, we sit back in our seats a bit wiser than we were for the first act. Certainly, we have more information about the virus as well as tools to help us manage what comes next, but this has been only a momentary lapse in this global event.

My hope is that this mental “breather” has also allowed for space and time to think critically about what has occurred. We’ve changed. Our organizations have changed. It’s not just the simple technical movement to meeting online, but we’ve changed on an almost cellular level in terms of our connection with each other. We’ve shown each other both the very best and very worst of our natures as well as our resiliency.

Prayers for us all as the second act begins.

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