Fall 2008. Election season. It’s all everyone and their blogroll is blogging about these days. Palin, McCain, Bidin, Obama, yada yada. I’ve clicked a couple job postings on craigslist with titles along the lines of “Bloggers wanted!”, thinking how incredible it would be if I could profit off writing I’d do anyway, but are they interested in theater and New York escapades? Nope. They all mention special interest in political posts. Well, that’s just not my scene. I’m not apathetic, I’m passionate about certain issues, I will most definitely vote in November, you can probably guess who I’ll vote for. But it’s not particularly interesting to me and I have absolutely no desire to delve into the mess of this campaign in my little corner of cyber space. Pass on politics.
Well, that was my original plan until last night when theater and politics collided in a particularly unforseen way.
We were warned at the start of our shift, long before the house opened. Greg, who shares charge of the same section as me, and I had a brief discussion and agreed they would be sitting in our section. Seriously (as previously discussed), anyone who’s anyone sits in our section. Sure enough, mere moments after this chat our supervisor approaches us, They’re sitting in your section. You don’t need to do anything really, the secret service are five billion times more scary/capable/better paid then you know what to expect. Can you handle it? I’ll move you if you think it’ll be to much. And miss out on being in the center of the action? Are you crazy? We will handle it!
Over the next half hour the theater fills up as usual. Lots of “up the stairs, 3rd row to your right” and “it ends around 10:40” nothing exciting. Then at about 7:55pm I see a procession arriving from the stage door entrance and before I even look over, the theater erupts into applause. Flanked by huge men in suits and intimidating earpieces Hillary, Bill, and Chelsea -the entire Clinton family minus Socks- enter the theater and head straight toward my section.
This super high profile political family having a night on the town, going to see a rock musical in Central Park. Wow, who would’ve thought? It was amazing to watch how their presence effected the entire show. The audience had a level of energy and excitement that you usually only see at sporting events, events where the outcome of the night is not predetermined. This energy and excitement was also noticeable in the cast. By their seventh week of the run where I had seen every show, I definitely noticed the novelty wearing off, the tediousness of performing the same thing every night setting in, moments of phoning it in- all extremely subtle and surely only something a fellow actor would notice. Well, with the Clintons in the house the cast performed better, fresher, with more energy then ever and it was truly awesome to watch. There is a moment in the show where one character goes into the audience to point out his mother, “Oh my God, my mom is here tonight! wave to the people, Mom. I love you.” Every night a different woman is chosen- sometimes she looks like she could be his mom, sometimes she’s a hot chick, sometimes she’s not even a woman. That night he got Hillary to stand up in the role of His Mom and it was hilarious.
My section at intermission was a mad scene. Everyone in the theater wanted to say Hi and shake the hands of the former president and senator. Greg and I went crazy and I thoroughly lost my voice yelling at people “Ladies and gentlemen this is a fire hazard! You need to clear a path! CHILL THE FUCK OUT!!” I certainly earned my minimum wage for that hour. I was expecting an even worse situation after the show, but the secret service suits blocked off the area right before curtain call so all I had to do was my usual “make sure no one takes pictures” duty. This puts me facing the audience as they watch the bows. Which had me 2 feet away from Hillary, Bill,and Chelsea. I did a pretty awful job looking for cameras that night, I hope people appreciate the illegal pictures they were able to snap because I couldn’t resist watching the Clintons as they applauded.
I watched in hopes of answering my burning question: how did they like the show? Their response was positive, they stood up with the rest of the crowd, clapping along, they didn’t leave at the earliest possible moment- but as I stood searching for an answer I was hit by I scary realization.
There was no way in hell I’d ever know.
That’s not the scary part, that is the duh part. The scary part to me was realizing that no matter what they actually thought of the show, the only way they could ever respond to the show was the “appropriate way”, the way they were “supposed to”, the way the public would want them to or think that they should. As I stood there sneaking looks, realizing this, I was overcome with sadness. The actors on stage were all done with their performances for the night, but here Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea were continuing theirs. Their act is one that carries through any public appearance of any kind. I imagined how awful it must be to not be able to be yourself for fear that people won’t like you and thus not vote for you. How awful to try to get everyone to like you. To kiss the babies, shake the hands, smile even if you feel like shit. I watched Hillary’s plastered on cheerful face as she applauded and realized how much politicians have in common with actors. We say the world is our stage, but that is bullshit when you think how literally true it is for politicians. Humbling.
As they left the theater I gave them a wave good-bye, they’ve done so many good things on a world scale and on top of that they support theater=major respect from yours truly, which they saw and then, with a look of sincere thanks in their eyes, both Bill and Hillary sought out my hand to shake as they departed. Wow. Quite a night.
I have a whole new understanding of politics from this and while in awe it also makes me strangely sad.