We are seated in the dark theater listening to someone introduce the play. My boy is on my right. His nice button-up shirt and tie are hidden under the slightly stained sweatshirt he refuses to take off right now. I pull his hood off his head and he gives me a little smile. My daughter sits to my left with a rather sparkly dress on and a stuffed puppy on her lap. As the stage goes dark they both grab my hands and I feel it.
The actors take their marks and the lights come on. The harmony of voices, the costumes, the decorations and my two children’s faces proves too much for me again. The feeling starts low and creeps up into my chest. My heart beats faster and before I know it I’m slightly gasping. Then the tears start forming. I quickly let go of their hands.
“Get it together,” I tell myself. I focus on breath and push the feeling down. I am successful for the moment and watch the story unfold in front of me.
Ever since I was a little girl the theater has done this to me. I can remember seeing my first play. It was outdoors and was Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I remember having that feeling and not understanding it. I thought maybe I was scared. My heart beat quickly and the tears came. I hid my face in embarrassment. At the end of the play I silently cried happy tears and knew I was hooked.
Since then I see theater as much as I can. I have taken my kids to see productions since they could walk. The magic of the theater is so real and powerful to me. I have seen a few productions that were, to put it kindly, unfortunate. But the majority of time I am so transfixed and emotionally invested that I leave the theater changed.
The first Broadway show I saw was the traveling cast of “Aida.” I was an adult and had taken my mother-in-law for her birthday. I didn’t know what I was in for. The power of that show blew me away. I literally could not talk afterward.
Since then I have been to New York twice and seen four shows. The first show I saw was “42nd Street.” It opens with the curtain pulled up to revel only the dancers feet. I can still feel the rush of excitement at the sight and sound of that line of dancers tapping away.
For years I have tried to figure out why theater creates this feeling of “losing it” within me. Even silly plays, like “Urinetown” (which is one of my favorites), creates a swelling of emotion that I find challenging to control.
For me, I think it’s a combination of lots of things. First, not having many opportunities to just let loose and feel things fully. A dark theater is a perfect place to think and feel. Secondly, a complete awe of the talent that God has given these actors, dancers, singers, writers, costume designers and musicians. All that goes into a production is not lost on me.
This leads me back to the theater last weekend. My father and stepmother had bought our family tickets to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Sacramento Theater Company. The movie is a classic that many are familiar with. I had not seen it in years and had forgotten most of the storyline. My children had never seen it. So we were able to experience it without comparison or expectations – the best way in my opinion.
The production is amazing. The two leads have incredible voices and the story is just perfect for this time of year. When George Bailey yells at his family, I was shaking and had to swallow lots to calm myself. When he lost all hope on the bridge, I swear he looked right at me as he belted out the most amazing song. The tears flowed freely down my face off and on the entire play. At the finale, I sneaked a glance at my kids and was not surprised to see tears in both their eyes as well.
When we left the theater my daughter pulled me down to her. Her eyes sparkled and she smiled wide.
“The moral of that story is that you should be happy with what you have,” she says very cheerfully. “I am.”
Holding both my children’s hands we walk outside together.