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BWW Blog: It's My First Pride Month. That's Because of COMPANY on Broadway.

“This show is about the people who give life meaning.”

Company

I remember sitting in the very back row of Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on Broadway, giddy to see my first live show in almost 2 years. It was a crisp February weekend, with the Theatre District welcoming; its arms extended open in invitation. I knew I would be seeing a show that day, but I didn't have a preference - so I decided to choose based on which sign caught my eye.

Neon always does the trick.

All I knew about Company was that I was entranced by its design (killed it, marketing team), I loved the art on the Playbill, and as a college student, I loved the $59 price tag of the rush ticket even more.

As a musical theater major, it is an exceedingly rare thrill to go into a show knowing absolutely nothing about the plot. In hindsight, I do not know if I would have asked for a warning, if I could have gone back in time.

For those who haven't seen it, here's a one sentence synopsis: "This show is about the people who give life meaning." (As perfectly stated during this year's Tony Awards after Company's win for Best Revival of a Musical.) It's about the people you love - the kind of love that is at the core of nearly every story that exists.

I was almost successful at keeping the lock securely closed on the box in my mind. It held a truth about myself that I had hidden away for a long, long time. I felt the velvet press desperately into my fingertips as I gripped the seat and tried to keep it together. But, after "Ladies Who Lunch", and then, the final punch ("Being Alive"), it's safe to say that my fate was sealed even before I stepped into the theater.

So this remained tucked neatly away, I would freely give love anywhere else, all the time; to friends, family, things. Words, hugs, gifts; any way that love could be given, I loved to give it... except one way. Since the beginning of civilization itself, this has been what has driven us; the stories that have outlived our ancestors and their descendants contain one key element: love. A force that you can't resist; exhilarating because it's the least control you'll ever have in your life. It's ironic; as a person who treasures stories and joys in sharing them with others, it's the one thing I wouldn't let myself have.

"Someone to hold you too close

Someone to hurt you too deep

Someone to sit in your chair

And ruin your sleep..."

I knew from a young age that my vision of love wasn't like the songs; it wasn't like the movies. It was close, but one thing was different: the person I imagined. I remember my friends describing their future dream man in a multitude of combinations: tall, dark brown hair and eyes like ice. Short, but hair as blonde as fresh sand on the beach, juxtaposed with deep brown eyes. Olive skin and a striking green gaze. (They always were kind and thoughtful, of course. We adorably assumed that everyone was always good and beautiful on the inside - a value that I try to remember nearly a decade later, though it is not as easy as it was then. But that is besides the point.)

While my peers enjoyed their fantasies, they were affirmed easily; with no second thought required. Every time they saw love reflected back at them in what they heard and what they saw, it was one of their visions, materialized. The prince, dashingly handsome, always came for his princess in every song, movie, tv show, and the like. In hindsight, I should have been gentler with myself, because how could I have ever so easily accepted something that was not this?

When my friends asked the question to me - "what is your dream guy like?" - it would take all I had to hide the panic on my face; the terror that began in the middle of my chest and made its way to the pads of my fingers in a radiating rush. In haste, I chose a blueprint that they had already laid out for me, and no one questioned a thing. In my mind, I really wondered: what would she be like?

Would she have hazel eyes, sweet like honey, and warm, like the first sip of tea on a cold winter's night? A crooked smile? Or, perhaps, a painting, living in baby blues, with freckles peppering her cheeks as a frame? I still couldn't reach the top of the refrigerator where my abuela hid the cookies when these conversations started to happen. I was too small - literally and metaphorically - to understand the impact of believing I had something to be ashamed of; unintentionally reinforced by every word, every image, every song. I contributed my imaginations as I got older and the blueprint became frayed, only not using the pronoun "he". The world had done the work for me to make this implied.

"Someone to need you too much

Someone to know you too well

Someone to pull you up short

To put you through hell..."

It all came rushing back to me as I heard the lyrics ring throughout the grand arena; seating almost 700, but feeling like it was being sung just to me.

"Someone to crowd you with love

Someone to force you to care

Someone to make you come through

Who'll always be there, as frightened as you

Of being alive..."

After the final bows, it was a blur; I was home in record time. In the quiet of my dorm room, overlooking the city, tears made their way in rivers down my cheeks, filling a reservoir that was too long empty. For a short moment, it was easy to forget that I may lose some that I already love because of who I am. It was small, but it was enough; enough to feel what I was missing out on. That is a feeling you cannot ignore, no matter how hard you try.

It takes years to build a mountain; bits of debris that were once nothing become this huge, massive thing that you now have to scale. Climbing is not as easy as it sounds. Instead of coming out to my family that night, I went elsewhere: writing a handwritten letter to Patti LuPone, telling her what the show meant to me. I sent the letter the next day, and tried to forget about the boulder of my own creation.

"Somebody crowd me with love

Somebody force me to care

Somebody make me come through

I'll always be there

As frightened as you

To help us survive

Being alive..."

There's a reason that musicals like Company exist; ignoring the huge thing in front of you that has the power to both harm and free you is worth an entire two hours of drama and plot, and more. My inner monologue was nagging me, like a reprise that just won't end: "just tell one person." I'm quite skilled in excuses, until I ran out. I told myself that, if I got a sign to do it, I would.

I got a package in the mail. I wasn't expecting anything, and I didn't recognize the all-capital letters handwriting that spelled out my address in neat, font-like purple ink. I opened it with a lazy disregard, not knowing what was inside would be worth everything.

The stunning Company art that I loved so much was looking back at me, with a monumental addition in black Sharpie: "To Bea. Love, Patti LuPone."

In the letter, I had never asked for anything back; I had never sent a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope). I couldn't believe that she had taken time out of her day to give love so meaningful to a complete stranger.

It wasn't just a sign. It was the sign. Staring at me, printed in expert neon letters that I had seen tower over me on Broadway.

After staring at the Playbill for an amount of time I lost track of, my eyes began to tear; from keeping them open too long, I told myself, not because of what I was about to do. I gingerly set it down on my desk, and picked up my phone, pulling up the text chain I had with my dad. My hands shook with abandon while I typed out a message, pressed send, and watched the speech bubble with three dots immediately appear.

There had been few times in my life that I had danced around the subject with friends, even another family member, but never fully said what I needed to say. It wasn't just on the tip of my tongue, but in the back of my throat; the climax of a song - "am I going to hit this note?", you ask yourself, knowing that you'll miss it each time. You miss it, and you miss it, and you miss it... until one day, a Playbill in one hand and a phone that you spend too much time on in the other, you don't. You hit the note, and the days when you wholeheartedly believed in your inability are now a distant memory, and you're convinced nothing will feel like this again. You wish you could pause the ebb and flow of time and live here, until you realize what you did to get here will only earn you more and more of these moments, and that is, well. As Patti sings, "I'll drink to that."

When he told me he loved me, it felt like the first time I had ever really heard it... because it was the first time he had told me that he loved all of me, every single part, including who I love.

This Pride Month, I'm celebrating my years-long climb in the making. If some, who this is news to, do not understand, or do not want to speak with me ever again, that is alright. It's worth it for this view. Every color is brighter, every sound is sweeter. I feel like I'm seeing it all for the first time, and all because I'm letting love be a part of my Company.



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