Saying Goodbye in Stages

At 5:30 we took our bows for the last show at 57 Main.  At 6:00, they came to take our lights.  It was more finality than I was prepared for and an already emotional day was ending on a down note. Instead of one last ecstatic dance party after one last show to a sold out house and a standing ovation, a handful of us ate pizza and then danced halfheartedly in the lobby.  On stage people went up ladders and lights came down.  Though I knew that it was all for the best and that the people who had come to take the lights were deeply appreciative, the timing was awful.  In that moment, I could think of them only as vultures.

In the balcony scene, Romeo and Juliet cannot bear to say goodbye–parting is such sweet sorrow.  They drag out their goodbyes with promises, one last word, one last glance.  As far as they know, the future holds nothing  but passion and dreams come true.

One last show.  One last dance party.  One last look.  The time was ticking away to days and I felt a little bit like the lovers saying a thousand tiny goodbyes and not meaning most of them.

Two weeks later, I open up the backdoor of the theatre and find that it smells different.  After one weekend of moving our costumes are gone, as are some of our set pieces, and, of course, the lights.  Already the musty smell that is unique to 57 Main is altered; every theatre has its own smell.  I walk through the half-moved space.  It’s in the chaos stage where things seem like they’ll never be better, that we’ll never get it all done.  I spend two hours alone in the prop room, moving and sorting and tossing.  Huge wolf dummy–keep.  Old liquor bottles–toss.  Pre-wrapped gifts.  I hold them and remember the skit we made them for.  Then I toss them.   Goodbye, old junk.

One week after that, we all meet up and move for two days straight.  We talk about Shakespeare and unscrew the seats from the risers.  I watch the strong men we strong armed into helping us get sweatier and sweatier with each flat, platform or furniture piece they carry up from the basement, around the twist in the landing, down the narrow aisle and out into a truck.  We watch progress being made.  On the second day, near the end, we move the ghost lamp.  As we open the doors to the new space, a smell hits our senses.  We all think it.  The new space smells like our theatre.  I put the ghost lamp down and we declare it, metaphorically, a theatre.

Of course, it wasn’t over yet. There were still things left–some couches and a whole lot of junk that didn’t sell at our junk sale.  The guy taking over the space offers, mercifully, to help us with the end of the process.  Then he asks if I could meet him there and show him how the lights work.  It was a theatre for twelve years, I explain, the lights were all plugged into dimmers on the ceiling. We rewired the place;  there aren’t any lights on switches.  He realizes that I can’t help him solve that problem.

Last night, I ran into Ed while eating dinner at the Hub, the restaurant next door to the old space.  Whatever you do, he said, don’t look next door.  Of course, I did.  Whenever I am downtown, I look in the window and see what they have done.  I peer through the posters, cup my hands around my eyes to block out the glare, and see what is gone.  The risers, the wall behind the refrigerator, the junk sale remainders.  The stage.  The booth.  Tonight I saw they had knocked down the wall between the stores.  He had to have really wanted the space.  It was (and will be) a lot of work to undo the theatre, but he’s getting it done.  I guess I keep waiting to feel sad or angry when I peek into the window, but maybe the thousand little goodbyes I said along the way worked.

And besides, as far as I can see, the future holds nothing put passion and Midsummer Night’s Dreams.

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