Friday, November 23, 2007

Theater Widow

We haven't seen much of J lately. We've missed him. But now that the first play (there are three he's featured in) has been performed, we're figuring out what we need to do so that we won't miss him so much during the next one.

The play was terrific- a recently written trilogy (the first: "Last Train to Nibroc") about a couple during World War II. An audience member behind me described it beautifully as, "like watching a classic film." It's funny- which is good, since J is funny. And romantic- which is bad because he's too convincing at being romantic and it makes me want to hit him. The second play in the trilogy by Arlene Hutton is slated to be performed in February ("See Rock City"), followed by the third in May ("Gulf View Drive"). See: The New Main Street Theater

A week later we're still hashing and rehashing how the performances went. I saw two of the three performances, and, if I accept J's judgment, missed the best one. But I've been running lines with J since September (that's helping him learn his lines by reading the other lines) and listening to him discuss the issues faced by the characters to the point where it's a little hard to remember that they weren't real people. J keeps shaking his head in disappointment that he won't get to perform "The Last Train to Nibroc" again.

When I met J, he was a theater major. His concentration was in directing. But after the first year we dated (his last year of college), his involvement with theater was miniscule. This role is huge. Perhaps in a small theater, in a small town, but this is an area with a lot of support for theater, and with high expectations and standards.

Reading the lines with J, I watched him develop the meaning behind the words until they made sense. The first time I heard JR running lines for her character, I had to hide my smile because she'd breathed life into them that I hadn't felt in simply reading the script. I wanted to cheer, "Yes! That's what May would sound like!"

What I had never realized about acting, especially in a play like this, with only two characters, is the amount of intense trust required between actors. They're on a trapeze, and if they fly off their swing, they have to trust that their partner is there to catch them. If they miss a line or cue, they rely on the other actor to think fast- extending their hands to catch the unexpected release. They are lost, or saved, together on the stage.

It was unnerving to watch the first night of performance. I saw it happen: a missed line that led them to the wrong set of cues. And then, I saw them catch each other and swing back into place.

The weeks leading up to the performance were tough on us. J has been working, trading off on child care with me, and rehearsing every chance he got. I was getting up early with the kids, working, taking back the kids, and staying up late to see J before falling asleep. (J's line: Milking the cow on both ends.) And the day I found out that they'd decided the play called for a kiss was a very, very bad day for me.

Also hard was the simple fact that J was charging off to rehearse, full of energy, passion and happiness. Other women were sharing all of his enthusiasm and attention. Not to mention that he was awake. Actually, hard doesn't really begin to scratch it. I was home alone with the kids feeling boring, cranky, jealous and lonely.

Within a marriage, we are also trapeze artists, trusting that when we let go, our partner is there to catch us. Trusting that our relationship is more important than one skirmish or point. One fact always remained clear to me. This is the first time, in our entire marriage, that I have ever seen J genuinely happy.

And in that moment of the first performance, as she grabbed his hand and drug him to safety, my heart eased and I could have kissed her myself.

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