Caught in the Middle - #1
After its smash New York Times review I decided I’d better pick up the phone and order tickets to Mabou Mines’s "Red Beads" or miss out. The preceding agony -“do I go or don’t I?” - reminded me of the watershed moment when it became clear my choices were no longer black and white but involved many shades of gray. I’d entered adulthood.
This weekend, bright lights beckoned in New York. For a while I've known Jennifer Monson’s "Bird Brain" would be running (for the last time) at Dance Theater Workshop. I wondered how Monson would incorporate visions of flight paths and sustainable ecologies into her performing. What would her group dancing look like now, what strategies and games has she discovered? Later I was mesmerized by the New York Times photo of Clove Galilee mid-air above acres of billowing silk drenched in red light in Mabou Mines’s new work, a collaboration with puppeteer Basil Twist. These guys are genius heroes of mine: Lee Breuer of "Gospel at Colonnus," rousing theater that raised the hairs on the back of my neck, of "Warrior Ant" using bunraku style puppetry, Ruth Malaczech in "Hajj," engaging the tiniest muscles in her face to cast the room in shifting emotional tonalities.
Here in Blue Bell, PA the summer heat had given way to temperate perfection. The weekend held the possibility of being with the family without dashing here or there. And for the following two weekends I would be gone on a nine-day working trip to Athens.
Teenagers and older don’t need you much in the way that little ones do – to clean, clothe, or take care in physical ways. But presence lends the possibility of exchange, of testing out a thought, of sharing a pleasure. It's also stable ground. For my daughter, who is 14, and my son, who is 10, my presence on their return from school each afternoon is not necessary, but it is something I want them to have whenever I can managae it. The amount of time I spend away is something I have to continually feel out – how much is too much? Paris for five and a half weeks was too much. Greece for 9 days will not be. But it would be better to leave after some solid time together.
I imagined how I would call up the memory of the "Red Beads" for years, as I have with other Mabou Mines work. How it would expand my vision of theatrical possibility. I don’t need fancy clothes or meals or vacations. But I do need the luxury of seeing great performances, and the mature work of great artists. They weave into my mindstream, become part of my history and reference bank.
So the smash New York Times review tipped the balance. But the voice on the Ticketmaster line informed me that the only tickets left were all the way on the side. I thought “If I’m spending $60 on a ticket, and I’m sitting way the heck on the side and get frustrated about that, and it took 4-1/2 hours to drive roundtrip when gas prices are really high and I already feel like it would be important to stick around, it might be a mistake.” So I let it go.
My hope is that, like "Gospel at Colonnus," the work gets picked up for a much longer run (this first one was 4 days). As for Monson, it may just have to remain in the realm of my imagination, or someday I may see how this work informed her and she went on…
Rather than sitting in a theater I listened with my daughter to her favorite pieces of Celtic dance music, enjoying the slanting early-fall light dancing through the trees. With my son off on a sleepover (funny how things turn out), my husband fetched Chinese food that the three of us ate at a picnic table at dusk at an old farm across the way. Then we watched a Woody Allen movie, my daughter laughing at grown up jokes that would’ve had her embarrassed only a short time before. I was glad not to miss that transition.
It’s hard to know which of those golden rings that come around only once is going to turn out to be most precious. I think, this time, I got it right.