The Show Must Go On: In Life and at Carnegie Hall

The cliché: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.
New York Cliché: How do I get to Carnegie Hall? A friend gets me comp tickets.


The view from my seat, second row center, is remarkable. I can see every furrow of concentration on the cellist’s brow. I witness the many colors- from pink to magenta to purple- that turn on the bassoonist’s face as he commands his instrument in a career defining solo. I notice that none of the violin players wear wedding rings. I find myself lost in the music and my thoughts: do left hand bands impede playing or does this orchestra only allows single violinists?

The seats of Carnegie Hall are cushioned and comfortable. One expects no less from a venue of this renown. Now into the fourth and final movement of the concert featuring contemporary American composers, the audience has adjusted to the cutting-edge modernism. The opening piece wove a harsh radio broadcast into the atonal music. Our ears grew accustomed to many unconventional methods of achieving sound from instruments. The concert closer is a piece that combines two artistic methods- orchestral music and film. The lights dim, music stands illuminated only by personal clip lights. The conductor raises his hands, moving images appear on the screen, and the instrumentalists begin.

It’s something of a strange piece, which according to the program, explores “the controversy and global implications of- and human need for-fossil fuels”. The industrial inspiration in the music is evident. The film is less impressive, odd angles of construction cranes. Just as the audience settles back into the mood of the music, a stage hand steps on stage. An action even stranger than the music playing. He comes down stage right to center, where he gestures to the conductor. The conductor cuts of the orchestra and my jaw drops. I am truly shocked. This is Carnegie Hall! Who ever heard of stopping a piece? As the cliché goes- the show must go on! Exactly what the hell is going on here?

carnegie hall performance
Not since my high school band concert (fun fact: I played trombone)have I witnessed an orchestra starting a piece and stopping in the middle! Unheard of! [image via]

The conductor makes some joke about technical difficulties. The audience laughs appreciatively. For the next ten minutes we sit while they try to adjust the visual. I sit and catalogue the experience. This stop and start-over scenario is a performer’s nightmare. For actors especially. Now if I ever blank out, choke on my own spit, or have an uncontrollable coughing fit (yes, these are real fears) while on stage I will instantly feel better. I can go back and start over! It’s okay! They do it at Carnegie Hall!

The longer it takes to fix the issue, the deeper I’m left with thoughts. The next thing I know I’m looking at the situation as a metaphor for my life. Even world-class institutions have road blocks. Something goes wrong, they have to stop, evaluate, put in the time to assess and fix the problem. No one in the audience is sitting here thinking, “Jesus Christ, Carnegie, get it together! What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you have this figured out? You stink!” Not one person is thinking that. There is not a single doubt that the issue will be fixed. The piece will start over and we’ll hardly remember this happened.

I know that is the way of my life as well. Except with my life, there is one person looking at it with judgement, with vicious negative thoughts. One who might cry out in a darkened concert hall, “YOU SUCK!” That person is- you guessed it- me. On top of aforementioned quarter-life crises, a recent discovery only added cliché insult to injury. It sucks to realize the man I loved, the one I gave my heart to and trusted completely, is actually an asshole. Was from the beginning. I can’t stop beating myself up about it. Why didn’t I trust my instincts? How did I allow him to treat me like that? Wow, do people look at me and say, ‘She must think little of herself if she settled for that loser’? As if I’m the first person to ever be fooled in the game of love. As if I’m the last.
(I’ll write more on this when the feelings aren’t so fresh.)

I have a kindred spirit: the poor person in the lighting booth who is freaking out that he messed up the visuals. I sit and imagine his agony, so alike to mine. Why is it taking him so long to fix this? His hands are shaking, Is this going to get me fired? Maybe I’m not even qualified to do this job? Everyone in this audience must hate me and think I’m incompetent! He shouts swear words, cursing himself and the machines. He punches the wall in frustration when yet another hopeful solution fails. WHY THE FUCK IS THIS TAKING ME SO LONG TO FIGURE OUT?

It’s easy to forget the guy in the tech booth. Unless something goes wrong. [image via]
He did figure it out. The piece began again with the full, proper film, and no one gives it a second thought. Except me. If the tech guy figured it out, I will too. Sure, this has no doubt ruined his night, perhaps even his week. But soon the rough patch will pass. One day we’ll look back on our perspective moments of frustration, however short or long, and laugh. We both will.

For now, my struggle continues.

Free concert tickets make it easier.

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

20 thoughts on “The Show Must Go On: In Life and at Carnegie Hall

  1. An aspiring young writer once asked Henry James what he, who wanted to be a writer, should do. “Be someone on whom nothing is lost,” said James. Your Carnegie Hall posting is an admirable demonstration of this idea. Well done!

  2. I’m sorry about your breakup. That always sucks. But this was a wonderful post. I enjoyed your comparisons and dramatization of the tech guy. Having been the tech person, I think you hit the nail on the head.

  3. Life is compromise. No one is going to be totally happy. Conflict is inevitable. The only question is how much do you wish to compromise your position. My wife is a vegetarian and I ate meat. Talk about a mixed marriage. Yet here we are married since 1970, three kids, two grandchildren and maybe twenty sticky points later. Hang in there even Carnegie Hall has its lumps of problems.

  4. I wish you all the best. You are not alone / can’t tell how much time I’ve spent in the wrong relationship(s) BUT life offers us do-overs…..second chances…..when you forgive, let go, and move forward the Orchestra of life swoops you up and carries you higher than you were before. There is Hope in every note. Trust.

  5. I’m sorry to hear about your partner and your painful struggle, but as your title says. Life must go on! right? congratulations on being freshly pressed 🙂

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