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      THE SEARCH FOR SPACE By Carol Cacchione

      4 19 21Hamilton-Gibson took part in the community-wide sidewalk sales this past Friday and Saturday prior to spring clean-up week in Wellsboro. Whatever doesn’t get sold typically gets carted off to donation centers, or is left at curbside for pickers to sort through before the garbage truck hauls everything off to the dump. HG is running out of space to store things, so I’ve been told. This would be a great way to recycle and re-home items no longer needed, and make some money in the process. I volunteered to help.

      As you might imagine, a theatre company has a lot of props from productions gone by. An old wicker baby carriage, a trio of mismatched wooden chairs, a green leather alpine hat with a feather in its brim, a large cardboard tube tricked out to look like a missile, various dusty suitcases, a boy’s bicycle, a vintage Chinese umbrella: all and more we arranged on and around display tables outdoors to catch the eye of buyers.

      People strolled by on their way to the Native Bagel for a cup of coffee and a toasted bialy with a shmeer. They stopped to inspect the offerings. They haggled with us over prices. Could two chairs marked $10 each go for $15? Of course! Will you take a $20 donation for this bicycle with the two flat tires? Most definitely! We accepted every reasonable offer. By the end of the first day we had a lot more money in our coffers, and most of the chairs, all of the suitcases, and (surprisingly) that cardboard missile, had found new homes. The display tables were starting to look picked over. Another volunteer and I climbed the stairs to the storage loft over the Warehouse Theatre to scout out other potential sale items.

      The next day, Thomas Putnam, artistic director and founder of HG, asked me if I’d seen the storage loft. Yes, I replied. And what did you think of it, he asked. I blurted out that I was appalled, and when I looked at his crestfallen face, I quickly realized I should have used a different descriptor. A better word choice would have been overwhelmed. Thirty years of plays have overwhelmed the loft space with props. There’s barely a clear footpath to walk between the shelves and totes and trunks, the shoes and costumes and curtains, the carpets and backdrops and knick-knacks necessary to decorate a stage and clothe its players. To me, it’s overwhelming. To Thomas, it’s the magic of theatre.

      How to decide what to sell and what to keep? What if we need a vintage suitcase for staging Death of a Salesman someday? Or a trumpet for a revival of The Music Man? And wouldn’t that green leather alpine hat we already tagged for sale be perfect for Captain von Trapp to wear in The Sound of Music? If yes, then why are we selling it? Where would we ever find another? No wonder storage space at HG is at a premium. Props and costumes are everything in the theatre world. The magic doesn’t happen without them. The search for space to store them is real.

      I went back to the yard sale with a new appreciation of what we’re doing: selling certain props to make room for others, not knowing what we might need in the future, and hedging our bets we could find another if need be on short notice. It’s a delicate balance not unlike a high-wire artist’s performance. One misstep and we’d be scrambling to find a vintage Chinese umbrella to stage Miss Saigon, after just selling the perfect one at this spring’s yard sale. A tall bearded man came up to me as I was contemplating the green leather alpine hat. He smiled and said his dad used to have one just like it. I passed it to him, hesitating only slightly before letting it go. He handed me $3 and went away happy.

      How happy we would be at HG if you or someone you know has an empty space we could fill! A garage, a storefront, a warehouse, a watertight barn or outbuilding to house our props and set pieces would be splendid. [Don't forget that HG is a 501c3 corporation so you could claim the in-kind donation on your taxes.] Please call 570-724-2079 for more information.

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