l have begun a project called "LifeSketch" where individuals are interviewed by an author while I sketch. The sketch is then matted along with the person's life story making a unique present and memorable keepsake. Actor and instructor Thomas Ouellette bid on a LifeSketch at a fundraiser and he won. I had forgotten about that auction item which sold many months ago, but Thomas contacted me and invited author Mary Hill and myself to a play called "Next Fall" at the Mad Cow Theater. I asked to be seated in a back row in case I needed a book light to sketch. I arrived right after work and sketched the theater which is right down the street from Avalon Art Gallery. After I was seated, I rifled through my bag looking for my book light. It was nowhere to he found.
The Mad Cow Theater will soon be moving to Church Street so "Next Fall" would be the last show produced in the Magnolia Street address. The theater was small and intimate with the audience sitting on opposite sides of the central staging area. Next Fall was a beautifully structured play that was non linear. Thomas played Adam who didn't believe in religion yet he fell in love with Luke who was a firm believer. Adam would constantly poke fun and even denigrate his partner's beliefs. When Luke is in an auto accident, Adam finds he can not visit him in the hospital because he wasn't "family". He shouted, "I want more time!" I welled up. A young woman seated directly across from us was also in tears. Seeing her reactions often pushed me over the edge. The actor's every step and breath was deeply felt in the intimate setting. I'm glad I wasn't sketching, because it might have distracted me from the overwhelming emotional force of the play.
Luke's father was a man's man who refused to admit his son's sexuality. He loved his son however and when he collapsed in grief, it was Adam who held him, comforting him with Luke's words of faith. Perhaps Adam had a deep well of faith that he chose to ignore but tragedy brought that faith and hope to light. When the lights came back up, I had to wipe my eyes.
After a standing ovation, the actors sat center stage for a talk back. They confided that they talk about the audience backstage. We were a particularly engaged audience that laughed loudly when things were funny. They knew we might be devastated when they dropped the boom.This play, written by Geoffery Nauffts, started in a tiny theater similar to Mad Cow. Elton John went to see the play and he was so moved by the production, that he decided to invest six million dollars to bring the play to Broadway. It is success stories like this that keep some actors in this business, whose main rewards are emotional, rather than financial. So many times I am finding my mission to sketch people every day has caused me to care deeply for the people I observe. In this way, artists are blessed.