But my role wasn’t to react emotionally–it wasn’t my role to react at all. My role was to return their response to The Producer, so I stood and waited for the howling and clattering to die down. When I reported back to The Producer that the act was, in fact, going to hold to their position and therefore require us to reprogram a three-hour show during our lunch break, he replied by asking me how I was doing.
I replied that I was fine, even though I was reeling from my thoughts about the consequences of this showdown. The Producer said, “I can see that it affects you. I can see it in your face.” I replied again that I was fine and left to start planning for a show with a hole in it, but his comment stuck with me.
I had come to the Follies at an emotional low point in my life. The events that led me there are too common to repeat here, other than to explain that they led me to revoke my trust in everyone and, as The King describes it, remove my heart so that my feelings would be revealed to no one. In fact, at that point, I’d rather feel nothing at all because any happiness only reminded me of everything that I had lost, bringing back the hurt and the anger.
When The Producer told me that he could see the effect of this conversation on my face, he wasn’t relating anything new about me–my face has always been an open book–but he was revealing to me that my defenses weren’t impregnable. Despite my best efforts over two years, I couldn’t keep myself from reacting. I felt betrayed by my own weakness, but I also felt a small glimmer of hope that perhaps I could become a normal person again.
This balance led to many internal debates throughout the remainder of that season. Could I keep my defenses up? If I did, what of myself was I giving up? This was no idle debate at a theater in which, during my first season, the entire crew would be lined up on stage after each performance and told that they could, perhaps should, be fired en masse that moment and replaced with far more skilled technicians from Los Angeles before the next show.
I considered all of this through that season and through the weeks off that summer and returned the last season with a new mission statement: Be kind.
Tomorrow: Are polysyllabic epithets kind?