Tonight I was backstage signing posters for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids when my friend Joey told me I had to read something. I made some dumb joke in response and he reiterated that I really had to read it.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Okay, I will, I said nonchalantly, most of my energy going to making that large J followed by a lot of squiggles and the even larger L followed by yet more squiggles. Yes, my signature needs work. But it's not work I like to do, not when there are 100+ posters a pop yet again staring me in the face.
But Joey was not taking no for an answer, Now. You need to read it now.
Well I'm busy doing something for people with AIDS, what are you doing? After informing me that he had already signed those posters and done his part, I decided to humor him and read what had gotten his attention.
I present: fan mail.
Well not exactly fan mail, I guess.
Okay, not even close.
To Whom It May Concern:
I am a 29 year old female who loves attending your Broadway through Canada productions. I was appalled to smell cigarette smoke during "A Chorus Line" during the Saturday, October 17 show in the afternoon. There were comments coming from one of the actresses during the show saying she needed a smoke break, but then she didn't leave the stage so I figured that was it, and it was just part of her character. But then a while later she lit up on the stage.
In today's world of anti-smoking campaigns and the fight against cancer, I was surprised that she didn't just "act-out" the smoking, but that she actually "smoked" a real cigarette. The part that disturbed me the most was that we were sitting in the 4th row of the mezzanine and we could actually smell the cigarette smoke a few minutes later.
I realize that it's one cigarette and no, one cigarette isn't going to kill me, but the point is that we should be allowed to attend these performances in a smoke-free environment, right?
Then they had the nerve after the show to ask us to donate money to some of their charities--one of them being for cancer.
When my friends and colleagues asked me how I liked "A Chorus Line" I didn't tell them about the actors, dancing, or singing. I told them about how I was at the NAC and I could not believe that I had smelled cigarette smoke during the show.
So there it is. Yowza. I can maybe see where she is coming from, and I don't know--perhaps somebody she loved passed away from lung cancer, making any smell of smoke instantly give her a visceral reaction that encompasses all.
Or maybe she just doesn't get the idea of story.
Of characters that make that story come to life.
Or of the fact that we are depicting a story that involves dancers in the seventies and let me tell you, a lot of them smoked. In fact, a lot of them did a lot more than smoke and the fact that one lone cigarette (which is herbal, by the way, and if anyone cares at all) made it into a scene is pretty tame in comparison to what could be there.
Not that I am saying that cigarettes are cool or good for you or that I am buying them for my nieces and nephews for Christmas. No, I actually hate the smell too. But this cigarette is a part of Sheila's story. She's a stressed out, jaded, aging dancer who's talking about the business and how precarious it is. She lights up. Because it's part of her character. It's what Sheila would do.
Therefore the actress who plays Sheila does it.
See, story--any good story--is not just about perfection or always making the right choices or how one day you baked a cake and then walked your dog, though those are two perfectly lovely things to do and if you ever want to bake a cake for me and then invite me to walk your dog, I am totally in. But story involves conflict. It's creating scenes that are memorable. Sheila lighting up during the alternative scene--actively portraying her need to de-stress in what is supposed to be the great conflict or climax of A Chorus Line--makes sense. And obviously, it's memorable since it's the freaking only thing this young lady even mentioned to anyone who asked her about the show: that cigarette.
Even the Bible is totally offensive in some places. Because it tells a story of humans and let's face it, we mess up. A lot. But, it's memorable. It's not tame-not at all--but it sticks, because the stories talk about everything, the good and the bad, making it authentic. It tells about the screwing up and the grace that comes afterward.
And well, the cigarette? It's a part of the story that we are telling every night.
And no, the point of the cigarette is not that we think everyone should smoke because shriveled lungs are so cool; the point of the cigarette is to show that Sheila, like all of the rest of us, is scared. Worried about the future. Wondering where the next job, the next paycheck will come from.
And honestly, simply talking about it is something, yes; but there's power in showing it.
And come on, ONE cigarette at the very end of the show made her forget about the hilarity that is SING?!?!
Okay, just joking.
But seriously, a lot of other good stuff goes on during that two hours; I have a hard time believing it was all trumped by that cigarette. It must have been the fact that it was herbal--those things pack a punch.