Episode 261: Hell Week


Opening night of Romeo & Juliet finally came after so much anticipation of all kinds. My love affair was existing on waves of anticipation too. Pain and pleasure in such close proximity. Life imitates art.

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Hello, hello, my friends. I’m so happy to be here with you today. And I’m happy to be where I am right now. Because I’m in my son Dakota’s apartment, and I slept over here last night to catsit, to take care of my sweet baby cats, Spooky and Zuko. I think I’ve probably talked about them long ago in earlier episodes, but they are now living with Dakota. And so it was a great opportunity to come and stay with them and cuddle with them, and play with them. But they’ve been a big distraction this morning, and I’m just now getting this done. But that’s okay. They’re sort of a sweet reminder of gentler times, and I’m grateful to be here where it’s more quiet. I mean, it’s an interesting space for recording. We’ll see, because he has a very tall ceiling in the middle of the room, so it’s probably very echoey. I’m sorry, I apologize. And there’s all kinds of other noises, neighbor next door and some kind of dripping going on. I don’t even want to know about that. But that’s okay. It is what it is. 

So, I was in December of 2002. And Christmas came and went… New Year’s Eve, who remembers what happened then, when it was nothing of consequence, no one to kiss at midnight who made any impact on my life. So it didn’t matter. But then, right after the New Year, came the tech week for Romeo and Juliet. In those days, we did it right after the new year. Later, when I gained wisdom, I moved it later in the month because we were always missing one person or another who was still on vacation from that Christmas break. And missing people when you’re going into tech week is very frustrating. 

For those of you who are not theatre folk, Tech Week is also known as hell week. It is the week of madness that comes right before opening night. That’s when all of the extra elements of the play come together that make it a full production: lighting, costumes and sets. It’s exhausting and thrilling, and the play becomes exponentially better in a very short amount of time, and anticipation of triumph lends that last push of adrenaline that gets everyone through to that hush before the curtain finally rises. Okay, in our case, there was no curtain. And there was so much that we were still figuring out, but opening night was still magical as it was meant to be. 

In the first decade of Children’s Shakespeare, my kids were involved in every production, so we wanted to celebrate all of our hard work multiple times. We were not content to just have one cast party only on closing night, so we had opening night parties as well. Our house was less than half a mile from the church where we performed, so the cast, once the show was done, liked to walk back to our house following Savannah and Dakota down the dark and spooky road that led to our long dark driveway. It was a bit of a thrill. Some parents went ahead to set up the food and receive the first revelers, while I stayed until that last person left the church so that I could ensure that it was properly locked up. My one stipulation was, hey, you guys, you have to save me a parking space near my house. I trusted my friends otherwise, though, to treat my house as theirs and truly there was very little that could be broken or ruined in some way that I even cared about. I treasured these gatherings much more than any object as they solidified our sense of community more deeply each time. 

Simon was there with his family too. Such exquisite torture. We took great care not to linger near each other lest our hands were to touch or our gaze linger too long. You know, it’s like that song from Oklahoma: 

[singing]  Don’t sigh and gaze at me. Your sighs are so like mine. Your eyes mustn’t glow like mine. People say we’re in love. 

Yep. We were still afraid of talking at that point, talking and gossiping. But there was a highly charged thread of electricity that connected us, no matter how far we were from each other. I sensed him looking at me so often, and our eyes met across the room with barely disguised longing. One trusted friend of mine from the sweatshop knew it all and she watched us with intense curiosity. It was a triangle of keen attention, much like a game I play with my students that I call Sword and Shield, where each student secretly in their head chooses two people in the room, one person is a sword, and one person is their shield. And the object of the game is to move through the room and keep your shield between you and the sword. It turns into this crazy, chaotic running thing where people are frantically trying to move into the protected position without letting the secret slip of who is supposed to be who in their life. Yeah, it’s really fun. So it was kind of like that. 

And then that party went by, and we had two more performances that weekend. We had performances on Friday and Saturday night, and then on Sunday afternoon, too. The Sunday afternoon was such a chaotic thing, because we had to wait until church was over, and coffee hour was over, and then we had to reset up our entire show after breaking it down on Saturday night. So that was a little nuts. Later on in our history, we let go of the Sunday performances because it was too crazy, too crazy. But then, in the week that followed opening night, we no longer had rehearsals, of any kind. So we didn’t meet together after having met all the time, for days and days. That was always a tough week for me, for the young actors as well. We went from huge amounts of concentrated work, to nothing at all. And we all felt deeply bereft. 

The only thing that filled that huge void now for me was all of my fixation on this new passion. I was powerless to do much of anything else for a few days. Everything had piled up too quickly and my head was spinning. His huge declaration had been less than three weeks prior, and my world was turned upside down now. We hadn’t met alone since that day. Finally, he came over at lunchtime on the Wednesday after the show. We spent nearly the whole hour kissing and slow dancing, but there was some talk too. Speculations. Too many questions. Here’s my journal entry from then: 

He said if the circumstances were different, he’d marry me tomorrow. He doesn’t need to know more about me. He could just trust how he feels right now. And anything else would work out fine. On the flip side, he said he can’t make this relationship more physical without leaving his other one. He can’t do two things at once. That’s going to be quite a trial for me because I don’t want him to leave his family. So what does that mean? Do I have to reconcile myself that I’m in for a very long wait? “Time, thou must unravel this, not I…” I guess I’m still in need of a fuck buddy. Awesome sex with no strings, and let my heart stay where it is. 

I feel like my destiny could change with any word that comes out of his mouth. It’s a terrifying powerlessness. But his words today were so reassuring in many ways. He said he could not imagine not having me in his life. He said he loves me more than he’s ever loved anyone in his whole life. Wow, what an astounding thing to discover such an explosion so far down the path of your life, when one would imagine things to be all settled down, and routine. I’m so thrilled and grateful and joyful to feel like this again. Because there was a big part of me that was beginning to believe that I would never feel passion and love again. So why does the Great Spirit send me these trials? Why dangle such a beautiful picture of possibility and then keep it just out of reach? 

I’m sure I’m meant to learn something important. I have to try not to shut myself down in order to avoid pain. I’ve done that so often in the past. I even chose the safe path with Dave, someone who couldn’t hurt me terribly. But with a terrible pain comes a balancing terrible joy. You just have to be willing to ride through both of those. So we had to content ourselves with short emails or talking on the phone while he was at his office. And he’d send me sweet little emails like “It isn’t every day that a guy’s desired by the goddess of love. I’m deeply honored.” I wrote him back that ‘honored’ was good, but now he needed to take me up on my offer. He definitely was not ready. 

But I think that I’m mellowing. Our stolen kisses are unbelievably erotic as it is. My friend, Elaine, said that if that was so then I needn’t worry about whether or not we’d have sexual chemistry. It was already there. She’s right, of course. But I guess that what I’m really worried about is what I’ll look like naked and whether that’s a turn on or turn off. I have to say, though, that my brief affair with Roy gave me some confidence there: all those bright lights, and he was still hot for me. And he didn’t begin to have the emotional component. It’s just amazing to me. How is it possible? Every time I see him, I fall deeper. And at the same time, I am more sure that we’re meant to be together. I don’t feel as much this hopeless desperation to be with him and that each time might be the last. Rather, he’s completely part of my psyche. I talk to him, sing to him, feel his touch, smell his scent, in all kinds of places. And at any time. Of course, I still want to talk to him more often for real, but I’m growing patient. I want to learn more about all that moves him. He sent me a poem. It was so beautiful. He said that something I said reminded him of it. I know exactly what I said. I said, I felt like I couldn’t hug him tight enough. And felt like I wanted to find a way to hug him so hard that I could be inside of him and be part of him. 

Oh, my, I read those words and I think back to that time, and I’m grateful. I’m grateful to have had that kind of feeling at least once in my life. I did have my palm read later that summer, and the palm reader said to me, “Oh, you have the greatest love of your life. [And I smiled.] And then she said, “Coming to you.” And I was like what? You know, I thought I was in the middle of it. But she said, “No. It’s way down the road. But it is someone you know.” And I have been puzzling over that for years and years. But I’ll tell you that it hasn’t happened yet. So who knows? Way down the road might mean what I’m 70 years old. I don’t know. [singing] “Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…” like Doris Day sings. Okay. I will let you know if it happens anytime soon. And meanwhile, I’ll see you next time. Thanks for being here.

Published by dianathebard

Podcasting about growing up in the Hudson Valley in the 60s and 70s, falling in love, raising kids, getting divorced and being a free and creative world traveler!

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