My Life as a Cohort
March 22, 2014
In my well over 30 years as a Geva subscriber, I have never been to an Opening Night performance and certainly not to the opening of a play I knew so intimately as I know Informed Consent. As I will go to this show again with my husband next week, I invited my friend, Monica, to go with me. It was a perfect evening.
I was a bit worried inviting Monica to this particular show because of its serious content. Just a few weeks ago, she lost her sister, aged 52, and I was afraid the play would bring on a new wave of sadness for her. On the contrary, we both found the play and the evening to be very life-affirming.
Since I had been out of town during the tech rehearsals and previews, this was my first time seeing the show come alive with sets, costumes, lighting, and, most importantly, an audience. Over the last few days, I had been reading the Stage Manager’s reports about how things were going.
I was relieved last night to hear the audience laughing all around me. (“They get it,” I thought). I hadn’t before thought how important it is to have a “good” audience. This is especially true on Opening Night, when many reporters were present to write reviews. I had also read that every performance so far has ended with a standing ovation, and I was hoping for that to happen. Opening Night was no exception. Standing ovation with tears at the end for many.
I had seen pictures of the set and the lights, but didn’t realize until last night that the light boxes would be changing color to heighten the emotions of the play. In his Prologue, Gilbert drew our attention to the contrast between the natural environment of the canyon and the more scientific/technological aspect of the light boxes. Another thing that struck me was how briefly the incredibly intricate Havasupai costumes are on the stage. I had visited the costume shop and seen these costumes painstakingly created by hand, and yet they were onstage for only minutes.
The music in the play is haunting and effective, a combination of the Sound Designer’s composition, the recorded voices of the actors, and Tina Fabrique’s live, luscious voice onstage. It was wonderful to hear her softly singing the theme song to “Reading Rainbow” and to have learned that she was the real thing, the one who sang it for the PBS TV program. Like everything else in the play, this winnowing down of singers from several actors’ voices to just Tina’s, was very effective.
After the play, we were treated to a wonderful spread: deviled eggs, veggies and dip, tortellini salad, ham salad, homemade cookies. If I had not been with Monica, I would not have known that the ladies standing next to the table were not only the servers but also the ones who had hand-crafted all of the wonderful food. And if I had not been with Monica, I might not have noticed that all of the flowers in the Theatre were real, from the roses in the bathroom, to the display by the box office to the full vases on every table. As Geva likes to say, this is a locally made production in every way.
While we were enjoying our celebratory meal, Monica asked me if I had ever had worries from genetic testing with my only son, now 25. She proceeded to tell me that when she was pregnant with her only daughter, now 19, she learned she was a carrier for cystic fibrosis. I have only known Monica a short while and did not know this about her.
Nor did Monica know that, on the same day I learned I was pregnant with my son, I was told I was a carrier for Fragile X, a condition that causes severe mental retardation in boys. Thankfully, both of our children have grown into healthy adults (A few years later, when DNA testing became available, I learned that my original test had been a false positive.) In all of the weeks that I have been viewing this play unfold, I had never thought about that particular personal connection to the themes of the play. Sometimes we are hit with the connections that works of art have to our lives, and sometimes it takes a deep intimacy with the works for the connections to rise to the surface over time. (Or maybe it just takes a Monica!).
Before leaving the theater, we had a chance to meet Larissa’s husband (visiting from California for the occasion) and to chat with Sean’s mother (here from Florida). I have been worried about these actors away from their families for such a long stretch and glad that Opening Night brings them in from near and far. On with the show! I am looking forward to next week’s performance and salon.