The Death Of A Dinner Theatre
What Do We Leave? Nothing Much...Only Dinner Theatre - Don't Get Me Started!
For those avid fans of this blog prepare yourselves as before I even begin this blog I all ready know that it will read very differently than most of my blogs. You see, as I said on the gay, gay, gayer than gay page about myself, the piece of myself I show in my blogs is only one verse in a song that has many verses and choruses. I worked and met my guy at a dinner theatre in Delaware. We went show to show to show for eleven years at that theatre - rehearsing one show while performing another show. I started as a performer and by the time I left I was working in marketing for the theater, directing, choreographing, creating musical revues and still performing for the producers in the shows. It was the closest I think I may ever be to being my ideal, George M. Cohan (the role I played my senior year in high school in the musical made famous by Joel Grey), they called him "the man who owned Broadway." The theater closed its doors this year and while it was sad and strange to be so far away when it closed, it was even stranger to hear that last week they auctioned off the lights and almost everything that wasn't nailed down. Not to get too Jewish on you, but it feels like that scene from Fiddler On The Roof when the Jews are being kicked out of their homes in Anatevka. What do we leave? Nothing much...only dinner theatre - Don't Get Me Started!
There are places and people that come into your life when you least expect it and impact your life so greatly that you don't realize it while it's happening. Maybe you never fully understand their impact but once you've been away from it for at least eight years (as I have now) gaining a little perspective, you at least realize how much it all meant and means to you. You understand how much you travel with it in your heart and soul every day and how it made you part of who you are today. Some people will say it was a building, period but for many who have had similar experiences somewhere they'll understand that that "building" wasn't a house for shows, memories, love and friendship, it was a home (albeit a dysfunctional home) where all those things took place and more, where I always felt like family and like a childhood home that gets sold or demolished, it will be strange and heart breaking to never stand in the building again.
It wasn't Broadway, very few of us who start on the journey to make it there make it anywhere but I did make it in this dinner theatre. So what that it was Wilmington, Delaware and I would never win a Tony for my work? I was part of the fabric of this place where people brought their families, laughed, applauded and sometimes were moved to silence by a scene or song. Like a lot of things in life when looked back upon, I took it for granted more than I should have perhaps but the good news is that I did everything I wanted and needed to do while I was there. I got to do a lot there professionally but more importantly, I got to meet the man whom I'd share my life with and create lifelong friendships that last until this day. Sure there are some people we don't keep in touch with or that have fallen out of our lives but there are some very important relationships that will never fade. To wax poetic, as they say, for just a moment, it's like the end of A Chorus Line when the lights go out on "the line" kicking to symbolize that there is no end, somewhere there's always a chorus kicking and that's how I'll remember the theatre and its people...they're there somewhere...maybe not in that building anymore but the moments in my heart are frozen forever, indelibly.
As I was talking to one of my dearest friends about the auction and she was telling me how the "Braille curtain" - the main stage drape that would go up in a scalloped pattern like the icing on the side of a cake (funny I should reference a cake as the theatre was The Three Little Bakers founded by a trio of brothers who were acrobats in vaudeville who started a bakery when one of them broke their back forcing them out of show business and then eventually they built the dinner theatre, getting them back into the show business while still baking). The curtain, which we were always told was a $20,000 curtain; went for some ridiculously low amount. We heard a lot about that curtain and its worth over the years and now it had apparently been sold to a theatre in New Jersey for very little. As my friend was telling me about it, my mind was racing wildly (per usual) and instead of allowing great sadness to envelope me, I did what I do...I said, "Well, I feel about it like I do when your puppy dies and your parents tell you that it's gone to live on a farm. In my mind I want to believe that the curtain really just went to a theatre in Jersey where I know they'll do awful community theatre shows behind it but the theater will be so happy to have gotten this curtain for such a song and they'll work so hard on their awful shows and they'll put those shows on (and they'll be awful) but the curtain, like the puppy, will be happy because at least it's in a theatre/farm. Well, in my mind anyway."
I don't think it's wrong to romanticize our past (as long as we have some base of reality somewhere in our lives). I know therapists may not agree with me but for me it works. I'm glad I wasn't there to see the people walking through the theater as the auctioneer said, "How much for the grand piano?" I want to think of a woman I worked with for years who played Aunt Eller in Oklahoma standing on a bale of hay auctioning everything off like they auction the girls' hampers filled with lunch at the box social scene in the musical. "Come on folks, it's all for the good of Scott's sanity (or the school house as she says in the musical) we need to raise more money than that, gotta get enough for a nice big chimbley (chimney)."
At the risk of sounding like Nora Desmond from Sunset Boulevard (the musical of course), "everything's as if we never said goodbye." As long as I wasn't there, as long as I didn't see it happen, it's as if I never have to say goodbye to that time in my life, the memories or the building. Besides, what's a building compared to someone to share your life with (who shares a lot of your same memories) or really, really wonderful friends? In my head I was there at the auction and it's a production of Fiddler On The Roof and we're all standing around, all of us that ever worked there on the stage and we say then sing, "Well, The Bakers hasn't been exactly the Garden of Eden. It's true. After all what have we got here? A little bit of this, a little bit of that, some lights, a table, a curtain, a soft chair? Someone should have set a match to this place years ago." What do we leave? Nothing much...only dinner theatre - Don't Get Me Started!
Read more Scott at www.somelikeitscott.com
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