It’s been rabbit season for a while now. And I’m loving it.
More specifically, it’s been “Harvey” season. And after a year’s break from theatre, I’m very fortunate to have been caught by the world’s kindest man and his giant invisible friend with the pointy ears. A friend of mine was once in a similar state of theatre withdrawal and wound up agreeing, sight unseen, to direct the first show that came his way – which happened to be “Oliver!”
“Oliver,” he said in a daze after hanging up the phone. “That’s the one with 50 kids in it, isn’t it?”
Theatre withdrawal. It’s a terrible and awesome thing.
Truth to tell, this is a show I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. (And a good thing, too, considering it involved two months of rehearsal with a little time off for Christmas.) There is a short list of scripts that I consider “drop everything” plays, where nothing short of blizzard, flood or alien invasion could keep me from trying out. At the top of that list are “Harvey” and “Man of La Mancha,” the musical about Don Quixote.
That’s not an accident.
In a way, both plays are the same story viewed from a slightly different angle. Both are about a man who walked away from mundane reality and embraced a dream. His world doesn’t understand. His family thinks he’s crazy. But his own life is an infinitely richer, more appealing place because of it – so appealing that it even threatens to draw others in despite themselves.
“I’ve wrestled with reality for over 40 years,” Elwood P. Dowd tells a bewildered doctor, “and I’m happy to state that I finally won out over it.”
“Too much sanity may be madness,” Don Quixote’s alter ego muses at one point. “And maddest of all, to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”
That’s something that’s inherently appealing to an actor. After all, we spend a fair amount of time walking in dreams ourselves, treating fiction as true and living with people who never were. We create entire families – cast, crew, audience – from the sheer power of that dream. And if we’re lucky, we carry a piece of it with us long after the curtain goes down.
Crazy? I’m sure many of our friends and family think so, especially after weeks of late nights and hastily grabbed dinners. But essential, too.
To paraphrase another “Harvey” character, it’s our dreams that make us who we are.
Oh, it’s possible to live without dreams. Look around. The daily news seems filled with the consequences of the oh-so-practical people more concerned with being right than doing right, where winning justifies anything, where grand visions matter less than seizing a small advantage today. Politics, sports, business – in some ways, it’s a world more hostile to the Elwoods and Quixotes of society than ever.
But once in a while, something lifts us higher.
Once in a while, we gape as a spacecraft lands on a comet or a rover explores Mars. Or we marvel together at the adventures of a boy wizard with the power to make children read 800 pages without stopping. Or we … well, do anything that lifts us beyond survival and self, and into the imagination.
Beyond that line is where hope is born. The power to dream of something better. The desire to make it be.
The madness that can transform all of mundane reality in its wake.
OK, that’s heady stuff from a crazy knight and a guy with a six-foot rabbit. But when you find joy in the middle of an angry world, it can be a little overpowering. Mad? Maybe. It’s the end of a withdrawal from dreams, and that always has powerful consequences.
Though if those consequences involve 50 singing children, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.
See you on stage.
(PS – Want to join the madness? Show times and tickets are at www.longmonttheatre.org. Tell ’em Harvey sent you. )