I’ve been using a postcard that promoted The Merc Playhouse production of “Rope” as a bookmark for about a year now, and like the previous 12 months, the card is a bit tattered.
The postcard has special meaning to me because I directed “Rope,” a classic murder mystery play from the 1920s that was later adapted into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. It was one of the last full productions at the theater before the state’s coronavirus protocols made public performances impossible. The Merc has been “dark” since early this year, and it makes me sad every time I pass the building.
I was reminded of what different times we are in as we were finishing production of the newspaper last week, on Nov. 24 — exactly one year after “Rope” closed at The Merc.
As a first-time director, I had spent the year previous to that getting the play ready for the stage — poring over the script, planning, blocking, casting, costuming, designing a set, getting props, setting up “tech,” and rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. I had great help along the way — the wonderful crew and cast contributed in every way necessary to make “Rope” come to life.
Over the past several years, theater had, unexpectedly, become an important part of my life. I miss it. I think that’s a shared feeling in the valley, where activities and involvement are vital to our lives and help define our community. There are still plenty of things to do, but we are all missing something that was compelling for us, and most of those things have no equivalent replacement to fill the void.
We used to have a feature in the newspaper that revisited Methow Valley News editions from years ago, recounting news from the valley’s engaging past. If you have spent any time perusing our bound volumes, you know it’s easy to get caught up in the history of the place, as familiar names, events and issues keep popping up. As we consolidated resources over the years, it was unfortunately one of the things that dropped away.
While it’s fascinating to delve into the events of 10, 50 or 100 years ago, it’s also instructive to time-travel back only as far as December 2019, which seems like a long time ago (or, alternately, just like yesterday).
We were charging full-bore into a classic Methow Valley winter. The newspaper was full of action. In the first week of December 2019, we had just enjoyed the full Christmas at the End of the Road experience, and Mistletoe Madness was next. “A Christmas Story” was about to open at The Merc. Cascadia’s holiday concerts and Poetry Out Loud were only a few days away. The Paper Boys were appearing at the Winthrop Barn. “The Russians Are Coming” was featured at Mazama Movie Night. Liberty Bell High School’s basketball, wrestling and Knowledge Bowl teams were competing. The Winthrop Rink was hosting hockey tournaments. The second Twisp Christmas Bazaar at the Methow Valley Community Center was on tap; the Winthrop Christmas Bazaar was on the near horizon. The Methow Conservancy was hosting its annual community dinner. That’s just a sampling. In fact, the newspaper’s “What’s Happening” activities calendar was so full that it barely extended through the next seven days.
I don’t intend to evoke nostalgia or gloom, but rather hopefulness. To me, looking at last year’s headlines is a reminder of why we have to be so resolute in enduring the COVID nightmare, so we can begin restoring the traditions that make us grateful to be here. Keeping institutions alive is a lot more work than keeping memories alive. I for one am more than ready to get back to it.
Shop local! Vote local!
Speaking of tradition, it’s more important than ever to support our local businesses during this untypical holiday season. I know that online sales are soaring this year because they are convenient under coronavirus restrictions, but what our local merchants also need is for you to show up and shop. They are prepared for you. See our holiday shopping guide on pages B2 and B3 for guidance in that mission. Then get out there, and take your mask!
And speaking of the previous year, don’t forget to vote for the valley’s top news stories of the year. You’ll find that ballot on page A5.