July 3, 2009

To write of Andy's always makes me hesitate. To put the magical, mystical haven of my childhood into words feels like blowing gently across a soap bubble so delicate, so perfect, so ephemeral. Blow too hard and the bubble winks out, captured in time as something that used to be. Blow just right, though, and the iridescence swirls and I bear witness again, live again, so delicate and perfect and ephemeral. I therefore write this entry with some trepidation, as I want so desperately to put these feelings into words, to preserve and explain and protect and relive.

Briefly: Andy's Playhouse is my heart's home. Andy's is art and freedom and responsibility and friendship and mentorship and creativity and collaboration and self-expression and long summer days and longer summer nights. Andy's is where I became an artist. Andy's is where I became the person I wanted to be. I spent ten perfect summers of my childhood on the Andy's stage, surrounded by quirky Andy's kids and even quirkier Andy's adults. I spent five more years at the Playhouse as a writer, director, and educator. And then, through circumstances beyond my control, the sacred place of my upbringing was usurped by a solitary figure, just one man, and suddenly Andy's was no longer a part of my life.

I tried to reclaim not only my job at the Playhouse, but also my memories, I tried very hard, did everything in my power, but the events that followed left me utterly powerless. I expected anger in the beginning. I wanted to be angry, to live inside the feeling, to rage and cry and feel broken. But then I wanted to let it go, move on, and I found that I couldn't. I felt as if my memories were wrested away from me, sullied, violated, and then thrown back, ruined. The Playhouse, the seminal and sacred place of a thousand thousand beautiful memories was now tarnished by one memory, and the unfairness of the situation drove me to pieces. One year, two, three, and the rage eventually settled, muted just beneath the surface of my skin. I so desperately wanted to let it go completely and often pretended that I had done so yet it lived within me, aching and spiky and raw.

But now. Now. The kids have finally taken back the Playhouse. I can let go at last, exhale, and move forward.

Some recent history: I was approached two years ago to write a show for Andy's. I declined, however, as the Playhouse was no longer a place in which I wanted to put my energy. And then this winter I received the news that the situation at the Playhouse had finally changed, and that great efforts had been made to reclaim the real spirit of the place. I was approached again, and this time I accepted the offer. I wrote, revised, rewrote, edited, added the finishing touches, and sent it away. And then I bought a plane ticket.

We drove up the hill, leaves hanging, verdant, road so twisty, and my breath grew shallow. Even, slow, measured, careful. I had not been up that road in eight years, and the journey was imbued with so much meaning that I felt almost weightless. We crested the hill and then there was the Playhouse, old white colonial, steeple and belltower, doors open wide and the grass green, so, so green. We parked. I climbed the old granite steps. Walked inside. Breathed. Slipped in through the curtain to the theatre. Breathed again. Stepped into the aisle. Smile. Tremble. Tears.

The evening was so alive, so full of energy, thirty-three kids on stage and a packed house, applause and cheers, slip-ups and mugging, organized chaos, silly, irreverent. It was not about the play. It was not about the audience. It was not about the author or the director or the producers. It at last was about the kids: many and excited and proud and passionate and intense and joyous and young and committed and expressive and strong. Every single one of them shone. The feeling was electric. Outside it rained and inside it crackled. The play ended and the kids sang and bowed and bowed again, and then ran backstage, where they whooped and hollered and screamed loud enough to be heard on the other side of the mountain.

My memories are back, unsullied. They are mine again.

The kids have their memories now too. Another rehearsal process filled with creativity and friendship, another successful opening night, another summer they will remember for ever and ever and ever. To get to be a part of that, to bear witness to it all, is something that I will honor till the end of my days.