Bando Tamasaburo, the famed Kabuki actor and Living Treasure, was a guest on a segment of the NHK program this evening that had for its theme, “My Treasure”. He related that when growing up in the world of Kabuki, his career beginning when he was six years old, he often played backstage in the famed Kabuki theater located near Ginza. That reminded me of a similar experience of my own.
My parents loved the theater and they with other like-minded amateur thespians formed The Little Theater on the Bay in Coos Bay, Oregon in the late 1940s. Some of my earlies memories are of playing around the theater and the backstage areas. In the beginning the theater was housed upstairs in a building in Coos Bay, but in the early 1950s it bought the Liberty Movie Theater in the adjacent town of North Bend. That theater was originally built in 1924 as a silent movie theater. I have many memories of playing in the old building when I was a child.
Both my parents acted and my father directed as well. One member of the theater group who went on to New York and Hollywood fame was Roy Scheider. He appeared in such famous movies as The French Connection and Jaws. At the time he was in the Air Force stationed at a base near town. I remember him sometimes coming to our house to talk about theater with my parents.
My parents once actually persuaded me to act in a production when I was about 12 years old. I remember that I played a young boy, but other than that, not much else except for one time when another actor in the play had gotten drunk and forgot his lines, so I had to improvise! Unlike my parents, I did not have the same love for the theater as they did and preferred to act out my own fantasies in the real word, becoming known in so doing so as a “class clown” because I was always making my classmates laugh and getting into trouble for my mischievous pranks, often on teachers. I think my attitude then was reflected in the famous words of Shakespeare:
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
Aside from theater, “backstage” and “behind the scenes” refer to areas not visible to the public, especially in regards to making decisions. People of influence, such as advisors who shun the public eye, operate primarily “behind the scenes”.