By J.A. Gooch

Ever since I was a young boy, I ‘ve had a curious infatuation with the theatre.  Now, I don’t know what exactly about the twinkling stage lights, the eccentricity of the costumes, the Technicolor pallets of elaborate makeup, and the jubilant music would tickle the fancy of a little gay kid, but there you have it.  From the day my four-year-old self saw Julie Andrews twirl about on that iconic Austrian hillside, rocking her Justin Beiber haircut in the film adaptation of Rogers and Hammerstein’s ‘The Sound of Music’, I have been a diehard fan of the art form—so much so, in fact, that I even decided to wed a singer/actor (Now, before you groan, we have accepted our perpetual poverty.  After all, a writer AND an actor?  It doesn’t necessarily scream luxury, does it?).  But all jokes aside, the question remains as to why I have developed such an ardent fondness of the dramaturgical.  I suppose the attraction was born from sheer necessity.  

As you may know, two Sundays ago was the 71st Annual Gayest Night in New York City (AKA the Tony Awards), and you bet “your bottom dollar” (See what I did there?) that our happy little behinds were glued to the couch as we watched the tension unfold in Radio City Music Hall.  With the string of accolades and acceptance speeches growing larger and longer—not to mention the show stopping spectacles from Broadway’s biggest and best—so did our itch to see first handed why these productions were selected to receive the most prestigious award in American theatre.  And because we hadn’t the time this year for a proper birthday celebration (Our birthdays fall within two weeks of one another.), my fiancé and I decided then and there to pay a visit to the Big Apple and take bite for ourselves.  So the following weekend we hopped in the car and headed to NYC, completely elated by the reality of seeing at least one show on the Great White Way.  Little did we know, however, what the Broadway gods that be had in store.   

Initially, we had only planned to witness the great Glenn Close reprise her role as Norma Desmond, the infamous has-been starlet of the silent screen, in the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s award-winning ‘Sunset Boulevard’.  And to tell you the truth, despite also having the chance to see the Divine Miss M, BETTE [Freaking] MIDLER herself, in ‘Hello Dolly’ at the Shubert Theatre (I know, I know!  We are STILL pinching ourselves!), in addition to having front-row seats to the hysterical British comedy, ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’, seeing ‘Sunset’ would’ve been enough.  

From the moment the curtain rose behind the Palace Theatre’s proscenium arch, we were catapulted through time.  As scenes from Hollywood’s genesis flickered before our eyes and the unmistakable ‘Sunset Boulevard’ overture rippled from the stage to our ears, we felt as though the world was turning black and white.  With every sweep of the conductor’s wand, we were raptured from the present; we were called from  our reality and beckoned to embark on a journey.  And we gladly surrendered.

Now, I don’t know how familiar you are with the musical ‘Sunset Boulevard’ or its 1950 cinematic counterpart starring Gloria Swanson, but I had never heard of it until I started dating my betrothed.  In fact, when he discovered this bit of information, he reacted as though I had committed a mortal sin (“Lord, you’re a bad gay man,” he joked at me.).  But alas, it was the truth.  I hadn’t heard of it.  All I did know was that I have always admired Glenn Close’s film career, so seeing her live was sure to be a treat.  And boy was it!  But to refrain from ruining the plot for all you other terrible gays out there, I will only describe to you the way it made me feel.  As I told a few hundred of my closest Facebook friends this weekend, I have never before experienced anything that made me emote quite as much as ‘Sunset’ did; I was in tears the entire weekend, and to be quite frank, I could still cry.  Was it the music?  Or was it the acting?  Perhaps it was script?  The answer is yes.  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes to all the above.  But beyond all of that was something more impacting, at least for me anyway.  It was one simple lyric uttered by Ms. Close during the first act of the show and again by her shiny-scalped henchman in the second: “Everyone needs new ways to dream.”

If you follow the Gay Travel blog, you will have noticed by now that I am a regular contributor.  You will also have knowledge of the fact that my personal life has been one of many tests, trials, and tribulations—all of which were made easier by art, especially the theatre.  And although I have certainly come through what I hope will be the darkest hour of my existence, I—like all of us humans—am not exempt from new storms.  Take the past month for example.  Within the last four weeks, my fiancé and I decided to relocate and underwent a massive move across five state lines in hopes of furthering both my academic and professional careers.   Between the $8,000 cost and finding/settling into a new home, it has been stressful, to say the very least.  So much, in fact, that on the day of our move I had to be taken to an emergency medical center only to find out that I was dying (or at least it felt that way) of stress induced acid reflux.  But I digress. 

My friends, the point I am trying to make here is simple.  Remember earlier when I said that my fondness for the theatrical was born from necessity (something that was clarified as I watched ‘Sunset Boulevard’ this weekend)?  Well, in a world plagued by the sometimes harsh unknown, it is essential that we find some form of consolation, something that lifts our faces from the mud and helps us escape, even if only for a couple of acts, an intermission, and a $20 glass of wine. And while there are many forms of art eager to aid us along the way, none other has been so welcoming to the LGBT community as the theatre.  There we have been ushered in with open arms, whether we are center stage or just sitting silently in the dark.  There, we have found a sanctuary, a place we can be ourselves . . . and anyone else we want to, really.   And in these trying times we find ourselves in (Just turn on the news and you will see what I am talking about.), it’s a lovely, lovely thing to know that we have a place to retreat to—a place that gives us “new ways to dream.”  As a wordsmith, I am continuously fascinated by story and the power it possesses to heal us.  Taking us by the hand, it—in all of its glorious mediums, especially live theatre—twirls us into other worlds far, far away from our own reality.  And yet the funny thing is that sometimes these worlds are not that far off at all.   That’s the magic and the power of theatre.  Now go—go see a show.

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