Why do I love musical theater? Mostly it’s a consequence of having grown up in a household with a theater professor who directed four shows each year, and who provided me and my friends unlimited access to tickets for his own shows and those directed by the other professors in what is still a good theater program at Southeast Missouri State University.
Not only do I love watching, though; occasionally there’s a show I adore enough to want to join in. This is not something I do lightly; I have to gear my introvert self up for it, often by singing Winifred’s song from Once Upon a Mattress in my head (“I’m shy!”). The last time I did this, it was for Brigadoon; who can resist the chance to sing some songs over and over–out loud–for a few months?
This weekend I tried out for my small town’s big summer show, The Music Man, along with my friend Pamela, Walker and some of his friends, and an assortment of older people I know only slightly. Why? Part of it, I know, is an attempt to forestall weepiness at the thought of our last summer together before Walker goes off to college (he has decided on Oberlin). Part of it is getting over the weepiness of last fall’s hysterectomy. Part of it is throwing caution to the wind and giving in to a public display of a great love affair. It feels like this poem by Cynthia Huntington:
Do not invite him lightly to your bed.
This is a man of persistence and great sloth.
Sweet leaves brought slowly to the mouth; the branch
Bent down, low constant sounds, a hum along
The neck, the nape, the nipple—his tongue’s long,
Ostensible kisses. This is a man
Who wants to rearrange your furniture, to devour
Your resume. Do not ask him to see you across
The river. The glow of your cheek on the pillowcase,
Creased hieroglyphic of time the skin recalls,
Invites discovery. A branch snaps underfoot,
The leaves speak backwards: forget. . .
Your day job. Your night school. Your green canopy.
By morning your passport wears another name.
It is not wise to give in to such a love affair. But sometimes, especially in the first new green of spring, with the white ornamental pear blossoms above and the yellow dandelions appearing underfoot, I find it irresistible. How about you?