Oh a Jane Austen play, I was giddy. A spin-off of Pride & Prejudice about Mary Bennet, the one always overlooked, getting her day at love. I immediately got ahold of the girl I knew would be my sidekick in all things Jane and we were in. We spent a frantic 15 minutes texting dates back and forth because I just knew they’d be sold out in less than that. Thus is life with me, the easiest sell in the world if I think there’s competition.
I looked up the seating chart, found great seats in the center front. The stage was far away, but at least we were in that first row. I was thrilled.
We debated about just wearing sweat pants because we’re tired, but settled on stretchy black leggings that neither of us admitted were what we also wore while pregnant three years ago. I wore a necklace to offset the sweater jacket that’s normally my ‘curled up in bed, reading a book’ look. Hopefully it’d been washed. We grabbed a quick dinner at Chipotle and talked about the usual – how we were gonna monetize everything we touched. It’s my favorite topic and nothing ever comes of it. I’m a dreamer.
And then we sat down.
Inches from the stage.
Do you see that gold line? That’s the end of the stage.
No big deal though, because we were prepared. At every stage of getting to our seats, we were warned of the dancing at the end. The ticket-checker guy: “Keep your legs tucked, there’ll be dancing.” The usher: “Your feet, keep them back. Just tellin’ ya.” The lady in the bathroom stall: “Just letting you know to watch your feet! Also, pass me some toilet paper.”
Got it. We’re ready.
The play was sweet. At intermission we analyzed the actors as if we were getting paid for it, because God knows we wouldn’t ever get paid for actually acting. But dissecting and judging, oh gosh yes. Jesyka notices the same small things that I do which made me want to wrap my arm in hers just like the Bennet sisters do while they walk and talk. It’s fun to have a fellow observer.
The lights did the little dim thing to let you know they were about to start and we looked at each other, knowing that this was going to be our time to shine, to prove that we really can listen and put our legs just so, delicately, properly, and tucked out of the way when they needed us to. We wouldn’t let you down, sweet actors of a bygone era.
And the dancing started. They laughed and went in circles and everyone in the front row looked up and down at each other knowing that we’d succeeded. No one had tripped. Jesyka and I’d even managed to keep a polite smile on our face instead of the normal awkward pained look we’re used to giving.
Mary found her love and we all started clapping.
And that’s when I remembered.
The standing ovation.
No one had warned us.
I looked around, wild thoughts in my head: maybe this time people will actually stay seated in their seats because when did we all of sudden become so flippant with the standing ovation wasn’t that just when the acting was exceedingly good and now every actor is getting one even the girl who played Lydia Bennet who we all could agree by scene two should’ve changed majors when she had the chance but now she is committed but doesn’t she know she’ll only get the flirty roles that require fluttering her eye lashes instead of actual acting? Oh god it’s happening. The back row just stood up. It’s starting, no no no no no…Maybe it’s like the wave at a baseball game, they’ll stand up then sit down. Nope, they’re still standing. Okay the lady next to me is super sweet and happy and cheerful and she’s still sitting so there might be a chance, oh no. Sweet lady is looking down the row to see if it’s our turn. I’ll make eye contact with her with the silent agreement that if she stays seating, we will too and that won’t diminish our love of Jane. She’s up. Deep breath. Jesyka – my last resort. Nope? Okay, here we go…
And we stood up. And they, the actors, the ones who perform with lights on them and the audience in darkness, were standing at the gold rim around the stage, less than a foot from my face.
Even this was way too far away. This seems like a dream compared to our experience.
I could actually see the pores on Elizabeth Bennet’s nose we were that close. She could see the chipotle in my teeth. When she’d take a bow, I felt like I should lean back on my chair so she wouldn’t face plant into my clapping hands. When she took a second bow, the wind of it blew my hair back.
No one warned us.
When they finally, after what felt like hours, exited stage left, Jesyka and I dropped into our seats to recover. Everyone filed out while we decompressed and tried to understand what just happened. Jesyka started laughing and then I did and then she started crying and then I did and we sat there crying and laughing and no one else in the theatre understood why.
She said, “I’m so glad that happened with you, Carolyn, because you’re weird and understand.” And I took that as a great compliment.