Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Monday, September 18, 2006


Once upon a time, a long time ago -- OK, really just a few years ago -- I was lucky enough to work at the Clarence Brown Theatre on the UT campus in Knoxville.

It was a whim. I hadn't done a play in six years at that point in my life, and I thought I was going to go crazy if I didn't at least go to an audition. I saw a notice in the newspaper, and the CBT never holds open auditions for the great unwashed. (Y'know -- I'm not a card-carrying member of Actors Equity.) I went to the audition. I got a call-back. I went to the call-back. And while I was there with what seemed like hundreds of other called-back actors -- most of whom had better credentials and resumes than I -- I saw a girl who I knew was great.

Great. Like, dictionary great. Monumental, stupendous, stunningly better than everyone else.

And unbelievably, I was cast as her mother. Wow, I thought, what a terrible imbalance. There I was, play-acting my way through the role of a mother whose two children both die unfairly young, and there's Addie, being the most perfect Emily I ever had the privilege to see, much less share a stage with. I spent most of the production just freaking out at how absolutely sublime Addie was.

The thing was -- and I know you may groan when I say it -- the play was Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." Yes, every cheezy community theater, every high school drama club has produced "Our Town." It grew to be an enormous cliche long before I ever went to that audition. I had to read the play in high school, and I even worked on the stage crew when I was 14, and I saw it on TV and at two other community theaters before I ever got married and started living. I mean, I honestly thought I knew what it was all about.

Then I saw Addie play Emily. I had to stand there and pretend that making breakfast for this magnificent girl was an ordinary part of her life. It's a throw-away moment -- it's the kind of thing that you just do automatically, day in and day out, until the day that you can't do it any more.

Irony: My daughter's name is Emily.

I could go on forever about how I changed the way I dropped Emily off at school during that play. I used to tell her to rush, hustle, get out of the car and out of the driveway so the other moms could pull up and let out their children. During "Our Town," I started hugging my Emily before she got out of the car. It was a tiny moment, but I wanted her to know that every day -- every single day -- I loved her and appreciated her as a human being.

The night that my daughter came to see the play, she was out in the theatre with Wesley, and I was in the dressing room trying to put on make-up and my wig and get wrestled into that horrid corset. But I couldn't do it. I kept crying. I ran into Addie in the rest room, where I was trying to tidy up my make-up again. I will never, ever forget the way she hugged me while I stood there and bawled, "I didn't know it was going to affect me this way. I didn't know. I didn't know."

Addie just held me and patted me on the back, and then she turned in the best performance yet. I stood in the wings and watched her third-act monologue and tried not to cry so hard that the audience could hear me.

I suppose I could say it was Thornton Wilder who wrote the play and forced me to think about the importance -- and brevity -- of life and love. But really, it was Addie.

Last night I saw her for the first time in -- oh, too many years. She is a very, very good singer/songwriter now, and she's touring a bit for the next couple of months. If you get a chance to see Addie, go and get a glimpse of that poetry in her soul that made me behave a little bit differently. I'm happy to say that she is still a darling girl, and absolutely as talented as ever.

And -- her hugs are just as sweet as my own real daughter's, too.


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