The last two months have brought into focus what was the key factor in my family’s way of life. With so much clarity, I can truly sum it up in one phrase “The Arts” , both performing and visual. I have known this, and I have also known we love many things and have other pursuits, but at the core of my family is a deep and unwavering love for the arts as they are shared in a live, public forum.
The center of this way of life, for almost exactly ten years has been Broadway, the heart and soul of New York City. So much of our time, energy, money, and heart was poured into live theater. And no, this is neither my husband nor my livelihood, we don’t gain employment or money from the industry. But rather, it was our life! Life and livelihood are not always the same thing. (And for many folks, I do not mean to undermine those of you who intertwine both your life and your livelihood with theater. I commend you and have benefited from your sacrifices as I know this isn’t an easy nor necessarily lucrative pursuit.) Our eldest son, however, had JUST embarked on Broadway being his adult livelihood, having turned 18 right when work began on Broadway Bound Sing Street. He had just started paying rent on his own and just started living his adult life. All that has evaporated, hopefully temporarily…
My children’s pursuits have always been the push behind our move and drive when it came to affording performance opportunities, And, as a family, that has brought us a great sense of pride and joy. But honestly, my personal love of theater has been as long as I can remember. From the first show I saw at the Fox Theater in Detroit, Cats, to my first show I saw on Broadway, Miss Saigon, flashing forward to ten years ago moving to NYC, Broadway has been my personal definition of New York! And of course my love, very luckily, was picked up by my own children. Between us, we saw at the very least, one show per week. Living in the theater district was a dream come true for me! All of us can see a show at a moment’s notice. Show tunes often played in our home, show kids were in and out of our doors, and my own students got to enjoy shows with me on weekends through my theater club. Each week my family would plan what shows we would see next and with whom. I have a steady show date girl friend that it is a regular part of our routine to see on average a show a month. You get the idea. My family saw as much on and off Broadway as we could afford and make time for.
I sit here on my patio upstate, having fled the city, and I am remembering why I miss theater so much. I know there is SO MUCH content on the internet right now with LOVELY folks from Broadway sharing their time and talents, but I cannot bring myself to watch ANY of it, with one small exception. I did force myself to watch Sing Street:Grounded, and I did enjoy it very much.( That’s mom love for you!)
When I first started to come to New York in my twenties, I would buy tickets to anything I could get my hands on. I didn’t care what seat or even what show. I just wanted to be in that theater and feel that energy. I wanted to share an experience where anything could happen at any moment and everyone around me was experiencing the same thing, but through a different lens. I wanted to be moved so deeply that I would never forget the experience and could have it so embossed in my memory in a way that I could reference the moment for an eternity. I wanted to weep, laugh, gasp, and connect in those few hours that passed. I have so many memories: memories of a certain actor, whom I respect very much, forgetting some lyrics to The American Dream in Miss Saigon at The Muny which he recovered from with grace, of Kelli O’Hara weeping uncontrollably in The King and I the day many of the children were leaving the show, on holding my breath during Hamilton when the “bullet” passed through the air, of dancing with joy at the end of Mama Mia, of weeping like a baby in so many parts of Dear Evan Hansen, and of wanting to jump out of my seat with pride and admiration every time a friend or loved one graced the stage….. just to name a few. I have hundreds of vivid memories that can stir deep emotions, but I WANT MORE!
This is what I miss, and why I am trying to imagine what my family’s life may look for some time in the foreseeable future. Yes, my son has lost income. Yes, my kids have lost some purpose. Yes, we have lost entertainment. But more so, we have really lost an essential part of what makes us “us”. I am not sure what will fill this void for us, but I know we will have to reinvent ourselves. I don’t want to, but I have to imagine my family without theater just for now.