Maybe I should back up some more for any newbie readers: my mom brought me up in the arts. Not to say that we read Shakespeare to each other, or attended art class together, but she brought me to as many artsy things which she could. There were free concerts galore in Windsor way back when (I haven't lived there in a long time, so correct me if I'm wrong). Big band was my favourite. That was probably my dad's only 'arts' inspiration to me. He was born in 1930 and loved music of the 30's and 40's.
She also took me to plays. Lots and lots of plays. So many plays, that I do not remember what was my first play. It was never Shakespeare (I didn't see Shakespeare performed until I was in my late 30's, a, ahem, few years ago - Ben Carlson's Hamlet). I know she loved Shakespeare, but I don't remember having any of his works in the house.
Then, there was Windsor Light Opera. I won't go through our full history of that great organization - you will have to peruse my blog to find the story. [What a great word...peruse....have you ever said that into a fan? Try it!]
My mom did make-up and backstage work for WLO for years. I don't know when she started. It always seemed to be there - it was my mom's night out. And, it became my first volunteer experiences as a child.
Now, back to this week...
When mom and dad arrived, I showed her pictures from Cordelia's & my day in Stratford....then coyly asked her if she wanted to see 42nd Street in 3 hours. Okay, I admit it - that was an underhanded move on my part. I had to see it again...but with my mom along for the ride.
My mom and I - well, I've been a teenager and a know it all at the same time (aren't we all?). Our relationship has had its ups and downs. Down right rocky at times, but we love each other. A lot of who I am today as a person is attributed to my mom and her example.
So, I saw this chance as not only to see S....42nd Street & The Matchmaker again (such a coincidence that they were the same 2 plays my daughter and I saw), and to bring my mom and I closer together - as mom/daughter, using theatre as our jumping off point. Jumping off...maybe flying up from the hanger point.
We didn't listen to the radio or ipod on the way, as is my usual 'thing' (whichever child I bring to Stratford that day gets full control of the music - but I maintain control of the volume, thank you). We talked. We talked and talked and talked.
It was great, just the 2 of us. We didn't have to watch our words (I remember saying 'damn' in front of her and felt terrible - and that that thought was terribly funny). We didn't have to make eye contact - sounds bad, but it isn't. We could just say whatever we wanted, no holds barred.
Waiting for the show to start, my mom perused (dang - a great word) the programme for 42nd. She looked at the cast, the crew...looked up bios....does this sound familiar to anyone? I taught Luke, and Braeden, and Dakota, and Cordelia to do the same thing. Here I was, thinking it was my great idea. Nope - it was my mommy's.
Sigh...42nd Street was even more spectacular the 3rd time. I will never tire of it. I wish to see it every performance, but alas, I need to make a living. I discovered that my mom has the same...let's just name it 'passion' for men who can sing, as I do. Sean Arbuckle and Kyle Blair did not disappoint. I need to see Pirates again...
I will be the first to admit that I have not given the women in this production their due. I have been neglectful. Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Peggy Sawyer - how to describe her? Beautiful (love those dimples). A triple threat, most definitely. I don't understand how someone with her enormous talent was in the chorus for Jesus Christ Superstar and Camelot last year. Honestly - if that is the 'supporting cast'...it's mind-boggling. Jennifer was PERFECT for the role of chorus girl-to-star. Her talent is awe-inspiring. I bow at her feet (actually, I rise to my feet - but that was for the entire cast). (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16148&prodid=41220&id2=6383)
Cynthia Dale was a surprise. Again, my apologies. She's sexy and has a most incredible singing voice. I feel like I was the last one to know. I didn't know until she was announced last season that she had been at Stratford before - many times - 11 (ELEVEN) seasons! (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16148&prodid=41220&id2=16413).
My other favourite was Gabrielle Jones (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16148&prodid=41220&id2=17204). I want to sing like her...so powerful!! I love her - and love and appreciate her more each time I go (oh, may I please see it ONE more time before closing). I can't imagine anyone else playing her role.
See? I love women who can sing, too!
My mom hadn't been to the Stratford Festival since high school (in Waterford - where my oldest is graduating in June - my mom didn`t graduate from there, but that`s another tangent). We didn`t know what year that was...our answer was waiting at the Exhibition.
My mom was amazed at 42nd Street - the talent, the costumes, seats, the music (her feet didn`t stop dancing the whole show), the Festival Theatre...She remembered where she sat when she saw Christopher Plummer in Romeo & Juliet. She told me that the cast had messed up a scene that day, and they came back to the stage after the play was finished and re-did that scene, then took a Q&A from the high schoolers there that day (wow - my mom did a q&a with Stratford before I did, but I don`t think she actually asked a question). hehehe That`s actually funny, if you knew how many q&a`s the kids and I have done this year on Stratford`s facebook.
I realized the 42nd Street head piece Cordelia wore (picture in a previous blog) may have been worn by Miss Peggy Sawyer, herself. Awesome! Thank you Marilou and Cara! If you go onto Stratford's home page, you can see it there.
We ate at York Street Kitchen, again, wanting their delicious food to fill my tummy - and hoping to point out local cast to mom. But, no one came by that day. The food more than made up for it. Their soups are deeeeelicious.
We had a great talk during dinner. It`s always so nice to have someone to speak with after a show. I have been to too many plays where there was no discussion about what we saw. It`s sad - as if you look at a Matisse, shrug, and pass it by without a word. After A Word or Two, I understand how being alone with your thoughts after a play can be satisfying, but when there are 2 people together...it just doesn`t seem right. Granted, there are times and moments when no words can express, or no words have to be said. But, they are far and few between, for me.
As my mom was paying for dinner (thank you mom), I began a conversation with the lovely retired couple from New York behind us. They were delightful. They had been coming to Stratford for many seasons. They had so much knowledge...they were a joy to speak with. As I stood up and pushed my seat in, I found this. If it wasn`t an important moment in the play (the play itself, and the ugly cries it gave me during the play), I would have left it for our waitress:
I took my mom to the Exhibition next. Why is it I hear so little about this wondrous place? It being my 4th time through, and the staff busy with other tours, I gave my mom the tour. [My mom and I used to be museum guides - at the same museum - 8 years apart.] When I did have unanswered questions (my own or my mom's) I asked Laura at the desk (I really hope I have her correct name). She gave me my first 2 tours. There was another woman working that night whose name I did not get (sorry, but I am bad with names). She told the story of the hockey jersey - go to the Exhibition and find out! Great story with William Hutt.
Thanks to this most excellent tourist-trap-for-a-history-major-and-Stratfest-lover, we uncovered when my mom was last in Stratford. It was 1960 - Bruno Gerussi was Romeo. Mr. P was Mercutio (one of the best parts ever written by Shakespeare) and Kate Reid was the Nurse. There was a picture on the wall of Mr. Gerussi, I believe - or was it Mr. P? I think there are more pictures up of him than anyone else. But, it settled that puzzle piece down for us. 1960. Mom was .... oh nevermind. She'd kill me if I said her age! Come to think of it, I don't think I've given my age...
We strolled through the Theatre Store at the Festival Theatre (because the Avon was closed - who knew it closed on a week night). I wanted to show her the architectural drawings of the Avon, and the pictures of the river which runs underneath it. Something to do next season, I suppose. She must come back and see Romeo & Juliet, at any rate.
I tried to take a picture of her and I together, but was saved by a woman who offered to take it for us. As we were talking, I mentioned the last time my mom was here - and as strange as it sounds - they, too, were here in 1960, and it sounded like the same performance. AND, they have relatives in Waterford. Wow. Small world.
We settled in for The Matchmaker, again reading our programmes (and me tweeting about our great day). Three minutes to opening and my heart dropped - so many empty seats, they moved an entire section over. I heard ticket sales were slow, but that was ridiculous.
My mom was a great seamstress. Her favourite (and mine - qu'ell surprise) is the early 1890's - the same as The Matchmaker. My mom, as she told Cara Ricketts later, used to sew these great outfits, and wear them to work, when she worked for the Deputy Prime Minster, Herb Gray. I think I wrote about him in a previous blog...
The Matchmaker was superb. I truly think if one watched it everyday, it would count as crunches caused by all the laughing. Mike Shara and Josh Epstein are so frigging funny! Maybe it's because I have only seen them do Shakespeare (Titus to begin last year, and Cymbeline this year), but they are hysterical. Good looking, too.
I must divert from the 'we' story to an 'I' story. My mom, who says she has bad eyesight, spotted a man the row behind us and down a bit, and asked if he was the 'cowboy' in 42nd Street. It wasn't him...there...he was sitting down the row a few more seats. He is one of the most talented actors Stratford has, an equally nice man, and quite dashing, Steve Ross (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16148&prodid=41220&id2=907).
Secret may be out (hahahaha) but I don't make it a habit to talk to actors or actresses on my own. I feel out-of-place, and geeky. But, Steve Ross did such a great q&a on facebook, I had to thank him for answering my kids questions. He was great to talk with, and remembered my kids questions (honestly - how many little girl Cordelias are there - or Kids4Bards). I mentioned to him that I brought Dakota (who was 15 at the time) to Grapes of Wrath last year, and that it was his first 'titty' show. If you have read the book, or seen the play, you will know what I'm talking about. [And it just so happened that Chilina Kennedy (Rose of Sharon, and Mary from JCS) was just a few seats down from us, but I didn't mention THAT to her. I did tell her that after Luke saw JCS, he said he wanted to be an actor, and I thanked her for inspiring him. And, another by-the-way - she's tiny...where did her singing voice come from? wow]
When Steve and I spoke about Grapes of Wrath...he got that look - the same look Cara Ricketts had with with Cordelia. He is so in love with what he does...it was an honour to speak with him, and see that look...I wonder if I look like that when I tell my favourite birth or breastfeeding stories? I wonder...I hope I do. He was the first actor I have spoken with (not just Stratford actors) who knew the play, Boing Boing. He understood what I was talking about when I mentioned they had the same clockwork timing.
Now, I just need to find someone who knows the musical, "Fanny."
I had tweeted Cara earlier in the night to mention my mom wanted to say hi. I had told my mom what Cara had done for Cordelia, so mom wanted to meet her.
While we waited patiently for Ms. Ricketts, I finally, after too long a time, officially met Josh Epstein. He (I really need to buy a thesaurus) was great to speak with, and very handsome. He remembered Cordelia (then me). We talked about the timing in The Matchmaker and asked him if he had seen "Boing Boing" he said he had, then asked me if I had seen it in New York. I'm afraid I giggled outright at the thought of me seeing it in New York. (I now feel quite rude about laughing 'at' him. I'll make it up - what is your favourite chocolate - anyone else know?) But, before I laughed, he asked me a profound question.
I had said that I saw Boing Boing when I was about Cordelia's age (he also knew the play) He then asked me if that was my first play....
I couldn't answer that. I don't know what my first play was that I saw. Theatre was always there. I have no before or after....isn't that wonderful? Thank you, Josh - for helping me to appreciate what my mom has given me...and during a mom/daughter day, too. Nya:weh.
Cara came out and oh, what a meeting that was! Stories came out from all of us - when WLO put on Yoeman of the Guard, my mom did makeup - and gave herself a beard - and ordered pizza with it on (apparently I refused to go into the pizzaria with her when she did so - I have no recollection of that - just the official picture they took that night of her in her Yoeman guard outfit, with beard). Cara is a wonderful woman.
I think Cordelia may love Cara more than I. She had me take this picture, saying she wanted to be Cara:
The ride home with mom was probably even better than the ride to Stratford. As I type, I wonder why. I think it was theatre magic - the magic of our experience.
You see, theatre, as I have said before, gives us a safe place to be, to feel, to act, to love, to hate...The most important word there is "safe." I asked my mom questions on the way home I have NEVER felt safe to ask. The same thing happened with her. It was as if the theatre gave us a magic safety zone. We told each other things that we probably swore we would never say. Strange, that...strange that it took a trip to a double bill at Stratford for us to open our hearts to each other like we haven't done...probably ever. It is sad it took so long. It is a great thing to have finally happen.
There were questions which weren't answered. I don't know if we will ever get there again, at least get there anytime soon. Phone calls are too cold, in many ways. You can't just call someone and have a 'safe' zone in which to speak. At least, I can't.
Mother/daughter day in reverse was a huge success. As it brought Cordelia and I closer, it also brought my mom and I closer, in ways I didn't think could ever happen, to be honest. Every performance, every cast member, every crew member, every Stratford-ian, every tourist we spoke with added to that day. Perhaps I was inspired, egged on by a higher force to take mom out that day - for the whole day. Maybe it wasn't my incessant desire for...music...or costumes...or dancing.
If culture is the magic of our experience, play on....