Backstage Writers – Think Hope Do


Postmodern Challenges – Defining Impact

Fans of the Metro 14

Julian plants himself in front of me. “Who do you love ?” he asks. The others snicker. I feel mortified.

He leans forward. I smell red wine and that enticing cologne he puts on just before rehearsals. “Who do you love ?” he barks.

Dead silence in the room. I’m blank.

Julian steps back and glances at the others. “If you can’t love, you can’t act,” he says.

Everyone shifts around. We’re used to Julian’s lectures. Of course, I’m feeling more than exposed. I wrote the text and still can’t get right. I wrote it for Camille. She would “overflow” like Julian wants. She’d get that emotion the audience senses through body language and an innate sense of authority. I wasn’t supposed to take on the role myself. “Yearning,” Julian says. “Whatever you’ve got, make us feel it.”

“I understand,” I say. “I just need-”

“Who is it?” Julian insists. “A rock star? Movie actor? Politician? Who do you love?”

The others start shouting out names. They think they know me and argue amongst themselves. Someone says Peter Falk. Sad glances. I’m still blank.

“That settles it,” Julian says. “We’re going to a concert.”

No one asks which concert. Julian has been a die-hard fan of the group Burnt Yellow for over 25 years. He’s been known to miss opening nights to see this group perform. Jacques gives him flack for it. How could a director abandon his troop to go ogle his idols? I admire Julian. He takes Jacques’ smirking in stride. This group is important to him. I’m happy to find out why.

We are there, down in front, backstage passes in hand. Anticipation. Fans call out to the artists who bide their time out of sight. The effervescence becomes irresistible. I’ve never seen this group before, but I can’t wait till they hit the stage and ignite this crowd. They appear, and there I am, clapping as if they’re saviors because they are, in a way. On stage they change lives.

Julian’s fan friends know every song. They connect with the special intros, the glances exchanged during solos, the amusing quirks of the back-up band. Julian looks happy. I can see why. Luxuriant is how he describes this seductive, soul-tingling music, and he’s right. The combination of the voices, the magic her voice adds to his. They become more than a duo. Together, they produce layers of throaty richness and vibrancy that swell like desire to reach raging moments of climax then echo in the subsequent calm, as stirring as the lonely void of cathedrals and valleys. Love, Julian would call it. Love in overflow. We feel it, on stage, and here, in this audience soaring on shared wings. I’d call it momentum, hype, yearning, yes, but also dreading because there will be that one final song.

But for the fans it’s not over. For those of us with passes, it’s just the beginning. We go talk to these exhausted performers. I think of how I feel after one of our shows. No one raves over me, but people like to make contact. I appreciate the support. Here we wait in this backstage open room, a transit area for equipment and props. It’s empty now with only a handful of folding chairs. No one takes one. The artists wander in and kiss the fans they’ve known for years. They’re friends. The rest of us are just faces in the crowd, but the man and woman cast happy glances our way. Julian pulls us forward, one after the other. Jacques looks irritated. I wish I could make him relax. He’s spoiling Julian’s high moment. No, I take that back. Nothing could spoil this moment for Julian, and I feel happy for him. Pleasure no one can squelch. The artists talk about how much they appreciate Julian. We say the same. I go home feeling confused. I’ve seen lots of love, lots of overflow. I see what Julian’s getting at. Fans are people who love, people who love selflessly. He would probably argue that fan love is the purest form of love and exactly what an actor should be able to pull up on demand. He’s made his point. I just don’t feel anything. I don’t get being a fan…

… until that next morning.

There’s a whole flock of them, crowded in the front car of the Metro 14, the driverless subway train. They’re kids, eight or nine years old. They chatter then squeal as the train bolts out of Saint Lazare station. In a moment it veers to the left. The kids scream and fall on their male supervisor. I laugh, and he casts an apologetic look at the rest of us fans of the Metro 14. I’d never thought about it, but if those kids hadn’t beat me to the seat next to the front window, I’d be watching the train hurtle through the tunnel. I’d get a rush out of that near-death sensation of trains crossing at full speed, only a hand’s distance apart. We pull into Madeleine. The kids can hardly contain themselves. I think of Julian. It’s not love he wants. It’s fire. Of course, he would argue love is fire. He and I go around and around with our definitions. Call it what you want, love, passion. Julian wants whatever it takes to set us off. And he’s right, an actor has to love, and yes, why not get his love from seeing someone else love.

Now I wonder how Julian would feel about love at full speed on the Metro 14.

Category: Backstage

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2 Responses

  1. I love riding the metro 14 at full speed, sitting in the very front of the train.

  2. MyrtilleDesMontagnes says:

    Ah, ce Julian, je pense le connaitre !
    Des Juliens en puissance…

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If you want to mess up someone’s life, steal his post-its

Nothing is set in stone – Changes as they happen on Center Stage

-I’m not sitting here, Fran!

-Oh Tod.

-Don’t start that, Fran.

-He did say, “Center Stage.”

-Why us?

-We’re props, Tod.

-Why’d he choose us, Fran? We’re not the only Americans. We weren’t first in line. Is it my weight? Is it your-

-He looked so pleased to put us here.

-And so we’re just going to sit here ‘cause “Monsieur” looked pleased? Are you nuts, Fran?

-Oh, Tod. You wanted something contemporary… You like being on stage.

-I can’t even talk to you.

-Don’t touch them!

-There’s got to be a back door. Don’t want to step over your “Monsieur”. Why’s he standing guard like that?

-Tod, you never touch the curtains in a theatre.

-Why the hell not? Let me guess, because theatre is like life? Is that it, Fran? You don’t turn your back on anybody, and you don’t touch his curtains? You’re pathetic, Fran!

-Sit down, Tod.

-I don’t like that tone, Fran.

-What tone?

-That sweet little voice of yours! I hate it when you get all nice. I know what you’re thinking.

-If you don’t want to-

-Stop whispering, Fran!

-If you don’t want to be part of the spectacle, sit down and try to act-

-Act how?

-Now is not the time.

-Come on, Fran, how should I act?

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