Books Read in 2007
PORTALS OF THE PAST
15 October 2007
My favorite spot in Golden Gate Park is a beautiful little archway standing in front of a lake. It was originally the entry way for a mansion that stood on Nob Hill. During the 1906 earthquake and fire, the mansion was totally destroyed and all that was left was the entryway. Hence the name, and its place of honor in Golden Gate Park.
As I stepped through the doors of the theatre at Presentation High School in San Francisco today, I felt as if I had stepped through that portal and into the past, my past.
There in that familiar theatre I had loved for so many years, until the Lamplighters had to move to a new location, was a crowd of people milling around. Overseeing it all was a large picture of Jean Ziaja projected on the screen above the stage. Jean died five months ago and we were finally having her memorial service (someone joked it had taken five months because Jean wasn't around to organize it!)
The crowd was diverse and came from all eras of Jean's involvement in the company and her life. There were friends I had once known well, and people I had only come to know recently.
So many people I hadn't seen in 10 or more years. Many of us greyer, more wrinkled, some moving more slowly, some stouter than we used to be (still more corpulent grow I...I...I...!), but exchanging hugs made the years melt away and that camaraderie that had once been there was there again.
We had driven Susanna down with us from Davis, so she could get there in time to rehearse, as she was in the chorus. I remember the night of Susanna's birth, when her father was conducting the orchestra for a performance and her mother was in labor in the hospital, her father racing out of the theatre as soon as the curtain came down so he could be with his wife for the birth.
Now here was this lovely young woman, attending UC Davis and we were sharing Lamplighters stories on our drive to and from San Francisco.
There were too many familiar faces to even begin to express how I felt at seeing them all again, each one bringing back a memory of the years when I was active in the company. All there because of our love for Jean and our desire to honor her.
It was difficult to get us all into our seats, since we were having such a good time renewing old acquaintances.
The actual memorial was beautiful and I think she would have loved it. There were loving tributes, and marvelous music, and it ended with a video of her performance as Katisha in The Mikado in 1994 that was so powerful I was blown away by it again. There is a point when Katisha, in agony at realizing that her intended Nanki Poo was in love with another woman clutches her stomach and bends over. It took my breath away. The pain was palpable and then the music that came out of that body afterwards was incredible.
I took a little video. I didn't want to cheapen the sentiment of the day by turning into a videoblogger, but I did want to remember it. It has just snippets of the musical numbers that were done, and one complete version of the song which has become a real anthem for The Lamplighters. I videotaped almost none of the speakers because ... well, just because. It was too emotional and I wanted to be in the moment, not photograph the moment.
So if you're interested, watch the video. It does not include The Mikado, but it does give a taste of the day.
After the formal part of the day, we retired to the home of John, long-time company tenor (actually I've known him so long I remember when he was a baritone!) for the traditional famous Lamplighters party, with tons of food, lots of wine and lots of camaraderie.
At one point I was deep in conversation with someone I knew quite well and just could not come up with the name. Later, I asked someone "who is that? I know I know the name." Of course it all came back when my question was answered. Later, I passed someone else turning to a companion and whispering "what is the name of that guy...?" about someone whose name he had forgotten. I suspect there was a lot of that going around. After all, Walt and I have been involved on some level with the Lamplighters for nearly fifty years!
However, the lowest point of the day was when I was squeezing between two of the younger company members to go into the next room and they stepped back quickly and said "oh...sorry, ma'am."
Ma'am!?!?!? I felt like I should head for the nearest rocking chair.
But we gave Jeannie a great sendoff. She is already very sorely missed by everyone. What a wonderful person she was.
Lamplighters are hereby put on notice: NOBODY ELSE DIES FOR AWHILE!!! Sheesh. We have lost so many friends this year. It's time to let someone else take the losses for a change!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Anybody who was in the Lamplighters during a