“I started crying.”
“I don’t know. I saw how much you love being on stage, and I was overwhelmed by how good this show is … and how good you are. I was just … I was afraid I’d started gasping.”
That’s the effect you had on my wife opening night.
She’s not just a biased family member in the audience. She’s an accomplished dancer and theatre major who’s seen more than her share of plays. She’s never afraid to tell the truth.
I maintained my composure when Jim and Sandy gave their impromptu speech in the green room before our 15 minutes. I rounded up the stares and found my favorite spot, off-stage left, right where Dave Roser doesn’t want anyone to stand. I burned off a little nervous energy with heel raises. We passed out gloves. People whose mere presence make me smile gathered around, waiting to enter for “Magic.”
Lights went out. Gloves glowed, and the audience clapped. The emotions I’d held in check in the green room would remain silent no more. I felt the tears roll over my carefully made-up cheeks.
“My mascara’s gonna be a mess,” I thought. “I so miss this.”
The play went on. Sitting in a chair–a chair I’d sat in during acting class 23 years before–my sword beating my thighs in rthym to the Charles’s song, I said to myself, “this is too easy.” To that point, singing, dancing, throwing myself about the stage in a dress, felt as natural and uncomplicated as falling out of bed or waking up. Exciting, but natural.
I’m standing on a round platform, holding hands with two remarkably talented women–one on each side. “Go,” I hear from my left, and we three begin to turn into the light. The applause’s volume rises, and I hear a few shouts.
At that moment, I knew why everyone steps onto a stage for the second time. (I still don’t know why anyone does it once.) Two hundred people, with their voices, hearts, and hands, say in uncoordinated unison, “Thank you.” And they’re thanking us for letting them watch us do what we love.
Thank you, oh people of Pippin. Thank you for sharing with me one of the true pinnacles of humanness. Thank you for being better than expected. Thank you for loving this theatre thing as much as I do. Thank you for sharing your joy with me, which only increases mine.
My wife thinks she knows how much I love the stage. I don’t have the heart to tell her: no one will ever know, and no scale will ever measure.