Having faith in (the fact that people will disobey) the system (when it is right to do so)

The good news is, I survived January. The bad news is, I am on day 19 of not having a day when I have not been in my office. But Saturday is soon and this Saturday, unlike the last two, I need not go into work. The problem with being busy and being honest about your business and being transparent about how that business sometimes makes you feel . . . sooner or later (like when you’ve worked a 61-hour week) someone is going to take something away from you, and when you work in theater and you like everything you are doing, no matter what is taken it is a personal loss. But more about that this later.

First Look. Our January of First Look was a success by all the measures we set for ourselves. Our playwrights were happy. Our students who participated in the workshops learned and grew a lot. Our 45-seat house was full or at least fullish for all 6 presentations. Could it have been smoother? Yes. Could some of the playwrights have used their time better? Sure. Did being the audience coordinator require more work than I expected? Absolutely.

But let me tell you when I got my payoff.

Friday night. 8:30. Second presentation of Christina Anderson’s Blacktop Sky, a play I am in love with and want to take back to U. City High and direct in the gym. For that same night, our students were invited to attend the dress rehearsal of a local opera, and the powers that be made it obligatory that they attend. At first it looked as though they weren’t going to be able to see Blacktop Sky at all, which infuriated me. Why would we prioritize ANYTHING over our own presentation of a play directed and performed by our own people, much less a play this good? But we moved our second performance to 8:30 so the students could see both. It was going to be tight, but they could just make it back. Friday night. 7:45. We learn the opera dress has started 30 minutes late. We freak out. Half our audience was to be comprised of our students. What do we do? Do we start the presentation without them and usher them in late? It should be said that we were in our tiny blackbox, and the disruption would have been substantial. So do we start the presentation 30 minutes late? But then what about the 20 punctual audience members?

I am not sure we ever came to a solution. We didn’t have to. 8:25 rolled around, and there were our students, soaking wet from the rain but otherwise in good spirits. They had left the unfinished opera to support their people. No one had told them to. They just did it, en masse. Because they knew it was right. And the show, which had been fine for the first presentation at 5:30, was infused with an energy and spirit that made it impossible to leave, which I was going to do. I was going to check names off my attendance sheet and be home to Rachel by 9:30. But I couldn’t. Moments like that don’t happen often, when the energy in the room is palpable and just keeps growing in intensity until the curtain comes down. They are not to be squandered.

That moment made the whole month worth the work. And I will still be saying that tomorrow, on day 20.

Possible posts to come:
What I have been asked to (“temporarily”) give up and how I’m coming to terms with it.
Two new writing projects: a hostel site-specific environment and Alice, a celebration of psychosis
How J. D. Salinger’s Nine Stories shaped my sophomore year of high school, and why I will revisit Teddy and Seymour throughout my life.


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