Last night was our third time going to the theater in our new city, not including school performances. This was a children’s theater production of Willy Wonka Jr., in which my older daughter’s friend is Grandpa Joe. Our other two theater experiences were seeing this same friend’s troupe perform a holiday revue at Christmastime and we went to a musical version of A Christmas Carol. One of the carolers winked at me and I recognized the upper school librarian. In a town this size, you will inevitably know cast members.
While the quality may not be on a par with London — and this is the kind of comment I don’t make but is made to me — here, I would point out, we can afford tickets. We can be seasonal subscribers to the Symphony or a theater league instead of one-off recipients of ticket lotteries at work or half-price schemes. And it doesn’t involve finding an acceptable (location, quality, price, vibe, available table) place to eat beforehand — we were never after-theater diners. And now that we have got our feet on the ground a bit more, we can start to take advantage of that.
The streets were empty. My husband laughed at me. I had suggested that with a play on and free movie night in the park downtown, such as it is, might be busy. We were able to collect and pay for tickets 15 minutes before the show and still find parking right outside.
My daughter leans against me in the ticket line. “Mom,” she announces, “You smell of dog.”
Okay, so we don’t get the world premier of War Horse, or the big name actors, but there are enough options right now and the quality is surprisingly good. It reminds me of college and early post-college when we had lots of friends in plays and bands. They would perform in buildings over on 10th Avenue or in cleverly named basements, converted banks, CBGB and once at Coney Island; that was the night we gave a taxi ride home to The Human Pincushion who ended up being a bit of bore.
When Honus Wagner played their farewell concert it was the end of a particular category of our youth. The bassist was going into the industry on the business side. The drummer’s writing career was taking off. Instead of being on the list, we got to hear demo tapes of great music that everyone else was gonna love. We knew that night that things were shifting, a kind of poignant, post-John Hughesian moment, waiting for the final set to be played.
I like that there is a theater crowd, running this intense life in parallel to their other lives. We have just enough more time and space here to accommodate other interests and that is a good thing about a small city/big town. They can put on a show and I can come home and write about it.