Meeting Patti Cohenour
You know how sometimes you send an email to someone you've never met before, just to tell them how much you enjoyed their performance in The Light in the Piazza, and how much you've loved their voice for the past two decades (only without knowing it, because the Big River CD liner notes don't exactly say who sings what)? And how they respond, very graciously, with an invitation to visit them backstage at the Vivian Beaumont the next time you're in town? And how of course you then have to plan another trip to The Light in the Piazza because how could you possibly say no to such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Especially when you've fallen more deeply in love with this show each time you've seen it, and how can you not see it again when you know it's ending forever in just a few short weeks? And how you're totally a sucker for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities?
And how, after you're seated on your plane at O'Hare, the flight attendant gets on the horn to inform everyone that there's a mechanical problem with the plane and they're sending it back to the hangar but luckily there's an identical plane just two gates down so will you all kindly reboard that flight in your exact same seats? Which of course means a two-hour delay on a Friday afternoon when you've already missed lunch? And you know how crabby you get when you miss lunch? And how when you finally land and struggle through LaGuardia-to-New York City rush-hour traffic to your hotel you scarcely have time for dinner, much less the nap you so desperately need, because you're due at the Vivian Beaumont in less than two hours?
And how none of that matters anymore when you take your seat and the lights go down and the curtain rises (I'm kidding, there is no curtain) because you're transported to a different place through this story and these characters and these actors and this music? And how you wipe a couple of tears away throughout, during the same scenes, and during different scenes, and think what miracle is it that allowed a show like this—small, quiet, hopeful, joyous—to live and survive here at all when they're handing out best musical awards to Spamalot?
And how at the end, when the lights come up and the curtain falls (I'm kidding, there is no curtain), you feel a little sick to your stomach because now you have to somehow find your way downstairs and backstage alone to meet someone you've never met before while managing to not make a complete ass out of yourself in a weird fangirl-stalker kind of way, because you're probably too old to still be doing this sort of thing and shouldn't you find some different ways to spend your time?
And how, when you tap-tap-tap your Lincoln Center Footwear through the long empty hallways of the Vivian Beaumont lower level, knees shaking as you stare at the posters of all that's come before you here, you're tempted to turn around and run right back out the way you came, with no one the wiser, and flee into the dark night?
And then you know how you go on anyway, moving forward, and how when you reach Dressing Room #12 you stand outside the door for a long moment and knock softly and take a deep breath and hold it in? And how when the door opens, the woman you've just been watching on stage for the last two-and-a-half hours greets you with a big smile and holds out a hand and pulls you into a warm hug and says, "I'm so glad to meet you!"? And how she's grateful you're there and you're grateful just for who she is and for the marvelous gift of what she can do, for whatever chord it is that she strikes in you when she performs, and how she says, "Please, have a seat," and takes the time to talk with you for over half an hour, and tells you to stay even when new people arrive, and how she walks you out the stage door afterwards and invites you back the next afternoon? And how the next afternoon she's sitting with friends and you feel like a fool—or worse, a nuisance—knocking on the door again, but she invites you in with another smile and another hug and remembers your name without prompting and says "Stay!" and is just as kind and gracious and welcoming as the night before? And how on your walk back uptown afterwards, in the hot sun and the hot humidity, you have to stop and ask yourself, "Is anyone really, truly, honestly this nice?" Knowing that somehow they are?
This was exactly like that.