Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Give Us More to See

One of the silver linings to all of this is that the Broadway performers I've grown to love, but who I've only been able to see in person is less than a handful, have made themselves very accessible in order to raise funds for a variety of causes. This past weekend was a tribute concert for Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday, an event that I might have known of in passing, maybe seen a couple of clips in the haze of normal life. Instead I've had time to watch it in its entirety and to revisit several portions of it in the last 48 hours.

My favorite Sondheim show is "Sunday in the Park with George," based on Seurat's painting, and his imagined legacy. Somewhere during high school, the 1984 production was shown on PBS, and I remember watching it on the little TV we had next to our kitchen table. I'd recorded it on our VCR, watching it on (low) volume setting 12, because others were around and I couldn't bother them (probably my father working at the dining room table one room away). I knew "Putting it Together" from Streisand and my mother, a song I think I sang for some audition that I probably didn't get. But the rest of the show was new to me, and I remember feeling like it was some precious gift to have all for myself. No one else I knew would have cared to watch it with me. Which was fine. I was fine treasuring it on my own.

And so I was extremely moved by Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford's rendition of "Move On" during the tribute concert (around 2:03:00). As I've experienced seeing RENT some twenty-odd years later too, I see it now from an adult's point of view. The character is struggling with what to say, how to stay relevant, and it's something I've struggled with in this space for a long time now, letting it lie dormant for the most part. He is urged by his partner that even though things may have already been said, they have not been said by him, and not to worry if they're new. She suggests that he move on.
"Anything you do
Let it come from you
Then it will be new
Give us more to see"
Give us more to see. It's been ringing in my ears. How lucky to have that kind of encouragement, and precise insight into what needed to be said and heard (how lucky to have the benefit of scripted words in such a moment).

Something about this moment we're in has made a crack in me, and it's made me want to write again. I could analyze the reasons why, but I think there are many. Instead, I will just try to keep moving on, and give you more to see.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

What We Have Lost

On March 7, one of the last days before everything here in Massachusetts shut down, Hannah and I attended the funeral of a recent graduate from her high school, a part of her theater community. She didn't know him well, and I've only met the mother a handful of times, but her choir was asked to sing and we both thought it was important to be there. I was already concerned about the virus, being packed in to a small chapel in what would surely be an overwhelming crowd. But going was the absolute right thing to do. Being part of that community, showing up. That's what you do, even when it's hard.

And then my own mother died unexpectedly, on March 22. A Sunday. We'd been home a little more than a week. I'd had a board meeting that morning. The four of us rushed to Ohio for what would be an eight person graveside service. My dad didn't want to hug us when we arrived. My aunt, who I hadn't seen in 15 years, wouldn't hug us either. My brother and his family watched over FaceTime, unable to travel across the country. We were lucky; I heard a few days after our ceremony that a friend had to bring her own shovel to help bury her father-in-law (a Jewish custom). At least we could all use the same shovel. My friends and family, my community, showed up in texts and emails and phone calls and food deliveries. That's what you do, even when it's hard.

Which brings me to today. Today, Hannah and I were supposed to be seeing back-to-back Broadway shows, even sitting in front row seats that I splurged in buying for tonight. This would have been our fourth annual trip to do our favorite thing. Instead, we will be at home, and *logging on* to a memorial service for an 18 year old that our community has lost, one of Hannah's friend's brothers, a frequent sight for us at temple. Heart-breaking. We showed up to pray for him. We will show up to honor him, to support his family and friends. That's what you do.

But, damn it, this is hard. So much loss, from plans to people. Just a hard, hard season. I know that we're not alone in all of this. And that even though it is hard, we will keep showing up where we can. But I am tired. Losses accrue. I am tired.