24 November 2008

Final Bow


I haven't slowed down long enough to really let it sink in. As soon as the audience cleared, we began the strike (at around 9:30) and were out of there by 11:45. That's a phenomenally short strike. And easily the last 30 minutes or so were spent taking stuff out to the car. I had forgotten how much stuff Pamela and I brought into the space for this play.

Got home, unwound a bit, crashed. In the morning peeled myself out of bed and went to work. Rode my bicycle to work. Oh yeah -- I picked up a used bicycle last week. I'm working close to home now, and have the option. I haven't spent so much time on a bicycle since before I started shaving, so I'm super exhausted this morning.

There have been many moments over the course of this production when I took the time to mindfully observe my surroundings; to try and comprehend the chain of events and great fortune that brought me to the Avery Schreiber with a perfect cast, a fun script, and such wonderful houses night after night. I have a record of one such moment in my e-mail inbox, a text message I sent myself at 12:58 am this past Saturday morning. Into my second or third drink at the Red Lion Tavern in Silverlake, surrounded by my favorite people, I was moved to text myself: "i am full to bursting."

Every weekend of this show involved some sort of get-together. We didn't have a "wrap party" per se, but rather a series of celebrations, culminating in a pot luck dinner between the matinee and evening performance yesterday. (As a side note, may I say that the spread of yum yums was a near-perfect metaphor for my cast: Everything offered was desirable and delicious with nary a dud.) At the pot-luck I gave my usual "aw shucks, thanks a lot" speech. (For someone who enjoys the sound of his own voice so much, you'd think I'd be better at giving speeches.) The highlight was Jovial Kemp's heartfelt thank-you to cast and crew. I think he was full to bursting, too.

My cast played to an almost sold-out house for their last show. I believe we were technically sold-out, but we had a couple of no-shows. Irregardless, for a Sunday night the number we had was extraordinary. I had my weepy moments throughout the show. Strangely, the worst moment was not in the last show at all, but the Saturday night show. It hit me in the first few minutes that this was all going to end, resulting in an embarrassing display thankfully unseen by my actors (I was sitting on the front row).

The show ended, the audience congratulated and mingled with my actors. The strike began. An attempt was made to ruin what was otherwise a triumphant evening for myself, my cast, my crew and my company. She failed. 'Nuff said.

It is the nature of theatre that eventually, a show ends. Unlike literature, where the physical book lingers on, gathering dust and silverfish on a bookshelf; or film, where one can still pop in the DVD or stream it online long after the last residual checks have been written; there is precious little left over after the run of a play. And in this drawback I note a strength: A play never grows old, never grows dusty. It remains, a moment in time remembered. The faces, the sounds, the emotions we felt continue on, a part of us. It has a vibrancy that never fades.

Thirty, forty, fifty years from now, I'm going to be that guy backstage telling enraptured young actors all about the time I directed a play set backstage at a burlesque club in 1940s San Francisco. About how Bryan broke the set the first night, and the fleeting look on Jovial's face the one time his music didn't play. About the unearthly squeal Alana let out when Jovial poked her, and the scream of frustration Sylvia let out when her onstage partner "quit" the show. About silence in the house when Seth and Pamela ended their onstage relationship. The look of crushing defeat on Sarah's face every time Seth said "thank you." How Burnsy took a few lines about the death of her character's husband and made me cry almost every night. The applause after April stopped the show and topped Sophie Tucker. The nuances of Judith's work, how she always found something new to tweak and never failed to make me laugh. Jumping up and down on the sidelines as Foxy finally showed her pasties at the last after show.

This experience is forever a part of me. I am a far richer person for having it. And my cast and crew have my undying gratitude and devotion.

(Especially that "red-haired pain in my ass" for whom I wrote the show. I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I'm absolutely crazy for her.)