So Long, Orange Girls

They were Orange, and they were golden.
They were Orange, and they were golden.
Wonder of the World, the final show of the Orange Girls' 2009 season, wraps up this weekend. It may also be the final show the Orange Girls ever produce. Still, while reviewers are calling the production the company's "swan song," founders Brooke Edwards, Michelle Hand and Meghan Maguire prefer the term "hiatus" to describe what they view as an open-ended work stoppage.

And no, it's not because of financial trouble or an inability to work together. The hiatus is due to something that has never before intruded upon an Orange Girls venture: Real life.

Oh, their stagings deal with the issues of this real world, but once the lights go out so does this mundane life of mine. Suddenly nothing matters except what's happening on stage; the OG's commitment to immersing you in a playwright's world is a testament to the talent of the actresses, actors, directors and crew, and to that strange alchemy the best theater companies can engender. To me it's the difference between a show you love and a show you feel -- the Orange Girls were very adept at making you feel something, even in the back row.

The "real life" that's breaking up the act -- and I'm going append a "for now" like a little candle in the window -- is the stuff with which we all have to deal. "Life is taking each of us in different directions as mothers, artists and professionals," says Edwards. Participating in the nightly creation of fictional worlds and living in the real world requires personal sacrifice in either the former or the latter (or a little from both), and the OG succeeded as a theater company for four years while simultaneously managing to raise families and find time to act in other companies' productions.

One broad measure of the Orange Girls' success is their Kevin Kline Awards track record: fourteen nominations and four wins. Let's also add "one night" to that victory tally -- as in the one night I spent wandering through University City after being harrowed by Wadji Mouawad's Scorched, which featured all three OG principals. A play that tears into you so deeply that you're still mulling it over more than a year later puts a different spin on "real life."

So goodbye for now, it is. I don't begrudge the Orange Girls taking a breather, but the local theater community will miss them something fierce.

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