The summer when I turned 15, my family moved from outside NYC to Albany, Oregon. We went from an east coast life where we were less than an hour away from “culture” and where we partook of symphonies, theater and dance performances a few times every year. During that hey-day, I saw the Martha Graham company and the Pilobolus Dance Company; we saw The Wiz on Broadway (thanks, Tom and Kathy), the Boston Pops and the NY Philharmonic.
In Albany, our fortunes crashed a bit. Albany, Oregon is almost as different from Yorktown Heights, NY as Kenya would have been, only it was less interesting to me than Kenya. Where NY had felt expansive – an environment well-matched to my emerging adolescent sensibilities – Albany felt closed and constricted. That first term of my sophomore year felt like an endless slog.
Then right around the winter holidays, miraculously, my mom scored tickets to see Linn-Benton Community College’s production of Godspell. She got three tickets, one each for my sisters and me. I’d seen the television production of this play in my 8th grade class in NY. Sitting in the small, modern theater the night of the performance, I was someone who hadn’t known she was thirsty until she was offered a drink.
The cast danced and sang through the first act and I was entranced. At intermission, joyful rock music played and the cast invited the audience up on stage to dance. The guy playing Judas beckoned to me and that was all I needed. Up on stage I hopped and we started to dance. He asked what I thought, and I said, “It was great. You guys are great.” “Where’re you from?” he asked. “New York,” I said. “In fact, I saw Godspell when I lived there.” “On Broadway?” he asked breathlessly.
How could I turn this guy’s enthusiasm aside? “As a matter of fact, yes,” I said. “And you are way better.” “Really? Wow, thanks.”
Fast forward a couple years. It’s my senior year in high school in Sweet Home, Oregon. My friends, the Steiners (Jacquie, Julie and Mike), start telling me about a cousin of theirs who’s an actor. He’s gone to NY to try and make it. His aspirations had been encouraged two years earlier when a member of the audience during a performance of Godspell told him she thought his performance was Broadway-ready.
I really hope he’s glad he followed his dream.