I try hard not to be too self-indulgent here on my blog, or get too sentimental, but y’all are going to have to bear with me this morning, because I’m feeling nostalgic, weepy, sad, satisfied, peaceful, and frankly, a little sappy today.
Yesterday afternoon, I took my final bow as Jack’s Mother in CTC’s run of Into the Woods.
Now, I’ve closed a lot of shows before, and they’re always a little sad, but this one was different. This was my last show. I mentioned in my last post that I’d be retiring from acting at the end of this run – so yesterday’s bow was particularly poignant.
As I drove out of the theatre’s stage door parking lot last night, I found myself humming as tears streamed down my face.
Kiss today goodbye
And point me toward tomorrow
We did what we had to do
Won’t forget, can’t regret
What I did for love
Look, my eyes are dry
The gift was ours to borrow
It’s as if we always knew
And I won’t forget what I did for love
What I did for love
I’ve always loved A Chorus Line, as a show. It falls into the same category as Into the Woods for me. It isn’t one of those nice, sugar coated shows that wraps everything up in a bow in a 2.5 hour time frame.
Like Into the Woods, it’s one of those very real shows with harsh reality checks and raw themes that show themselves in shades of grey, reminding the audiences, and the actors, that life is tough, you won’t always get your happy ending, and that moral ambiguity is generally closer to reality than easy answers.
I spent most of last night thinking of those two shows simultaneously, musing about how vastly different they are, and yet how much they both speak to me in some of the same ways.
They both drive home the same core point for me –
Life is difficult. Love is hard. But you do it anyway.
And I love the theatre.
I really love the theatre.
The first time I ever took the stage was in 1988, and childhood me loved every second of it. I loved staying after school and learning music and choreography in the music room with my teacher, using xylophone mallets as prop stand-ins. I loved the lights, the costumes, the applause, the late nights, the sore feet. I loved all of it.
And I’ve loved it ever since.
I’ve loved it for 30 years.
And I came to realize that, like anything you love so deeply, it’s not necessarily something you choose consciously. I don’t remember choosing to love theatre….it just….grew.
It started small, there on the gym stage of Elmwood Elementary school, and just …grew. This is the kind of love that burns in your heart, crawls through your veins, seeps out your pores, falls in your tears. It’s THAT kind of love.
It’s hard work.
Literal blood, sweat, and tears go into these shows.
30 years of cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken feet, blisters, sweat-soaked, paint-soaked clothing, nights falling into bed without eating, mornings of tech week tears…all made worth it when the curtain goes up and the orchestra strikes the first note.
It was all worth it.
Yes, theatre life is tough, but I’m acutely aware that I’ve been part of a privileged few who get to spend decades of my life doing something I really love.
I got to the theatre at 11 am the other day, an hour and a half before call time, and I sat out in the house, in the silence. There is nothing like a quiet theatre. It is a sacred place. A holy place.
I sat for almost 15 minutes, completely still, simply soaking in the place that I love.
For a few weeks now, I have been wanting to write a love letter to the theatre, and as I sat there in the sacred silence, I realized that I’ve been writing it for thirty years now —I’ve been writing it with every rehearsal, every song, every bow…every moment in every theatre has been a love letter in itself.
I sat there, thinking about all the shows I’ve been part of, all the casts I’ve come to consider my theatre family, and I shed a few tears.
Like every show, when this one closed, life will go on for the cast. For many, there will be other shows right away, some will head off to college to pursue their own theatre dreams, others will find other pieces to audition for….and for me, Into the Woods was my little swan song.
Like Sondheim said, life is made of moments…and I am acutely aware that I only have a limited number of them. I know I am making the right decision, at the right time. I’m closing this door, but not locking or bolting it. Perhaps I’ll return to the theatre one day…perhaps not….but whatever I do next, I’m going to be able to look back and know that I did it well…and that I did it for love.