The first stop on our tour was The Higley Center for the Performing Arts in Gilbert, Arizona – a suburb of Phoenix.
In the morning, a community outreach program bussed school students in to see a run-through of our production.
I remember field trips when I was a young child, and they were some of the most impactful moments in my formative years. Going into a theater for the first time took my breath away. “How could somebody make a room that big, and have a thousand or more people sitting together all at once?” I would think.
There were 700 kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders that showed up, and when the lights went down their voices went up. Nothing compares to the fevered pitch that can be reached by the delighted screams of small children, and when there are 700 of them…. Well, you’ll just have to imagine it. Some of them started to cry, due to being in the dark, and had to be taken outside. Little by little, those children that did leave could not contain their curiosity and came back in to watch the show.
I recalled a time back in the 90’s when a woman who drove almost two hours to see our production called me and said, “After seeing LUMA, my child can now go to sleep with the lights off.”
Listening to these kids clapping along with one of our numbers, I began to sob backstage and had to switch off my headset, as not to concern the other crew. I am a very emotional person to begin with, and the beauty and joy in the world repeatedly brings tears to my eyes and warmth to my chest.
The evening show was our world premiere the new work, Art in Darkness. My juggling experience really comes in handy when I’m in charge of seven cast members, six crew technicians, and one program director.
It’s show time now. The lights go down and the curtain opens. I am about as on edge as one could be. We never got a full rehearsal with all-new cues so this is not only our opening performance, but our first dress rehearsal as well.
The opening number concludes to no applause. Then another, and another… Still nothing.
I am feeling frightened and angry. I think to myself: “How can these people be so rude as to not applaud for what they are seeing? People have in the past, so why not now?”
The show concludes and the house lights are brought up. The cast is seen for the first time, and the audience breaks out into a raucous cheer. Some stand up to applaud.
What I had never seen before in my work, was an audience so enthralled and mesmerized by the story, so enraptured in the visuals and spectacle that they didn’t want to break the moment by applauding.
I know now, that this is the highest complement they could have given us. For the first time in all of the years of presenting LUMA, it is now more of a play, than a spectacle.
As one woman commented, “The only part I didn’t like was when it ended.”