Last week, the Entertainment Editor of one of our local daily newspapers, asked me to help her to gather stories of people’s most memorable theatre experiences. I did, along with the help of the GVPTA, and you can read the results here.
It inspired me to write my own.
A few years back, a gal with whom I had done some work, Lita, came to me with a play, with the intention of us producing it. The play was Five Women Wearing The Same Dress by Alan Ball. I was deep into a Six Feet Under addiction, and loved American Beauty, so I was intrigued. I read the play, and was immediately entranced by his ability to write characters that reveled themselves in layers, and agreed that the play was fantastic, and must be produced.
I then proceeded to get super busy, and Lita moved to Halifax, so that was the end of that. But I still had it on my brain, so I gave it to another friend of mine, Gillian Morris (now Behnke) who had a production company called Horned Moon. She loved it.
We were about to have our first production meeting, but I had just found out that I was pregnant, so I told her that, in terms of dates, we either had to think about producing it in the next few months, before I began to look really pregnant, or in a year. We both agreed that we could use a year to get this done. I brought on another friend I had been wanting to work with, Sarah Sawatsky, as a third producer.
By the time we went into production at Presentation House, I had a six-month-old baby. One day, in order that my partner could come and see the show, we arraigned to have a girlfriend take care of him at the theatre, so that my partner could sit through a matinee. In the last scene of the first act, a quiet and intense scene between Merideth (played by Mitzi Thaddeus) and Mindy (me), I heard my baby crying outside the theatre. It was my worst nightmare–but somehow I got through the scene and offstage.
I got word to the outside through the stage manager to bring me Michael at the intermission. They brought him in to me, and I hiked up my dress (which was NOT built with breastfeeding in mind!) and proceeded to nurse him. I told the stage manager we’d have to hold the intermission until we were done.
Finally, I handed him to his dad, and stepped into the back stage. A moment later, the lights went out, and I stepped on stage. The next hour was incredibly surreal. It was one of those times on stage that passes like a dream. Time goes and you don’t know where–I felt like someone else was enhabiting my body.
After the show, the stage manager asked me what I had been doing differently. I didn’t think I had done anything differently, but the experience had affected my performance–for the better, or at least, so thought the stage manager.
Beyond that day, that performance, that show, the women that I worked with on that production are still a huge part of my life, six years later. I saw Bronwen Smith yesterday, last summer we celebrated Mitzi’s wedding, and this summer we’ll cry at Sarah’s. Robin moved to Toronto, and is expecting baby number two, but we stay in touch via email. Every couple of months, the three of us that are left in town (and Mitzi, if she’s visiting from London where she now lives) get together and have dinner and talk like the women do in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.
I’ve done a lot of plays, and after they’re over, we all say we’ll stay in touch, etc. But inevitably, life steps in, that’s just how it goes. For me, the greatest legacy of doing that play is the relationships that it created. Bronwen, Sarah, Mitzi, Robin (and Kris, the substitute Robin), I love you!
Happy World Theatre Day!