Transformative Moments in Theatre Lobbies

For the last two weeks, I reverted to my former lifestyle — 65 hour weeks with barely chance to breath. Most of my days have looked like this:

6:30/6:45 AM:
Wake up. Breakfast.    
Get dressed. Maybe move my body.
Try to breathe and start the day positively.

7:30 AM: Drive to work

8:00 AM - 4:30 PM: Administratively assist

4:30 PM - 4:45 PM: Drive to the T station. Pay $5.00 to park.

4:50 PM - 5:30/5:45 PM:Ride the T to Harvard. Read a book.

5:30/5:45 PM - 6:00 PM: Eat dinner. Maybe read some more.

6:00 PM - 10:15 PM:
Tend bar at the American Repertory Theatre
Listen to Jagged Little Pill through the walls.

10:15 PM - 11:15 PM: Ride the T back towards home. Read some more.

11:25 PM Drive home.  Be in my apartment for the first time in fifteen hours.

11:25 PM - 12:00 AM: Rinse off some dishes.
Take off make up. Maybe.
Brush my teeth. Maybe.
Putz around on my phone.
Turn on a Harry Potter audio book to fall asleep.
Triple check alarm. Fall into bed.
Hope I fall asleep quickly.

6:30 AM: Start again…

As tired as I’ve been, this feels good. I ride the high of this intense grind, imagining that I defy the laws of time. It’s exhilarating. There is a point to driving myself like this though: covering the tuition of this summer’s National Puppetry Conference at the O’Neill. One more week and I’m on my way back to Puppet Camp. It is the light at the end of the tunnel in so many ways.

Undoubtedly, the best part of these packed days has been listening to the cast of Jagged Little Pill through the walls. This afternoon, I finally saw the show. It is fantastic.

But this is not a review.
This is not about the show.
This is about five minutes that happened afterwards.
But...to get to those five minutes...

Production Photo from  ART  - Showstopping ovation for "You Oughta Know."

Production Photo from ART - Showstopping ovation for "You Oughta Know."

I have listened to Lauren Patten sing (rock? kill?) “You Oughta Know” every bar shift of the last few weeks. I knew she sounded great.  I knew it stopped the show every night. To be honest, seeing this musical number was one of the main reasons I wanted to see the show. I remember saying that I couldn’t wait to see how this song was earned, because I was sure it wouldn’t have that show-stopping quality if it was just a spectacle song with no dramaturgical clout. I wasn’t disappointed.

But this isn't about the plot or where the song fits in the show.
This is not about the killer orchestration of an iconic song.
This is about Lauren Patten standing completely still on stage.

She stands, hands in pockets, glaring daggers at the floor through the first verse. Her voice rockets and ricochets, but she is nearly motionless. Her focus shifts to Frankie as the song moves on. The company and the band slide on, moving around her. She moves a bit but is basically rooted. There is strength and pain and coiled rage in the stillness.

Then she explodes. Physically, vocally. She drives towards the end of the song. It feels reckless and risky. It is exquisite. 

I can only describe my reaction of “I need to talk to her” as a compulsion. I’m not the kind of person who waits at stage doors or stands in autograph lines. ESPECIALLY not at a theatre where I work. Still, I hovered near that line now because of this need.

But this is not about me telling Lauren how I thought her control during that song was astounding.
This is not about how gracious and lovely she was.
This is not about how we shook hands and exchanged names.
This is about how I immediately went into the House Manager’s office, sank to the floor - overwhelmed - and cried a little.

In the moment, I felt stupid. I minimized my emotions through a lot of self deprecation.  I couldn’t rationalize feeling so overwhelmed by such a simple, human moment. So I laughed at it before anyone else could. But here is the truth of it: in that moment, I remembered what this is all for.  

All this recovery from anxiety and moving away from my run-ragged life style...
All this agonizingly slow self-rehabilitation...
Every brick of this new foundation I am building in my soul...

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All of this… it is so I can put myself in rooms with talented artists and feel equal to it. That was what overwhelmed me. I felt equal to Lauren shaking my hand. 

I have no idea why this brief connection with another young woman and fellow theatre artist catalyzed this realization. I can only say that transformative moments can occur under the strangest circumstance. I am incredibly grateful for that moment. How do you thank someone for making eye contact with you during an innocuous conversation without sounding insane?  (And I recognize that posting this on the internet and tagging Lauren Patten in the corresponding instagram post is no less insane or convoluted.)

I wrote this to pay tribute to those small, shared moments.
I wrote this to honor the quiet bravery and compassion it takes to stand still on stage, and to be generous with a stranger.
I wrote this to thank her.

I wrote this to remind myself that there is a purpose to this slow-and-steady progress.  I cannot become complacent and comfortable in either a nine-to-five job or the sixty-five hour week.  While I need some financial stability in order to launch myself forward, I cannot lose sight of what I remembered today.  If I do, I will never get to where I’m going.

I’m going towards a future where, the next time I’m in a room shaking hands with Lauren Patten, it is as a collaborator.