Two Takes on Bethesda (Part One: Pro)

Let’s say you have children, or are related to children, or have friends with children. If so, you may already be acquainted with Imagination Stage in Bethesda.

Exposure to the arts at an early age is incredibly important for children in developing their creativity and self-expression. Imagination Stage fosters this foundation by providing opportunities for children ages 1-18, ranging from family-oriented theatrical performances to outreach programs and summer camps. I find it easy to admire an organization that states as its core belief: “making the arts inclusive and accessible to all children, regardless of their physical, cognitive or financial status.”

They also have an impressive modern facility in downtown Bethesda with performance spaces, studios, classrooms, a cafe, and the most adorable gift shop I’ve ever been in. Trust me, if you ever need gifts for children of all ages, this is the place to go without feeling like you’re bowing down to the soulless toy gods – they even have Ugly Dolls!

Now what, you may ask, is a resolutely child-free DINK like me doing in a Church of Cherubin?

Well, a dear friend had her directing debut doing “Twelfth Night” for the student company Mid-Summer Shakespeare, a group of young actors ranging in age from 13 to 18. With an obvious commitment to the ensemble spirit, they tackled the perils of iambic pentameter while displaying a lively and engaging energy. Sadly, it’s easy to become snobbish about theater when you’re a professional, or even a past professional like me, but I felt no such emotion today. It was a delight to hear familiar speeches (what actress doesn’t have “I left no ring with her” embedded in her mind?) spoken by fresh enthusiasts, learning the difficult task of how to speak Shakespeare with clarity and purpose.

It was not a delight, however, to hear familiar speeches rudely interrupted by loudly ringing cell phones. Yes, really, some people had the gall to not silence them despite the usual serious reminders to the contrary. The first act was punctuated with several vibrating tones and two loud rings. Imagine something like this – a young eager actress begins the fervent monologue “Make me a willow cabin at your gate” and is interrupted by a jarring ringtone. The audience jerks upright, the actress continues, the offender slinks into their seat (one hopes, anyway).

Ah well, that’s a lesson for young actors to learn too – not every audience member comes prepared to listen, not everyone understands that common courtesy, not everyone cares that you are giving your heart out to them.

(Ahem. Somehow I don’t think I’d make a very, ah, uplifting teacher…)

Anyway, congratulations to the company on a job well done, and be sure to check out Imagination Stage’s fine performances and classes for the children and young adults in your lives.

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