Friday night I went to the REDCAT Theatre at Disney Hall to see a Dance peformance of “Faith”. I’d been submitting my work to the REDCAT Theatre’s “new works” series and they offered me a couple of comps to see how their theatre works, and what they do. I love Disney Hall, (and how music sounds in Disney Hall) and I hadn’t been inside their experimental theatre space, REDCAT, and I wanted to be able to “see” what my works might look like there.
A few minutes before curtain, my cell phone rang. I never have my cell phone on – at any time – it’s always off until I turn it on to make a phone call. So I was very surprised to hear someone’s really annoying cell phone ringing in the lobby, and realized it was me. I picked up the phone and talked to a friend, who was in tears and greatly upset: she had called to let me know that a mutual friend had just died. Our friend, Leticia, had fought cancer for two years. It started out as cervical cancer, then lung cancer, liver cancer, spleen cancer, brain cancer. She was 36 years old and had three young children. I had been part of her support/meals/spa as therapy group and I knew we were in the “end stage” of her illness. She had just died at the hospital with her family gathered around her, and she is now, gratefully, finally, out of pain. I’m relieved that she doesn’t have to suffer any more, or be afraid of what treatment/chemo/clinical trial awaits her. I’m glad her illness is over.
I just didn’t expect her to die then. I thought she would die…..later. We ended the call, and then I went in to see the performance. I knew I was “upset” but I thought I could sit through the event and process my feelings later.
I’ve never been to the theatre before with the specter of death as a companion, and let me tell you, it really changes the ride. I know at any given moment babies are born, and people die, and puppies learn to walk, but when you sitting on the razor blade of grief with death, watching theatre/dance/performing takes on a different perspective.
I wondered – how many times in my life as actor, did people in the audience come to the theatre knowing that someone they loved had just died? How many times have I worked with people, stage crew, ushers, actors ~ who checked into the theatre, put on their make up, and gave a brilliant performance, as someone they loved just died. (I know of one actor, who managed that feat, and I wondered if the actor’s ability to compartmentalize their roles had anything to do with his amazing ability to just…put it…away from him that night.)
The performance was strange and stunning: I found myself moved to a place of contemplating the history of grief as seen in paintings and dance. I experienced grief in a public place in a very unexpected way. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time.