by Logan Roe
Newly furnished and with an air of luxury, the 500-seat Performing Arts Center beautifully echoes the acoustics of the teenage thespians busily dancing across the stage under the steady hand of their choreographer. Brimming with delight, the eager, beaming faces follow the dark-skinned director’s hands; her delicate words guiding the children to and fro, a conductor orchestrating her instruments with expert deliverance. Each boy and girl, the overflowing cups of youth that they are, eagerly await their chance to show off their talents, articulate their lines, and expose their hidden artistry. Side by side they move, dancing like a well-oiled machine of entertainment: balancing, shifting, spinning, and jumping. A glossy black Grand piano sits to the side under the wise control of a dainty sage of music, whose exquisite hands flutter over the keys, delivering an attractive wave of notes. The melody of West Side Story, both nostalgic and absorbing, rises up to the very ceiling. The candied fragrance of perfume, the light hint of antiperspirant, and the spotless scent of the theatre all provide an atmosphere of comfort, and ever so slightly can one taste the aroma of the bouquets that sidle along the two outer-most aisles.
The echoing, uncharacteristic, and barren 500-seat Performing Arts Center, blatantly constructed to compensate in size for the lack of brilliance found on its stage, resonates the din of clients from wall to wall. Each teenager, a literal shamble of mental disorders and thinking errors, moves awkwardly, incompetently, indeed pitifully across the stage under a vibrant yet self-absorbed choreographer. The matron badgers again and again; a tyrant over her minions, pulling their strings and moving them around the platform of embarrassment like dollar store puppets. When able to control their OCD tantrums or ADHD spells, they manage only to move like one huge convulsing mass of flailing ligaments, a haggard monster born from the inept, unskilled minds of such pathetic performers. A doddering black piano, manned by a raisin of a granny, plays a classic if not outdated West Side Story tune. It would be graceful; if it weren’t for the lower keys sticking every other instant they were pressed. An offensive odor’s creeping fingers reach out to anyone in the audience: the shrouds of perfume, the lathered-on musk of cheap cologne and pervasive body spray – all in some vain attempt to impress the opposite sex, as well as a pungent sweat that plugs the nostrils like rotting corks. A bitter taste of fake flora perfume nips the tongue, along with the familiar flavor of excessively recycled air hinting of a million particles of dead skin.
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal, and The BG News. He has also worked as a professional writer and editor in the medical publishing industry for several years. For the last 15 years Richard has also taught literature and writing at the secondary and post-secondary levels. He works much of the time with at-risk students.