Y’all, last night’s news of one of Broadway’s best passing due to this virus had me in tears. Tears for what was, what we have been losing, and what losses we may still suffer.
I cried silently as I read the headlines. In my arms lay my sleeping infant, my husband in bed, and our daughter upstairs, resting. I couldn’t help but worry that it could be me or someone close to me, and I shuddered. I’m a teacher of the Arts, and fear of exposure and hospitalization is a stark reality, a jagged little pill I don’t want to swallow.
Through the blur of my tears, I read the commentary from his wife, and how much grit this individual had, even knowing he might not make it, but that he would try to fight. I’d been following his progress through the IG account of another actor I’d met when I went to NYC two November’s ago with my best friend.
Some of his fellow performers immediately took to social media to honor this man and his extraordinary kindness and talent, and I realized just how much of an impact even one actor can have on those around them or in the seats, watching.
For me, I have been feeling an emptiness in my chest since this quarantine began, and it made me realize how much we take for granted, particularly the ability to attend public events en masse.
Over the past sixteen or seventeen weeks, I’ve been reading about shows closing, actors and crew out of work (I even know a few, personally), tickets being refunded, sets left onstage, waiting for an audience to see them. Broadway closed until at least January 2021. By then, who will still be left standing to make the art??
I’ve searched for clips from some of my favorite shows to keep that spirit alive within me, hungrily watched videos about scenic design & proptology, and read countless articles about directors and choreographers. I could claim that this was all research for my impending, could-be-digital school year, but that’s not the truth. The truth is, Theatre, and all of its elements, gives me life.
I follow my favorite Houston theatre, the Alley, on IG and have digitally communicated with their resident company members during this pandemic. This little space, who was devastated by the waters of Hurricane Harvey, was like the plucky underdog who had just gotten its footing again. I read somewhere that they expected $15+ million of deficit. I’m going to find a way to donate where and when we can.
My husband even bought TUTS season 20/21 tickets for our anniversary, and selected amazing seats for us, hoping we can still attend their amended season, beginning in December (maybe..thanks, COVID). I could only partially get excited, because I somehow think, due to Corona virus surges, the “darkness” onstage will remain beyond 2020.
I crave Theatre.
CRAVE its connectivity to the human condition.
I miss producing, building, and directing it. I miss the smiles, camaraderie, funny jokes, weird costume choices, witty scripts, and the way my students said it changed them for the good. I miss seeing the work of my fellow directors, as they showcase their school’s talents and abilities. The brainstorming sessions (in-person then, on Zoom now) with quirky assignments in mind that will spark even more love for Theatre Arts. Reading scripts and librettos to choose a musical that will unite the talents walking the halls.
I miss the late hours directing, the unforeseen challenges (trying not to damage the wrong sized rented backdrop? Use pool noodles, of course!), the heartwarming smiles of the volunteering parents, the frequent fliers in the audience who just want to see what we will come up with next.
The stories that change me, my students, our community, nestled in our hearts.
I miss show circles, opening night jitters, and closing night tears. The brief periods of rest before the next show takes the stage.
I feel a sick twist of fate in the fact that I assigned “Rona Broke Broadway” breaking news segments, because that’s what is happening. It’s breaking, small fissures now, large cracks coming.
If you’ve ever seen a play or musical, even watched one livestream or film version (I’m looking at you, Hamilton, on Disney+), you know the power of Theatre to lay bare our hearts and find every emotion we could possibly imagine. Artists, dancers, composers, and musicians do an excellent job of this, as well.
We NEED the Arts.
They are struggling to keep the light aflame amid closures and uncertainty.
A month or so ago, I posted about this being “just an intermission,” but it feels as though we are at a curtain call, with nobody to bow on the apron to an audience who enjoyed the show.
Those velvety chairs are empty, no claps reverberating off the walls. No playbills in hand, a keepsake for avid fans.
No frenzied walks back to the hotel or our homes, as we reminisce on our favorite scenes, or songs.
Broadway is asleep.
The only thing I can pray is that it is just a hibernation, and in that season of slumbering, art is still being created, even if it’s from the couch, in our jammies, no stage makeup to give us the perfect contour or artificial wrinkles.
Something will wake this “Great Bright Way” again, and it will come back stronger than before. When it does, I’m planning on attending everything we can.
I feel like I’m hearing the anthem, “Seize the Day” playing behind me.
Let’s find a way to #savethearts, before the curtain closes for good.