The final curtain has fallen. The last bows have been taken. The audience has filed out, greeted us, congratulated us, and moved on with their lives. The costumes are put away, and only traces of makeup remain, to be thoroughly eradicated by the next day’s shower.
And now we strike. The process of striking the set is not a violent, destructive one. It is calculated, methodical, and organized. Our intricate set pieces are unscrewed, denailed, and disassembled, with the pieces sorted and put back where they came from. It is a near perfect reversal of the construction process. I imagine my fellow cast members regressing through the last month and a half of rehearsal, rapidly forgetting their lines, as they will all too shortly do. Walking backward out of the theatre quadrant, they will utter their farewell hellos and vanish into the past, existing not even as memories, for you cannot remember people you have not yet met.
I am reminded of reading, as a child, the Mary Poppins books, by P.L. Travers. They had much in common with the movie, but there was a richer, deeper quality to them, a subtle darkness that can only be appreciated, I think, by children. There were four books that I remember reading, although there may be more. I loved the magical adventures and imagined myself with the Banks children, drinking tea on the ceiling or talking with statues who had come to life.
But at the end of each story, I grew uncomfortable because I knew what would soon come to pass. Mary Poppins would not stay with the children, taking them on ever more adventures beyond the pages of the book. She always had to leave, sometimes hinting that she might return, but also silently reminding Jane and Michael and myself that eventually we would be too old for her to visit any more. At the end of each book, it did not matter how quickly I picked up the next book and began reading; in the space between, I waited an eternity, as Jane and Michael did, for Mary Poppins to return.
A few years later, when I was perhaps eleven or twelve, my parents suggested that I give the books to another family who had younger children. At first I protested vehemently, not wanting to let the stories out of my sight. But Mary Poppins must always leave. She is a busy nanny, and there are many children who need her ministrations. And as I handed the books over to younger hands, and saw the eager look in their eyes, I realized that, like Jane and Michael, I had grown too old for her. I read the books now, and enjoy them as well-written stories, and remember fondly the imaginative adventures of my youth, but it is not the same. I can still read about her, but Mary Poppins does not come to visit any more.
And so it is with the theatre. Part of me does not want to see it go, to see the friendships I have made in the last few weeks fade into the normal everyday kind. But the wind is in the west now, and all things must come to an end.
So goodbye to stage and curtains
And farewell to roles well played
Back to normal life returning
As the lights