A long Facebook post about the final performance at the EXIT Theatre on Eddy Street in San Francisco, which gave its final performance on November 19, 2022. The show was “Adventures in Place”, a collection of first person, in progress works about the COVID-19 Pandemic, written and performed by a variety of EXIT artists and myself. The following contains my summation of the final show, as well as the text of my final monologue in the space.
A number of people have asked me how the last show at the EXIT went, what happened, and, most importantly, how I “finished it.” An expression that makes it hard not to think of shooting Old Yeller, or winning Mortal Kombat. I supposed you could say we did both.
While some nights killed it over others, like any production, overall the show was consistently solid, and authentic, and sentimental. It was not as well attended as I would have liked, as I had hoped for my fellow artists (tagged above), and for the space itself. I was/am honestly a bit dismayed by the folks who never manifested once during the run, let alone on closing night, especially considering how many people posted about the tragedy of the EXIT closing. The Last Run at the EXIT was maybe the least attended run of anything I’ve ever been personally involved with there, but even still, we managed to pay everyone who helped make it happen, and for the audience that did make it, some multiple nights, there were laughs and tears as artist after artist knocked it out of the park. We put on a really good show. If not everyone made it out, well, at least the right people did.
The final evening ran a little long. At the last moment I decided to add two more presenters to the night because I wanted everyone who wanted to perform to have a chance to do so. Changing the order of everything and adding two wildcards meant I had a hard time focusing all evening but I’m sure having given one of my best performances in anything ever on Friday the 18th, probably also set up Saturday to feel a little anticlimactic. For the very final performance of the evening, and the theater, I gave an Olympians lecture, on a subject that would have been included in Year 11, the year that was bumped from the boards by the Pandemic. I got the idea to do this when I first woke up Saturday morning, and wrote it all out by hand over the course of my work day at the Food Bank. Maybe because it was new, or maybe it was because it was the last thing, I, in spite of a few stumbles, knocked this one out of the park, even fielding a curveball halfway through. I’ll just… leave that up for interpretation. Live. Theater.
The picture is not from that final night. It was taken by my friend Kevin on the first Saturday of the run. I just like it the most of all the pictures taken. And of course, this is not a word for word translation of what happened, this was just the script. You’ll have to harass Paul Anderson for the actual footage.
Anyway, here’s Wonderwall.
“Depending on how you add it up, I have, over the years, given 92 or more Olympians lectures: one for every night of the festival, except the year when Jeremy Cole delivered 10 of them on my behalf, while I was performing in the Custom Made Theatre Company production of CHESS. I say “or more” because many nights have multiple subjects, so depending on how you look at it, I gave multiple lectures. The Pandemic prevented year 11 of the Festival, so I was never able to give the lecture you’re about to hear, which like any good Olympians lecture, will be a little history, a littler personal spin, and some hardcore lit theory. For those of you who are wondering what that means, it’s my personal way of reminding you that English Majors don’t make love, we fuck. With your brain.
“So, let’s talk about Cinderella.
“First, some History. Cinderella is arguably the most popular story in the world, told for thousands of years, through various adaptations, found in every culture. At its core it is the story of young woman living in forsaken conditions, that suddenly change to remarkable fortune, usually culminating in ascension to a throne. In the West, the earliest known version of the story comes to us from Greek writer Strabo, who tells the story of the maiden Rhodipis, circulating as early as 7 BC. In this version she is a Greek slave girl, who is really royalty, and after many trials marries the King of Egypt. The first version that most resembles what we know as Cinderella is published by Giambattista Basile in 1634 in Italy, and the Brothers Grimm include a version in their famous compendium published in 1812- yes, the year of the Overture. The version we usually know best, though, is French writer Charles Perrault’s published in 1697.
“My favorite version of Cinderella is told in, no surprise here, the 1987 Broadway musical INTO THE WOODS by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. In this version of Cinderella she is famously indecisive, a wildly intelligent, fundamentally kind, occasionally negligent, and always dreamy young aristocrat. She starts and ends the show singing its theme of “I Wish”, bookending the text, her portion of which explores the conflict between getting what she wished for- to go to The Ball- and getting more than she can handle, namely in the form of a challenging but insincere prince. The most resillient of the characters, she endures sorrow, abuse, trial, more abuse, a brief period of restless and awkward respite, and then all of the second act. She thus also embodies the shows darker theme that what we wish for often comes with a price. Even if that price is ultimately the loss we feel when we inevitably lose the wish we got. Or find it is no longer what we really wanted.
“Cinderella in INTO THE WOODS is the first character in a play that I personally identified with. My sister will tell you it is all because of her act two declaration that, “Sometimes I really enjoy cleaning” but really it’s because of her act one soliloquy, “On The Steps of The Palace.” In the song, Cinderella is stuck in the moment before she leaves the famous shoe that will eventually bring her and the Prince together. In a twist that radically changes the story, Lapine and Sondheim have her decide to intentionally leave the shoe instead of accidentally losing it, giving us a Cinderella who has a hand in her own destiny, agency. But the part that gets me emotionally is how close she comes to choosing NOT to do that, singing, “Better run along home, and avoid the collision. Even though they don’t care, you’d be better off there, where there is nothing to choose, so there’s nothing to lose.” The song, you understand, is the first time I had ever seen a depiction of how my own mind works, the narrative and counter narrative dancing around each other, and thus also the first time I’d seen dramatized the same emotional and intellectual paralysis that I have battled since I was a child. And then triumph over it, in the next verse, which Cinderella does, demonstrating that it was possible. THAT, and not her becoming a princess is Cinderella’s happy ending. Or rather, it is her happy beginning. She has, after all, all of Act Two coming.
“Which brings us to the lit theory, and Liminal Space.
“The concept of Liminal Space, a space between spaces that temporarily becomes a space of its own, is very pervasive in fairy tales and mythology. Common liminal spaces were crossroads and graveyards, places where journeys, even the journey of Life and Death itself, might intersect, and the people on those journeys might encounter beings or events that would change their lives or teach them something. Liminal Space did not have to be physical either, it could be temporal: Sunrise and Sunset, for instance, were Liminal Spaces, with many characters in old stories who can only exist during these times or whose identity would change between these two bookends. Another example would be Midnight and Noon. Cinderella, who must always leave the The Ball before midnight and usually does so via a grand staircase, itself a Liminal Space as it connects the Outside World with the fantasy world of The Ball, is pretty much the poster child of Liminal Space. She is a person defined by her transformation. Since Liminal Spaces were often gateways and things or people could pass through them, just as Cinderella passes into the Ball (and out again) so too does the Prince in pursuit of her, making him fundamentally a creature of another world. Liminal Spaces were often haunted, or places one could be trapped if one wasn’t careful. Especially with one’s heart. And Lapine and Sondheim beautifully alludes to the many doomed romances of people from different worlds when, in Act Two, Cinderall and her Prince amicably part ways, both admitting he will always love the maiden who ran away, and she the faraway prince. Some Love can exist only in Liminal Space. Or one could argue that Love itself is the ultimate Liminal Space.
“My favorite fairy tale is Cinderella. My favorite Liminal Space, is the Theater. Like the maiden who wants to go to a Ball, I want, not a life of balls, per se- and pun fully intended- but a life of experiences. A life of meaning. And while I can’t always find those in my day to day, I have more often than not found them at The Theater. At the Theater you can have so many experiences, and hear and see so many more- as many as the world and the imagination can offer. At The Theater you can be someone else, or you can be yourself, or you can even be both at the same time. You can dance at The Theater. You can sing. You can raise The Dead if you want, or you can even meet a prince, so long as you leave before Midnight, or are prepared to potentially leave pursued, or without something you went in with. But maybe something you gained? Maybe a prince? Or a shoe? Or a purpose? The point is, you never leave the same.”
(Close the book.)
“Please hold your applause. I’m going to go sit in my favorite seat. The place I basically have sat, every time I sat in the audience here, from the first time I sat here in 2006.”
(Move to Chair.)
“I have watched so many shows here. Usually next to this guy.”
(Put your arm around CODY.)
“Okay, everyone stop looking at us, turn around.”
(Look at empty stage.)
“Look at all that Liminal Space.”
(Give it a moment.)
“Hey Beth, please go to black.”
(Fade to black. If they don’t applaud, remember you’re a Director.)
“Okay, now you can applaud.”