One of the things I dread as an actor is coming out from backstage and seeing a whole troupe of folks waiting to see the cast as they emerge. This is a really nice way for family and friends to shake hands, give hugs, and generally share in the spirit of the moment, especially right after such a ride that Vimy is.
However, just as I spend so much time preparing to appear onstage as a character, I spend little or no time preparing to see that same audience as JV. I mean, how could I? I don’t know what the reaction would be. The weirdest thing is when folks don’t recognize me at all, or they pretend they don’t, because the relationship that worked fine as stage actor/audience member has now broken down because the invisible line has been crossed.
Aside from all that strangeness, I want to share a few reactions I received over the weekend from people who had just seen Vimy. I won’t say these are exact quotes, but they are as close as I can remember:
I can’t stop thinking about Sid’s last line.
I thought of my young father and what he must have gone through.
It’s great to see community theatre doing theatre that is relevant to it’s community.
Marlena as Clare is extraordinary.
It just stays with you.
I won’t say I enjoyed it, because that would be an insult to those who died, to say I enjoyed what they had to endure, but I will say it was excellent, and it needed to be done, and I needed to see it.
Amateur, professional, I don’t care. This is just great theatre. People who know theatre have to see this.
On Sunday, I was sitting waiting for church to start and a couple of friends of mine came up to me. One was carrying a shopping bag. She says to me, ‘We were going through some paintings yesterday, and we found this. We’d like you to have this. And here is our ticket from 11/11/11 so you can keep them together. It’s by a local artist.’
I opened the bag and took out the painting, a watercolor. Poppies. With something else, in gray, in the background. A rifle stuck into the soil and left, abandoned, with a helmet hanging from the stock. The penciled in title read ‘We will not forget’. It took about two seconds, but something got caught in my chest as I tried to say thank-you to her and and I had to throw my arms around her so she wouldn’t see me break down. Never had that happen before. I’ll frame the picture and invite people over to see it.
Four more shows this week and then all that’s left are the memories.
more later – joel