Years ago as a college student majoring in theatre, I was fortunate enough spend a couple of Thanksgiving holidays on New York theatre tours. Led by our technical director, friends and colleagues gathered at the tiny airport in Fayetteville to puddle jump to Fort Smith. Wal-Mart was just getting off to a moderate start at that time, so there wasn’t an airport in northwest Arkansas that would accommodate a large plane. So we jumped to Fort Smith for the flight to New York.
Most of us were anticipating a first look at the stuff of our dreams. We went to walk on Broadway, see the shows, take in the sights, and experience the energy of the city and the talents of hundreds.
It was some heady shi*. And it was all I had dreamed.
The highlight of that first trip in 1974 was the Broadway musical ‘Candide’. Based on Voltaire’s novella, the operetta had been performed in various incarnations since the late 50’s. The scenery was the entire theatre arranged with several platform stages and 3 or 4 orchestra pits. Things dropped, rose, appeared, disappeared, or remained static as the show unfolded. The action took place all over the stages, in the audience, the aisles. The patrons sat in bleachers and on stools. My feet dangled into an orchestra pit. The music, the comedy was such grand entertainment. The show continuously moved. I was charmed and ecstatic to be a part of this performance, even as a member of the audience.
As Candide and Cunegonde approached the consummation of their relationship, Candide began to remove his clothes, the actor paused, looked to a member of the audience, said ‘here, hold this’ and dropped his shirt on the unsuspecting new member of the cast.
The effort of writers, musicians, cast, crew, directors, producers and all the myriad numbers of talented people who create the content we enjoy on the stage, screen, the written page, the canvas, in bronze, concrete, fabric, or any other medium is an awesome thing. That energy is a beautiful thing. It deserves tremendous respect.
And while the ushers ushered, the crew crewed, the actors acted and sang, and the musicians played that night in New York so many years ago, the trombonist, while at rest, winked at me and used his slide to play with my feet.
You know what they say about a trombonist’ slide? Neither do I, but it was one helluva good time.