The Story of My Life
Can you believe that?! ME?! Crying??!
Well, the truth is that I stopped crying for a long time. Tom noticed about a year ago and remarked on it. I've written about it and the journey back to being a person who can cry. Now I can and I feel like myself again.
This time I was sitting at the Booth Theater on 45th street, in Shubert Alley, watching the new Broadway musical THE STORY OF MY LIFE. I was there, in the second row of the mezzanine, seated in between two men who mean the world to me, watching this brand new musical simply because Bobby McGuire had told me that he loved it. I love new musicals, too. Don't get me wrong - I love revivals. Even now there is a revival of PAL JOEY that I saw with Pat and we both were captivated by it ( in spite of well documented criticisms of it ) because (in the first place) we have, neither of us, ever seen PAL JOEY and ( in the second place ) we never NEVER miss a live performance by Miss Stockard Channing, who has delivered, once again, in spades. Extraordinary. We also remarked, only yesterday, that we have never seen a professional theater production of GUYS AND DOLLS and this season we will get the chance. Thanks to revivals, we saw A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS and LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES and EQUUS this season. I love them. However, there is something so exciting about a new play or a new musical - an idea that is original and will take me on a completely new journey; it's heady, dudes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but at least it is something NEW.
THE STORY OF MY LIFE is a new musical. It is not based on a book or non musical play or a movie or a short story: it is a new work. It's one of those lovely little pieces that people will say maybe doesn't belong in a Broadway house - sometimes that argument is valid. It certainly wasn't valid when, in 1986, Pat and I went to see a lovely little piece called ROMANCE ROMANCE that became the surprise, the sleeper hit of the season. I know that every New York theater goer remembers their little chamber piece discoveries that, maybe, didn't belong on Broadway. I suppose FROG AND TOAD is considered one. I suppose TRIUMPH OF LOVE is considered one. Small casts, contained sets, charming scores; not grandiose like some of the other, more flashy, shows that come to Broadway. I cannot say where this show belongs - on Broadway or at Manhattan Theater Club at City Center. I don't really care where it is, as long as it is running.
Dudes, I loved it. I LOVED it. That much is always clear to my date(s) when they are trying to block out how fidgety I get and how often I have to wipe away the tears and snot running down my face, when I am at a show that moves me the way THE STORY OF MY LIFE moved me. It's the whole experience, too; from the simplicity of the sets to the honesty of the performances, from the (not at all pedestrian) lyrics to the thoroughly enjoyable melodies. I have stopped trying to memorize songs so that I can sing them to myself on the way out of the theater. I know that when a cast album comes out I will buy it and memorize it, then; immediately following a theatrical experience, my one and only ambition is to basque in the glow of my evening and allow my mind to float around in the reverie created by a night out. This night out was especially relevant with me because of certain themes, ones which I was very excited to discuss with my friend at the end of the play, he being in a different age bracket than I and having an individual perspective on the piece.
MY perspective on this story is one based on certain aspects of my life. I am a man, 45 years of age, who has actually had friends die during my adulthood. I am at an age where more of my friends/family are going to die. My mortality and theirs is a daily acknowledgement. The play (spoiler alert) is centered around one lifelong friend remembering his best friend while attempting to write his eulogy. Aside from this (ok, morbid, theme) is also the fact that I have been focused on my own death for most of my life.
My father's mother died when I was a little boy and my mother told me, that morning, "be nice to your father, his mommy died last night". One of the first things said in the play (and said, often) is "people say nice things about you when you die." From that day when my grandmother died, I have been aware that people care more about you when you die - or at least they focus on the care they have for you. We humans, we tend to forget about each other while we are living - it isn't that we are unfeeling, only that we are insular. I have had moments (still do) when I have to be an island; most of my life, though, I have tried to appreicate and respect the people in my life while they are here; I've tried to say nice things TO people, rather than wait until they are gone to say nice things about them. Having this be brought up, repeatedly, during the play reminded me of many days, many moments, in my life. Let's not even talk about the fact that one of the characters is named Tom and he is eulogizing his best friend; my best friend, Tom, asked me a couple of years ago if he could do the eulogy at my funeral.
Another theme from the play that resonates within me IS that lifelong friendship theme. I am not in touch with my best friend from the age ot ten, though I do remember him. I remember the friends I had in school who saved me from the bullies, and fondly. I am in touch with some of my high school friends. I am in touch with friends from college. I DO have friends that I have known for decades, people who know me, who know my stories, my history and whose stories and histories I know. That's an important relationship to have in this life. My friends, in case you are a person reading me for the very fist time, are my number one priority, starting with my best friend, my husband of 23 years. The relationships in my life are paramount and always come first. Those relationships are also the people who have informed my artwork over the years. Whether I am working as a writer or a photographer, my friends have been my muses and the subject of my creations. In this play, we see a writer and how his best friend inspired him, allowing him to create his own success. I was moved to so many tears by seeing his artistic journey, as I flashed on each time that my own loved ones have inspired me. I hope, truly hope, that they are aware of what they have meant to me, what they have been to my work. It is only appropriate that the two men sitting with me were my oldest and best friend (said husband, mentioned earlier) and a new friend of growing importance to me. I haven't made a new friend in a long time and new friendships are important and exciting - at least to me. This new friendship is a good one, a stimulating one, one I am having a really, really good time with. As company goes, for this particular night out, I was right in line with the proper people.
As a writer, as a friend, as a (let's be honest here) middle aged man, as a death obsessed person, as an optimist... there are any number of themes within this musical that resonate within me. As a musical theater afficionado, this charming, original one act speaks to me. The creators, all of them, seemed to have been sitting down at their drafting tables, saying "I am doing this just for Stephen Mosher". Then there are these two actors; the ones playing the two best friends who take the journey through life and artistic creation together.
Will Chase is an artist of the Broadway stage whose work I have been lucky to see, occasionally, over the years. I regret that there have been a couple of shows he was in that didn't run long enough for me to get over to the theater and see them; though the shows I HAVE seen him in have left me with the impression that he is extremely talented, both as an actor and a singer. This time, I am not left with an impression - only a knowledge: the man is WONDERFUL. I will go back and see him in this play as often as time and money permits; and in the future I will go see a Will Chase performance, upon being made aware of it.
Malcolm Gets is an actor with whom I have had an unfortunate personal history. I was on the set of CAROLINE IN THE CITY doing some photos, many years ago, and he disrespected me to my face. A man who has been hurt many times, there were a lot of years when I carried grudges. For this reason, I was never able to get past it and enjoy his work. It was all years ago, though. I am a different man now - maybe he is, too. Last night, the man that he has become made the man I have become into a fan. I have heard Malcolm Gets' brand of music and I have fallen in love with it. He was, he is, simply put, magical in this part and in this play. He did that thing I talk about: he reached inside of me and hit the 'on' switch.
So I was crying. I was sitting between my old friend and my new friend, two men I love, deeply, and crying. I worried, a little, that it might be irritating to the people around me - but I had to only worry about that for a moment. I wanted to get back inside that play, inside that story, and if it meant I would cry some more, so be it. I was there to be moved.
That's what art is all about.