Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What if we hadn't gone?

2012!   Especially on New Year’s day, it was impossible to know what would be available at Two-fers, the ticket selling location in the center of Times Square that sells seats to Broadway shows at about half price or two for the price of one. Although there’s a list on display, the lengthy line that snakes to and then past it causes any who want tickets to accept that the tickets most desired may be unavailable by the time they reach the ticket seller.

“Make sure you have a second and third choice,” shouts one of the many who hand out flyers advertising specific shows. “You’d love this one,” he says to me, about Rock of Ages.

My partner agreed. “That could be fun,” she said.

We’d been in the line almost thirty minutes and were a little more than half way to the tickets. “Rock of Ages sounds like a good way to begin our New Year.” That’s what I was thinking, although what I said was, “I like Rock better than Memphis,” a musical we had initially decided to see.

I’d changed my mind about Memphis. Without knowing exactly why I’d lost interest, I had. After all, I didn’t know much about Memphis other than it was a powerful, driving musical that was set during the time when Memphis, Tennessee was in the grips of segregation.

Chances are that I sensed a musical about those hard times would have been emotionally draining. Indeed, its setting recalled my book, No Gold Stars, and the brute force of racism that it exposed.

By the time we were six people away from purchasing tickets, I was sold on beginning 2012 with a dose of live goldie oldies. “Let’s do Rock of Ages,” I asserted. My second choice wasn’t Memphis. It had fallen to a distant third.

“Two seats for Rock of Ages,” my partner said.

“Yes, we have two, but they’re far apart, the only two that are left,” said the seller.

We didn’t want to be separated. And the other show was sold out. My partner shrugged. She didn’t inquire about Memphis.

“Maybe we’ll see a movie,” I said, untroubled by the fact that we’d been in line for an hour and had nothing to show for it. Literally.

Of course, we had seen the empty stage where, the night before, Cee Lo and Lady Gaga had performed. Our last lap in line had passed by the metal struts that serve as its supports.

And we had been in the center of Manhattan in the midst of hundreds of other would be theater goers, part of a parade of sorts. We’d been surrounded by foreigners who spoke in languages we couldn’t identify, had been next to a male couple embracing and kissing, had been part of the throng that energized the Big Apple.

But we had no tickets. My partner was upset. She had definitely wanted to see a show, even if it had to be Memphis. By the time we reached the ticket seller, the thought of even asking about tickets to that musical had left us.

On the first day of our New Year, that was a huge Oops! A fumble, as it were, on the one yard line. We’d lost our chance to see a play or a musical because, well, because...

“It’s my fault,” I said, “I should have...”

She said the same, in different words. We’d cast ourselves into a situation that was new to us where each of us had tried so hard to respect the other’s wishes that neither of us got what we wanted.

So we got back in line. At the back of the line.

This time, the wait was only forty minutes.

“Yes, there are two great seats in the orchestra, five rows from the stage. You want them?”

We got them, then made it to the Sam S. Shubert Theater with ten minutes to spare. Midway through the first act, I was in tears. One of the characters was a black man so damaged by a terrifying experience from his past that he wouldn’t or couldn’t speak. Watching him move silently amongst the often raucous cast reminded me of the star of No Gold Stars, my brightest student, Mary. Like the character in Memphis with no voice, she didn’t speak either.

By intermission, I was worn out from sobbing. I loved it. Great theater moves me that way.

Despite the fact that the second half was anticlimactic, I was ready for that too. My partner felt the same way. She told me that as we held hands.

Indeed, our New Year had gotten off to a great start...

                B. Koplen 1/3/12

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