And how am I feeling now that I’m back in New York? That’s hard to say. I think I’m starting to find my way out of the bewildering maze of sorrow, for I no longer miss Hilary with the same round-the-clock intensity that came perilously close to sinking me in April. At the same time, though, her memory is never far from my mind, and I’m still as lonely as I ever was. And while I’ve kept myself busy writing about theater webcasts for The Wall Street Journal, I miss going to the theater in something not wholly unlike the way in which I miss my life’s companion.What I wrote about summer movies in Saturday’s Journal is no less applicable to live theater:
Be it a big-budget blockbuster or a small-scale tale of summer love, there is no substitute for watching a movie, in the summer or at any other time of year, in the company of silent, enthralled people huddled together in a darkened room.
Even more than moviegoing, playgoing is a collective experience. While it’s true that the webcasts I now review have turned out to be satisfying substitutes for live performance, I would give a great deal—anything but my health, in fact—to have seen them in the theater. Therein, of course, lies the catch: I can’t imagine that anyone in his right mind would knowingly expose himself to the ravages of COVID-19 merely to be immersed for an evening in the sounds of laughter and applause. That’s why nearly every performing-arts organization has suspended live performances until January, and we who live for theater are simply going to have to tough it out for the duration, contenting ourselves with webcasts until the pandemic is under control.
Like everyone else “in the profession,” I can’t help but wonder what the world of theater will look like a year from now. I expect, though, that a fair number of drama companies, including a few of the best-known ones, have closed their doors for good, and I fear greatly for the futures of the actors, directors, designers, and crew members who are now trying to figure out how to piece together a living. At the same time, I also believe deeply that theater, fulfilling as it does a fundamental need in the human soul for the collective communion of face-to-face storytelling, will ultimately reassert its claim on audiences. Marvelous though they are, movies are not enough. We need live theater, too, and I have faith—I think that’s the right word—that we will get it back.
For my own part, I don’t know how I’ve managed to survive the simultaneous losses of my beloved spouse and the art form to which I have devoted more than a decade and a half of my life. But I’m still here, and if Hilary’s death and the closing of America’s theaters didn’t kill me, then I figure I’m in it for the long haul. I hope you are, too.