Anna Deveare Smith brings “Notes from the Field”

On 43rd and 8th after seeing Notes from the Field 

October 6th: the promo

I saw a Facebook post today that made me smile. Hard. Wide. Wisftfully. Nostalgically. One of my “idols” — the incomparable Anna Deavere Smith — was performing at my old workplace, Second Stage Theatre. Why the wist? A dozen years or so ago, I’d have been working on that show. Seeing that show poster reminded me of how there was something kinda magical about taking the A/C train at 135th Street every morning and getting out at Times Square to go to work, off-Broadway…in theatre!

It was my first proper job out of college (Marketing Assistant at Second Stage Theatre), that I’d head to from my first proper (basement) apartment in Harlem…the strange set-up notwithstanding (private bedroom, shared bathroom on the same floor, shared kitchen two floors up…) I got to work on some great shows there, featuring amazing performers and playwrights (as I did down the road in my previous gig as a marketing intern and temp at MCC Theater). It was a challenging time, of barely being able to make ends meet, 14-hour days (balancing arts admin work with performing work), poor nutrition, an ER visit, love after love, work after work… But (perhaps bolstered by a bit of nostalgia), seeing that show promo brought back really wonderful memories of exciting times full of hope and enthusiasm.

It also brought up a bit of sadness, as those memories of a time where there was theatre (and film, and TV) happening any and everywhere contrasted with my contemporary reality in Trinidad, where it seems the country sees little to no value in promoting theatre, film, music, or writing as an actual vocation, as an actual industry. If you doubt me, check the budgetary allocation for the creative industries this year relative to others.

I wondered if I might be able to swing seeing Smith on stage…since I had, heartbreakingly, barely missed Heather Headley’s brief return to Broadway in The Color Purple. Wouldn’t do to miss two of my favourites in one year…

The audience slowly building before the start of the show

November 17th: the performance

Oh another minute and I would have missed her! Once the reviews were released, the show came close to selling out — fast. But it happened. Truth be told, you can’t ever wade into  writing, performing, or producing one-woman shows or verbatim theatre about sociopolitical issues without studying the masterful Anna Deavere Smith. It’s just not possible. Smith, Staceyann Chin, Sarah Jones… You just cannot not see them if you can. And somehow, I’d been wanting to see Smith since I was in college, but it never happened. I had to content myself with buying her books and VHS tapes of her shows instead. But, now, one of the artists and humans who’s most inspired me was performing at my old workplace…and I got to finally check another item off the bucket list. It was so moving to walk back into that theatre for the first time in over a decade to watch her deliver another timely, powerful, and uplifting tour de force. So grateful. One of the highlights of my year!

May 2017 see a wash of items being gleefully checked off of my bucket list…

The past meets the present… The programme from Notes from the Field alongside my old business card when I worked at Second Stage

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