Friday, October 1, 2010

Jessica Burson Space/Place Essay

Space and place are terms, which are generally used interchangeable. I do not usually pay attention to what word I use in which instance, but now that I have to distinguish between them, I see that there are distinctions. But, I do not believe I would have been able to find their separating qualities without our class discussion. Space is something you use for one certain purpose, but after that it holds no meaning. In a space you are able to move freely through it without any emotional connection to it. An example of a space is a gas station. Generally, all gas stations look similarly and are meant for one purpose. They are not designed, or intended to create attachment, it is merely a means to an end. On the contrary, a place is more specific. A place is somewhere that holds meaning to someone. A place is special to one person, not everyone has the same connection to that location. An example of a place is the house you grew up in. To other people, your childhood house is just a typical house, it is a space, but to you it is meaningful. You hold a personal connection to that house, and to you it is a place. To most people, the Gladstone Theatre in the Park Amphitheatre is a space, but to me it is a place. This theatre holds a very special place in my heart.

The amphitheater is in Oak Grove Park, in Gladstone, Missouri. Since it is an outdoor theatre, there is no seating, only the stage. The building is a permanent structure with a six fly system, orchestra pit, two light trellises, and a dressing room. The park itself is small and intimate. The community is also little, so it fits them perfectly. The program is volunteer based, but the City of Gladstone funds the overall production. At each show buckets are passed around through the audience to gather donations to help pay for maintenance and improvements on the theatre. When Van and Susie Ibsen started the program, the stage was portable and the shows were short. As the program grew, a permanent stage was built in the park. The entire stage burned down though, and was rebuilt with the honorary title of “Ibsen Stage”. The theatre is not very different from any other outdoor theatre, but what it means to the people involved it was makes it different. The feeling people have toward this theatre is what qualifies it as a place, not a space.

As I said, a place is a location that you have an emotional connection to, and the Ibsen Stage is one that I feel very strongly connected to. Dance and theatre have been a major part of my life since I can remember. I spent every summer out at Oak Grove Park, watching shows, performing in them, or working on them. That stage became my second home; it is where most of my good memories come from. To this day, if I feel sad, alone, anxious, anything, I go up to the park and I am able to relax. When I am on the stage I do not have to think about anything else. The stage brings me excitement, love, and enjoyment. I am able to connect with people I may have never met by being on that stage. By watching me perform, people believe they know me, and I them. Just being in the park brings back all the good memories. All of the standing ovations, all of the whistles, all of the pictures taken, it makes me feel special and like I am impacting the lives of others. The stage itself may not do anything, but what it allows for is great. The stage itself is not what I am connected to; it is the combination of the stage, the park, and the memories that go along with them.

I realize that the stage is just a building, but that does not matter. That building brings people together. That structure brings about ten thousand people a night to watch a performance. It brings people from all over the community together, when in everyday life they would never cross paths. The stage will be there for a very long time. Other parts of my life may be changing, but I am always able to return to it. It never loses its meaning, because I will never forget those memories. It will remain a place to me forever, because I will remember everything wonderful that happened while I was there, forever.

A place, to me is a location that feels like more than a structure or piece of land, it holds a place in your heart unlike any other. There are many locations that are special to me, but none that jump in to my head like Gladstone Theatre in the Park. My house from when I grew up holds a lot of memories, but it does not give me the same feeling. When I think about my family the memories are stronger than when I think of the house I lived in. I do not see many of the people I did theatre with any more though, but I can always go and visit that stage. The stage is what holds all the memories. That stage is where I met my first boyfriend, and my best friend. Another friend was proposed to on that stage. The last time my grandparents were able to watch me dance was on that stage. I learned a lot about myself by doing theatre there, and I was able to overcome many fears I once had. That theatre is what showed me what I love and why I love it. Without that theatre I would never have been able to realize my love for theatre and dance. Without those experiences, I would not be the same person I am today. A place is more than a location, it is a treasure. No one else will ever feel the same way I do about that stage, but that it was makes it special, it is my own connection that no one else will ever have, and no one else will ever be able to take away from me, and that is why Ibsen Stage is a place, not a space.

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