My Trip To Bountiful
I just got in from New York where I saw The Trip To Bountiful which stars. Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Condola Rashad, and Tom Wopat. I should be in bed after the too long ride home, but I'm too wound up. I don't feel like watching television so I thought I'd blog about my experience instead.
This afternoon's show about an elderly woman desperate to return to her birthplace to reconnect with something she'd lost, reminded me of the first time I attended a Broadway play. It was the sixth grade graduation trip. We got all dressed up, dined in a fancy restaurant in New York City (I ordered the crab cakes because I'm a Marylander after all), and then we headed to the theatre to see the original Annie. I remember being mesmerized as I watched Andrea McArdle and the cast sing and dance. I was transported to another time and place, and I left feeling as refreshed and revived as a twelve-year-old could feel. I was hooked, and I remember vowing to myself that I would be back, often. My love for theatre was born that night. Not only did I love the play, but I also loved the atmosphere, the elegance of the audience, and the live storytelling. This was a league above television and film and even books. There was a connection that I felt with the performers that I didn't get from any other medium - most likely because they were live and in person. I knew somehow I needed to get connected to this medium, but how?
I may or may not have mentioned in previous posts that I have a tendency to be extreme - it's just how I'm wired. So my logical conclusion was that I was supposed to become an actress. That was it for me, I was going to be an actress and no one was going to stop me. I went to college as a theatre major.. So yeah, that didn't pan out...
Fast forward to this afternoon (well yesterday now because it's after midnight and I'm still WIDE AWAKE and HYPE) and all the old feelings from my first time at a Broadway show came rushing back. Our seats were in the orchestra section on the aisle maybe seven rows back. If I was that kind of person, I could have waved at the actors. (Speaking of "that kind of person" - remind me to tell you about the lady across the aisle from us later...) So anyway, we were so close that during the bus ride scene we were certain that Ms. Carrie Watts (Tyson) and the "Young Woman On The Bus" (Rashad) would ride right into our laps - it was just that real. The tension between Ms. Carrie and her daughter-in law, Jessie Mae (Williams) was so thick at times it felt as though you could just about reach up and grab a piece. (Very well played ladies!) And who didn't feel sorry for her son Ludie (Gooding) - caught in between the two most important women in his life - yikes!
Later I laughed (and joined in) with the applause and cheers that went up when the Sheriff (Tom Wopat aka Luke Duke) walked out on stage. I can't speak for anyone else, but I had an 80's crush flashback. Oh, but the absolute best part was the hymn sing with Ms. Cicely Tyson. Tyson's character started singing hymns with her young friend in the bus station and we, the audience, chimed right in! Folk were singing harmonies and everything! It was priceless. I mean, you can't do that at the movies.. well, you can, but it's not the same. We sang one verse each of about two hymns and at the end of the second one, I could have sworn I heard Vanessa's voice ( I call her by her first name because in my head we're old friends - lol) ringing out on the last line! What??? In that moment I was reminded of what I love about theatre. Connection. The shared experience of community with fellow audience members and the performers. There is truly nothing like it. It was so beyond! If you get the opportunity, please go see this play.
Ok, so the lady across the aisle... I remember how our teacher Ms. Schwartz instructed us about theatre etiquette. Apparently times have changed. Imagine my surprise when my roommate pointed out that the lady across the aisle from us was eating a meal... out of her purse... with a fork - really??? We tried not to stare. Then she pulled out a carton of coconut water, popped the plastic top and took it to the head!! Now, I don't know... maybe she traveled a long way and was really hungry, maybe her blood sugar was low, but er um... please excuse my DMV vernacular, but - where they do THAT at?! Then at the start of the second act, she pulled out a large plastic back of "snacks". 'It's her blood sugar' I told myself as I forced myself to look away and refocused.
Art, theatre included, is intended to affect the observer. For me this was certainly true. As I watched Ms. Carrie struggle through obstacles and setbacks to get to her goal it spoke to me about my own life and how I've been needing to reconnect with some things that made me who I am. The Trip To Bountiful was my birthday present to myself this year and it turned out to be a gift in more ways than one.