Why I’m a fan of SHN
Going to the theater always involves a bit of an emotional struggle for me. But because of SHN, I simply can’t help going, with the pain outweighed by the joy of seeing the fantastic shows they offer.
An explanation: When I was a freshman in college, I discovered my passion — theater — by both working on shows and discovering SHN’s offerings. I first became enraptured by Lily Tomlin’s “Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” which I would eventually see multiple times, and the show’s poster still hangs on my wall. Throughout college, as I eventually earned a degree in drama, I managed to see a number of still-memorable SHN shows, including “Cats,” “Les Miserables,” “The King and I” (with Rudolf Nureyev!), “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” and others.
After graduating, I became a professional stage manager. But two years, four shows and a total of less than $5,000 earned later (and being the last cut for a stage management internship at ACT), I was forced to give up what I desperately longed to do. I turned to my other degree (journalism), and my attendance at shows dropped off markedly. It was simply too painful to go, for the most part, knowing that I belonged on the other side of the proscenium.
And yet, I still found myself going to the occasional show — always to SHN shows. I couldn’t pass up seeing some of the productions I had always loved and longed to see, like “Phantom of the Opera” and “The Lion King,” or shows that simply intrigued me too much to skip, including “Contact” and “City of Angels.” The waves of regret would subside once the lights dimmed and the performance began.
With “Wicked” in 2005, I discovered a show that would slowly bring me back to being an eager theatergoer — tonight I will see the current production for the 18th time. But it’s not just “Wicked” I adore, it’s SHN and the quality that organization represents.
Many years ago, I saw a community theater production of “South Pacific” and HATED the show. I deemed it an outdated, cornball cheesefest (or whatever county-fair-food metaphor suits your fancy) that only appealed to audiences Of A Certain Age. When I saw SHN’s last season included the Lincoln Center production, I had zero interest in seeing it, but glowing reviews intrigued me and I decided to put my faith in an SHN offering and go. However, the only day free on my schedule was the same day I already had tickets for “Rent.” I noted that it was a Wednesday, though, and — you guessed it — I opted for a doubleheader: matinee of “South Pacific” and evening performance of “Rent.” I was well-rewarded; “South Pacific” was magnificently sublime. It’s amazing what top-quality performers and productions can deliver. My day of gorging on theater was so special, I didn’t even mind that much to discover my car was locked in a closed parking lot and I’d have to go back the next morning to fetch it (and pay the overnight fees).
Don’t get me wrong — I still have enormous pangs of regret whenever I go to a show. I’ve begun to consider the possibility of chucking my successful current career and trying to start over as a stage manager. I even momentarily considered quitting my job and getting a front-of-house position with “Peter Pan,” just on the chance it might get a toe on the path back to what I was truly meant to do.
But as I said, the heartache is not enough to keep me away from the wonderful productions SHN brings to San Francisco. I will be there for “In the Heights” and “Young Frankenstein.” I won’t miss “West Side Story” or “Dreamgirls.” And I plan to take my 6-year-old niece to see “Peter Pan” as her first live theater show.
I also intend to visit New York in the near future to see some shows, but I know I won’t be seeing any shows I’ve already had the pleasure of seeing thanks to SHN. If I’ve seen them here, I’ve already truly seen the Best of Broadway.