Is there anything more glorious than to be in the theatre on an opening night?
Not in my experience. Is the show going to be amazing? If so, there is nothing more glorious than the feeling in the whole theatre of the rush of energy – the communal feeling that you are in the presence of a hit.
Is it going to suck? Our great mentor, Bill Ball, founder of The American Conservatory Theater, taught us to always say something positive. My favorite is, “If you could only have been where I was and saw what I saw this evening!”
The fantastic production of George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem at A Noise Within was one of those amazing nights in the theatre. Not only was it my mother’s birthday, it was a very special landmark for us as a family that we had promised ourselves to attend. Since my father, who died eight weeks ago, was a big Farquhar scholar, one of our “touchstone” dates was this night. And so we were ALL there – my mother, Alan’s father, my sister and her husband and children, our children and their wives, Alan onstage and me next to my mother. The family remarked about the wonderful full page tribute to Daddy in the program. “Is that really Aunt Kathy?” said nine year old Harry looking back and forth between the photo of twelve year old Aunt Kathy and sixty-one year old Aunt Kathy. He recognized his grandfather, my father, from the photo montage from the funeral.
The house doors were closing – the show would be starting soon – please, God, let it be good. We are all counting on this one being good much too much. My mother whispers to me, “Oh – look how beautiful the set is! Daddy would have been so pleased!” And then the houselights dimmed and there it was before us – the glorious world that Daddy loved so much. The still hysterically funny English Restoration. Filled with witty language and extraordinary daring and courage and fun, fun, fun! A brilliant production – the audience was seized with it. The critics were delighted. And I was bathed in it. Curtain Call already? “No!” the audience wanted to say. None of us were ready to leave this glorious world, this amazing place, this great production and go back to our ordinary lives. Another mark of a great show in my experience – you never want to leave.
Was Daddy there with us? Not in body – not even in spirit – but in passion, love, the thrill of the promise of the opening – all the reasons he loved that most magical of art forms, the living theatre.
We have experienced it, we will experience it, and my grandchild’s child will experience it. We may come and go…but THAT is forever.