Some memories of Andy’s
Friday, September 6, 2013
Now that Andy’s Summer Playhouse has ended its latest season, I started to think back to when my daughter was involved and I remembered the night I caused her to go out of character.
I don’t remember the play she was in, but it was closing night and of course I was going – I went to everything Sara did, even though she never got a major part at Andy’s; it didn’t matter – and I decided, on a whim, to wear my tuxedo. I hadn’t worn it since I left New York where I’d needed it for my job with Travel Agent Magazine because there were lots of black tie functions to attend, so part of my job was to lay out $350 for a tux, which wasn’t chicken feed in 1984. Still isn’t.
I made sure I got a front row seat and was waiting, holding a bouquet of some kind of flower, when the curtain went up, the play began. A little into it, Sara came out with the chorus, or whatever it was called in this play, and she spotted me almost immediately.
She actually flinched. Oh, was she furious, as if I’d deliberately worn my tux just to make her flinch.
During intermission, I helped other parents sell baked goods in the lobby and being the only nitwit in a tuxedo, I sold a lot, just because people wanted to ask me why I was wearing a tuxedo.
My answer was always the same:
“I thought you were supposed to on closing night. At least in New York...” and I would let the sentence drift away, just to be a wise guy.
I liked Andy’s. I liked the fact that Sara was involved. She didn’t get in the first year she auditioned, but had only auditioned because she’d accompanied her friend, Natalie Grammer, who had planned to audition, and Sara just planned to watch. But Dan Hurlin, the artistic director, asked her to try out by singing “Happy Birthday,” which was everyone’s tryout song, so she did and it didn’t go well.
She went back the next year, though, and took another shot, and we waited for Dan’s call.
That was one of the nice things about Dan, and it’s probably something Andy’s still does: Make it or not, you got a call from the artistic director who didn’t speak to your parents, but spoke directly to you and did so with great encouragement, which is why, I think, Sara went back the next year.
But now we waited and it was a sad wait because it was the day of the Waldorf School Olympics and Sara’s school, Pine Hill in Wilton, was participating. She had been training in throwing the javelin with her friend, Lucia Bay, and was looking forward to it.
But she got sick and had to stay home and she was desolate.
That afternoon, I answered the phone and a man asked to speak with Sara. I asked him his name and he said, “Dan Hurlin from Andy’s.”
I called Sara and told her who it was. She was wide-eyed and, I think, a little scared. She took the phone, said hello, and listened.
Then she said, “I got in?”
Obviously, Dan said, “Yes.”
He saved the day.
Sara was in Andy’s for several years and the year she wasn’t going to do it, the year before she went off to high school in Massachusetts, Andy’s called her and asked her to play Natasha in the traveling show of “Rocky and His Friends,” and she did.
But that year, before that, Dan Hurlin played another part in her life: He helped her get into the high school of her choice, Walnut Hill in Natick, a performing arts high school. She wanted to major in theater – yes, it was run just like a college -–and Dan wrote her a recommendation. We never saw it, but once he told me it had been very positive. I guess so; she got in.
There, too, she didn’t get great parts except for that of the queen in “The Winter’s Tale,” in which she had to give a lengthy speech while standing unaided on the top step of a huge step-ladder the crew had constructed. It was bad enough she was standing up there but she was doing it, at least in one performance, while sick to her stomach. I was a nervous wreck. She survived. I think I did, too.
I think of these things each time I see something in The Cabinet about Andy’s and I wonder if there are folks around here who don’t know what a valuable asset the playhouse is.
Well, just ask any kid who’s ever been involved.
For one thing, it takes nerve to get up in front of dozens of other kids and sing “Happy Birthday,” especially for the first time. I don’t know if I could have done it and I certainly couldn’t do it today.
I think Andy’s was a positive experience for Sara; I think it is for most kids. If nothing else, kids learn that they aren’t always going to get major parts and might never get major parts, but participating, being part of something, is important.
Sara did get me back, sort of, for the tuxedo trick: As part of Andy’s program of young playwrights, she wrote a one-act about an abused child. I knew nothing of the script until Kathy and I saw the performance and I remember thinking, “Where the heck did that come from?”
And I just know that other parents in the audience were looking at me, at us, a bit askance.
The other day, I emailed Sara and asked her about it. She remembered writing the play but said she couldn’t recall why. Please believe me when I tell you it wasn’t from personal experience.
I know that Sara always had great empathy for anyone even slightly downtrodden which might explain why today she is a social worker helping people with drug issues.
Oh, and I sort of struck back, too, in play form: For her high school graduation I wrote her what I refer to as THE WORST PLAY EVER WRITTEN. It contained parts for four women of varying ages – from early 20s to mid-60s – the idea being that Sara could act in the play regardless of her age. I called it “Mademoiselle Durant,” named for a woman I’d met in La Mistral in Golf Juan, France, when I was in the Navy. She stole my lighter.
Needless to say, it was never produced (if for no other reason than it was incredibly long; I had no time to rewrite because I started it in October of 1998, writing at The Cabinet from 5-8 a.m. as many days a week as I could, and finished it in May) and I don’t even know if there’s a copy extant.
I don’t even know if Sara read it; she never mentioned it. Maybe that’s a good thing.