Another yearly stop for the World of Fantasy Players was Hastings, Nebraska which is about 25 miles south of Grand Island. This was one of those towns that we would just go into to play the show and then leave. When I managed this troupe of performers of family oriented stage productions, I tried to make it so we could stay in the same motel for more than one night whenever possible. The proximity of Hastings to the other play date town of Grand Island made a multiple night stay in the latter town an ideal situation.
Hastings is a quaint little town of twenty-some thousand people. It's a heartland town surrounded by farm country. Hastings experienced a boom in the late 1800s with the advent of the railroad. One of the notable claims to fame of Hastings is that it was the birthplace of Kool-Aid in 1927.
Since we basically just popped into town to perform our production, we never got to experience much of the town. I'm not sure we even ever ate there. For us it was a matter of arrive in town, do the show, and leave.
Our performance was always at the wonderfully ornate Masonic Temple. Probably built in the earlier part of the 20th century, the building was impressive with an elegantly decorated interior that had been well maintained. The stage was a vintage vaudeville era fixture with elaborate backdrops hung in a high fly loft. There were several scenery changes that depicted palace scenes and Egyptian themed backgrounds with pyramids and date trees. Despite its age the entire rigging and lighting system was in impeccable working order.
The "house" or audience seating area was also immaculate with plush theater seats and fancy carved wood-paneled walls. I would walk around the inside of the theater and admire everything inside the performance hall and in the outside hallways and lobby. This theater never failed to amaze me and the others in the show.
The biggest difficulty was the load-in. The stage loading door was at the top of a steep narrow ramp that was barely wide enough to back our show truck on. We would manage with careful maneuvering and a precarious climb out of the truck window for the driver.
Once we were in and had the stage set and props in place, it made for a truly magical performance. We always had a good crowd in Hastings and they always seemed to be quite appreciative of the show. The performances in Hastings were a special part of each year's tour.
Do you have any unique old theaters near where you live? Is there something that makes your workplace especially memorable?