The below is a cross-post from my private (that is, friends) blog but I think it is important here because it is one of the things that inspires me. Certainly the play I went to that day was great to see, but it is the people-watching that energizes my writing.
The Birth of a Broadway Babe
It was to be my second and last viewing of the play A Steady Rain. I hadn’t intended on doing it again but something drove me there. Perhaps it was the fifth row ticket that answered my knock on the door of the Telecharge website.
I settled into my seat noting that the Schoenfeld does provide some knee room where their more expensive tickets play, when a mountain of a man stepped over me and sat down next to me, crossing his arms in one simple gesture of “I don’t want to be here.” Great, always good to have an amiable seat-mate.
I decided to ignore him but there was no doing that. Turning only his head and not his body he asked in a broad NewYawk accent, “How long is this thing?”
Okay, right there he had my back up. I’d just paid $150 to watch a “thing?” I think not.
“An hour and 30 minutes but there’s a fund-raiser for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS after so it will probably be about one forty five before you can sprint out of the theatre.”
I wondered at someone so bent on not being a place the entry to which he had paid $150.
I thought that would be the end of the conversation, but no.
“They’re raising money for AIDS?”
I got ready to defend it but before I could open my mouth he said:
But he was still looking straight ahead at the stage as if studying a perp.
“My wife thought I should come. She bought me the ticket. I always do what she says.”
Suddenly it dawned on me.
“Are you NYPD?”
He turned slowly in my direction.
“Brooklyn, yeah. My badge showing?”
“Nope, just a good guess.”
“You a profiler?”
“No, just a New Yorker.”
“She said it’s a play about cops. She went because she likes one of the guys in the play. I never been to a play before. Not even in High School.”
I wondered for a beat about someone living in NY who had a wife who liked plays but had never been himself. But I only wondered for a beat because Mr. Only-looks-at-the-stage was off on another run-on paragraph.
“She thinks I’ll like it. Will I?”
I decided to go for minimalist.
“Do you like Law and Order?”
“It’s Law and Order without the car chase and set in Chicago.”
He relaxed a bit.
The ushers began with their song and dance.
“The magic (where did they get that phrase) will begin shortly. Please turn off your cell phones. No photography is allowed anywhere in the theatre…”
“What magic?” He mumbled to the curtain.
I decided it best not to answer.
The lights went down. The music hummed in the background. The curtain went up.
By now, for me, the best show was in the audience.
I arranged myself so that I could see him on the edge of my peripheral vision. His arms were still crossed but he chuckled a bit when Hugh Jackman made his opening remarks about being a Nielson family.
Five minutes into the play and I turned again slightly to my left. His arms were uncrossed, he was leaning slightly forward.
Then they described the bullet through the front window. He leaned farther forward and relaxed, his hands clasped between his knees. He stayed like this for the rest of the hour and a half. I think he had started becoming one with the play. When the audience was startled, as it is, by two of the revelations, he heard them as a cop would. He didn’t gasp or catch his breath like the audience; there was just a barely audible “shit” under his breath.
He came up for air only when he was carried there by the thunderous applause of the audience at the end of the play. Immediately he was on his feet taking cue, perhaps from the people in front of us, but his emotion was genuine and his applause louder almost than the rest of the thousand or so people in the theatre.
We settled back into our seats for the fund-raiser. Now he was a bit more relaxed and amiable.
“So deese guys. I seen ‘em somewhere before.”
I went Mona Lisa on him.
Hugh Jackman began to speak.
“Where the hell, pardon, did that come from?”
He seemed flummoxed by Hugh’s transition from Chicago cop to Australian actor.
“Australia,” I answered somewhat facetiously.
Then Daniel Craig began to speak in the Queen’s English.
The light dawned.
He smiled at his triumph of recognition.
“I’d a never known.”
He shook his head.
“But where do I know the other one from?”
I took his few words for my cue.
I pointed at his Playbill and he studied it.
“Very well I might add.”
Jackman and Craig slipped off their shirts to reveal the wifebeaters that they were about to auction for BC/EFA and I thought I heard my companion mutter,
“I need to go to the gym more.”
But I may have been mistaken.
Then Hugh announced that Sunday night’s performance would benefit in part the NYCPBA Widows & Children’s Fund.
We were rising from our seats when he asked, “How would one go about getting tickets for Sunday night?”
He was hooked.
“I think the wife would like to see it again.”
I suppressed a snork and pointed him in the direction of the box office. I, being the older than middle-aged woman I am, headed for the ladies. But I was to have one last encounter with my Brooklyn cop.
As I came out of the alley and around the corner to the front of the theatre he was just coming out, tickets in hand.
“I showed him my credit card and my badge and got good seats for us on Sunday.”
He waved the tickets at me and beamed.
I think I saw the making of a theatre convert, Brooklyn style.