What to do when you get here — An insider’s guide to interests and attractions in the area surrounding The Cliff House Resort & Spa.
Backstage at the Ogunquit Playhouse
A dramatic and fun thing to do!
Did you know the Ogunquit Playhouse offers backstage tours several times during the season? When I discovered this, I signed right up. About twelve of us assembled in the lobby one morning for our tour. We learned that the theater got its start in a converted garage at the intersection of Route One and Shore Road. In the Playhouse there is a great photo of cars parked bumper to bumper into the street. It was wonderful to learn that the history of The Cliff House and the Playhouse are intertwined — the land the Playhouse is on was once part of the Weare family’s farm!
We were ushered through the Stage Door where stars like Bette Davis, Douglas Fairbanks, and Ethel Barrymore once entered. We walked into the theater, and there it was — the ghost light on the stage. It’s just a single bulb affixed to a light stand. The actual purpose of the light is for safety so that people will not fall into the orchestra pit, a dungeon of a space under the stage. Actors are a superstitious lot and this light must always be on, even in the off-season.
We went backstage and saw how scenery is raised and lowered by a rigging system with counterweights that allows the stage crew to quickly, quietly and safely fly curtains, scenery — and sometimes people — on and off the stage. The roof above the stage was actually raised to be a fly loft. And while the curtains and scenery were huge, the area where we stood was not. It was piled high with every manner of props. It made me realize that the stage crew conducts a performance that parallels the one in the footlights!
A hallway the length of the theater leads to tiny dressing rooms, and it was from this hall that we entered the wig room. Here we met stylists who create most of the wigs; only a few are rented. It was amazing to see the artistry involved as strand after strand of human hair is attached to a wig cap. It’s easier (and quicker) to use wigs for performers as they make swift costume changes. I saw one wig with a big mass of hair designed to support a poofed-up bonnet. Wigs need to be cleaned, styled and repaired, and these stylists are up to the task!
What does it cost to bring topnotch shows to the Playhouse? The average is $800,000 for royalties, costumes, sets and cast. That’s a lot of tickets! It’s not too late to see a play as the 2011 season lasts through October. You can also participate in their survey to suggest plays for next season. The Playhouse has been heralded as “America’s Foremost Summer Theater”. Applause, applause!