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Photographs and Memories

14/07/2003, harry kollatz, richmond
  Sorting through a decade's worth of a theater's images and ephemera causes me to inwardly rejoice and wonder where all that time went.

On Sunday afternoon I rode my new bicycle to the Firehouse Theatre, of which I am co-founder, to begin the laborious process of sorting through 10 years of photographs and papers in preparation for the company's celebration of its existence. There'll be an anniversary program and a display set up in the lobby that will be in place the entire season.
I've been procrastinating on getting this effort started. It isn't because the task isn't one I enjoy: for years, the only position I had with the company was "historian" or "archivist." That was kind of a joke. Basically, nobody knew quite what to do with me in the theater's volunteer adminitratrive structure.
But by nature I am a collector and saver; scraps of paper can yield clues, pictures show us where we were and how we looked at the time. I hope there'll come a time when I'm but a name and picture on the wall and something will exist to show my successor what we did to make the theater work. Of course, that endeavor is ongoing; I've never yet had a time to prop my feet on the table and relax. That never happens.
I found and viewed photographs I don't remember taking, but I was there. I saw faces and situations that seemed as ambassadors from an almost foreign time and place. This gave me a strange sensation, as though standing in a stopped elevator but still feeling like it's moving. Disorienting.
I fingered yellowing reviews and press releases and relived the Firehouse built itself, one show at a time, and how at least two publications that gave our shows fairly discerning reviews are defunct. One handicap in making theater, or any art in Richmond, is the lack of eloquent, discretionary criticism. Artists who want to establish a career build the framework of their history through publications. Good and bad press exists forever although memory fades--and that was a major reason for me heing there.
The contents of the archives is strewn along three long tables in the upstairs bunkroom, where the firefighters slept, in boxes, bags and piles. My task is to make some sense of it--and bring out things to display and find evocative pictures to reproduce.
Yes, it is a theater in Richmond, Virginia, a theater like those strung throughout the nation and world, small, resilient, scrappy. The organizations of the big leagues have the time and personnel to tend their pasts. Here, it's just me.--HEK

the Firehouse building itself one show at a time. At

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