First Man Standing

October 3, 2017 - 5 minutes read

I love theater.  I may have said that before in my blog, but love is worth repeating.

I’ve seen plays in London, Edinburgh, Prague, and throughout the United States. I’ve been to many plays on Broadway, including one in which Lyndon Johnson, then vice president of the United States, was in the audience.

Ever since I was a teen, I’ve probably seen on average one play a week, though I must admit, getting out of the house for an 8:00 pm curtain, and returning near 11:00 pm, has become more difficult over the years.

Three decades ago my father introduced me to a repertory group, Noise Within, now located in Pasadena. They present five or six plays each year, and every year we purchase season tickets.

Last night we attended “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” by Jean Giraudoux. Though it was written in 1943, this is a play that resonates today.

I found both the writing and, especially, the production suburb.  Toward the end, of the play I decided I would stand at the curtain call, both as a sign of my enthusiasm and to show my appreciation and respect to the actors.

A month ago, at another play, I had also wanted to stand in appreciation of the performance. But that evening as I surveyed the house during the curtain call, I noticed everyone else remained seated.  Clearly others did not share my opinion of the play, and because I was hesitant to stand alone, I remained in my seat.

Last night I decided I would stand no matter what.  Then I remembered the conversation I’d overheard during intermission. The woman next to me was complaining because “the play was hard to follow.”  I thought, once again, that I might be the only member of the audience to stand.  That scared me, so I changed my mind.  You could say that I chickened out.

Upon further reflection, I decided I would stand regardless.  Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!  But still I wondered, when the time came, would I really have the courage to stand alone?  Maybe I should wait, and look around first. I didn’t want to be out of step or look foolish.

“Come on,” I told myself.  “You really should stand.”

“I will,” I answered.  Then, in a soft inner voice I added, “Probably.”

The Madwoman has a line toward the end of the play in which she urges a young couple to kiss.  “After all,” she says, “you’ve known each other for three hours.  And if you let the wedge of the moment come between you it will then become a minute, then an hour, a day, a month, thirty years.  And I can tell you that I would be a different woman today if the man I loved had the courage to kiss me thirty years ago.”

At the final curtain I decided that I would definitely stand, no matter what, and when the lights came up, I did.  I didn’t look around, I didn’t want to know if the woman next to me, or anyone else in our party, was going to join me.  I stood for myself.

I was about to say, “Fortunately, many in the audience stood up after I did.”  I’d prefer to leave out the word “Fortunately,” because that implies that if I had stood alone I would have done something stupid, something wrong, something unsupported. But to only stand when others are standing would mean I was living a life for others rather than for myself. So from now on, I will be the first man standing, and if necessary, I will stand alone.

Back home I read the Los Angeles Times review.  Their critic also called this play performance “superb.”

I’m reluctant to admit that I am relieved.


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