We impulsively said “yes” to a performance that we’d have to pull out of a hat. It wouldn’t be the first time we let impulse land us in something that a cooler head wouldn’t have done, but there you go. We are friends with another performing couple whose medium is puppets. We use puppets too, but only when we need them, whereas they are totally artists in the puppetry field. They are red-hot organizers, and after a number of wildly successful “puppet cabarets” in Vallejo, the time rolled around for another one, and as usual, we said yes.
Here’s the problem. We’ve been in so many of these that we had to dig to find something new to do. OK, it was close to Valentine’s Day, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do a love scene. A few years ago we mounted a luscious production of Shakespeare’s Tempest; five actors and many many puppets. The young lovers, Ferdinand and Miranda, have a wonderful scene in which they declare themselves to be man and wife, without asking permission from anybody. It’s enchanting, especially since it’s Miranda who comes right out and says “I am your wife, if you will marry me.”
The only problem was that neither Conrad nor myself had ever performed that scene. It was our production and he’d created the puppets, but he’d played Prospero, not Ferdinand, and I’d only written the score and wasn’t in the cast. So we had to start from ground zero, except that we had the help of a couple of gorgeous puppets, the memory of how sweet that love scene had been, and the essential backup of a DVD of the production.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the voltage that came from performing what was essentially our own experience from fifty-eight years ago, when we took one look at each other and were struck by lightning. Here was a scene where two young people meet as strangers and immediately realize that they should bond for life; it sounds improbable, but we’d been there, done that, and fifty-eight years later we still believe it.
So we used Will’s words and Conrad’s beautiful puppets to transport us back to that moment of our life commitment. I don’t know if the audience recognized how immediate and personal this was, but they liked it. So did we.