Honoring Jaie Deschene with Web of Murder

by Mary Parker, Director of Web of Murder

You meet a lot of amazing people while doing theater. Anyone who agrees to spend some of their valuable free time doing anything artistic is, at the very least, a kindred soul. In my experience it is hands down the easiest way to make friends as an adult.

In the percolating broth of Boston area community theater, there are certain people that almost everyone knows. Jaie was one of those linchpins - a director, actor, singer, and overall multi talented person who was known and respected in every organization she worked with. Theatre@First was no exception, and her moving and powerful Trojan Women in 2014 was the first show I stage managed for. I would work with her again several times, as an actor, makeup helper, and costumer, and each time I learned something valuable. Not just from her, but from the clever and exciting people she surrounded herself with.

Her death hit the community hard. If it had just been her bright light extinguished, that would have been bad enough, but it came in threes and beyond in the spring of 2023. The grief was layered with a surreal feeling of hopelessness, and the sting of unfinished business. She was set to direct Web of Murder this fall, and I was excited to see what she would do with it.

We will never see what she had in mind. No one could capture her style, or have her experience or her vision. But I did feel strongly that she would have wanted this show to go up, for us to have one more round of theater fun from her quirky choice of script. So when I was the lucky one asked to take over the project, I agreed. I wouldn't try to recreate her vision, but I would pull out all the stops and make the most fun show I possibly could: for her, for the cast, for the crew, and for the community.

What we created, I hope, would have tickled her. This show just happened to come together as they sometimes do - with cast and crew each displaying moments of brilliance in an overlapping collage to make a harmonious whole. It turned out to be one of my favorite kinds of shows to direct - a production where I made myself useful by getting out of the way while everyone else came up with ideas more beautiful and more hilarious than anything I could have done alone.

Theater is ephemeral. A show after closing is gone forever - no matter how many HD video copies exist. Live theater is like a living person - exciting and sometimes overwhelming and utterly fascinating - but describing a show to someone who hasn't seen it is like describing a person to someone who hasn't met them. You can convey ideas, and plot points, and even get someone excited for something they missed - but they won't know it. It will linger in the memories of the people who experienced it, as Jaie will endure in the memories of the people who knew her. 


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