Four Times I Wanted to Cry, and One Time I Did.

January 21, 2010

By Brittany Howard, Arden Professional Apprentice

Apprentice Class 17 has just passed our four month mark at the Arden. A lot can happen in four months – mistakes, victories, trials (lots of trials). Here are just a few.

Almost Cry #1
The Opening Night of The History Boys: It was our first Opening Night, and was what my mother would call a doozy. We started our day bright and early by cleaning the theatre in preparation for the night’s festivities. By the time the last guest left the lobby late that night, we were all on our last leg – sticky from that time when we tried to carry too many drinks, in denial about the piles and piles of full trash bags that we’d stashed in the basement until we had time to deal with them, and wishing we didn’t have hours of clean-up left to go. Things got even worse when Apprentice Kristyn was injured in what we’ll now refer to as THE TABLE INCIDENT, leaving us with one less set of bleach-spraying hands. I’d like to say that there was one point in there where I thought about crying, but I’d be lying (there were at least three or four). But we finally finished, and on the walk home we were hit with delirium and the satisfaction of a job done, well done, we hope.

Almost Cry #2
Distribution: in which we learn the true meaning of “Going Postal”: In rain, sleet, snow, winds blowing so hard that no umbrella has a chance of survival – we’ve been there, drenched to the bone, Arden Theatre Season Brochure in hand.

Almost Cry #3
House Managing: a bizarre land where I got to use a powder called Devour to clean up bodily fluids.

Almost Cry #4
The Great Snow of December 19: Let me preface this by saying that I’m from Texas. I’m used to staying inside to avoid a heatstroke, not frostbite. When I first arrived at work, I was excited: I took pictures (which really only got my phone wet), ran through the untouched snow (which really only got my jeans wet), and made my first snowball (which really only got my gloves wet… see a pattern?). By the end of that day, I’d seen enough snow to last me for the next decade. Hello Winter, it’s nice to meet you too.

As frustrating as some of these events were, not one of them made me cry, even when they coincided with long hours and stressful days.

But there was one day when my emotions got the best of me, when my throat tightened and tears blurred my vision. On that day I encountered an older gentleman in the lobby of the Arden, just before a performance of The History Boys. He asked me if he could watch the show on the late seating monitor in the lobby. I told him he could, and asked if he was waiting on someone. He’d actually already seen the Pay-What-You-Can Performance (the final dress rehearsal that the Arden opens to the public to benefit another non-profit), and wanted to see it again, but didn’t have a ticket. He professed that he hadn’t enjoyed a show so much since 1955 when he saw the original production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams.

What made this moment so profound for me was not the comparison to a classic (though that’s certainly a comparison we’ll always take), but the fact that he remembered the exact year he saw that production. I’m sure if I would have asked, he could have told me whether his seat was comfortable, what the theatre smelled like, and exactly how he felt the moment the curtain dropped.

Maybe I cried that day because I was tired and stressed and anything could have set me off. Or maybe I cried because whatever else my life may become, I sincerely hope that one day I’ll be able to look back and remember my life by the great shows I saw and the theatre I had a hand in creating. Theatre thrives because it’s connected to life – both life represented on stage and the connections we make to other people and to literature when it is brought to life. Sometimes, even we forget that. One moment in which I’m reminded of that is enough to blot out dozens of bad days and dirty jobs.

What plays – funny and sad, good and oh-so-very-bad – have you seen that will always stick with you?

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