I've been doing a lot of high school basketball, day in the life of your local schools! features, an article on the only girl on the wrestling team (Strong young woman! Achieving things!)- Who, can I just say?- should consider having her name legally changed to Kick Ass. Which is all well and good, but all that basketball gets a little boring after a while. AND THEN I get to do something really cool, and the monotony? Gets thrown out the window,
Yesterday, I got to spend two hours in someone else's dream life. I got to photograph the choreographer and composer/songwriter for a new musical opening on Broadway. So the Broadway beat reporter and I get to go into the 42nd Street Studios where we can do interviews and photos over the cast's lunch break. We get off the elevator and wait for our PR escorts, and the reporter sees someone he knows from a previous interview. Introductions all around, and as this incredibly familiar-looking man shakes my hand, he says, "Hakuna Matata."
Oh-kay. Now, I myself have a tendency to just blurt things out (which comes into play a little later in this story), but at this point I'm still trying to do my best impression of a Professional Who Has Her Shit Together. After a nice little chat, the actor's elevator comes, and my colleague was able to confirm, that yes, that was indeed the man who did the voice of Pumbaa in "The Lion King" movie. Which is good, because throwing "Were you the voice of an animated Disney warthog?" into conversation is just awkward, even when the answer is yes, even when it's in response to the statement "Hakuna Matata."
I pull out my laptop for a sec while we wait, and there's a guy in sweatpants kind of humming to himself beside me, checking the afternoon schedule. And it's David Hyde Pierce! Well, alrighty then. He smiles and says hi in that random eye contact kind of way. Okey dokey. If I weren't in enough of a Frasier state of mind, this guy comes out of the rehearsal space.
Before I can get too star struck, they break for lunch. I get to do my thing with the Broadway composer/songwriter and choreographer, which bizarrely enough, doesn't phase me at all. I move around props, change my lighting, chat about the one restaurant near my apartment where people come from all over Stepford to eat because cajun hush puppies and jalapeno cornbread YUMMM. We're posing; we're shooting; we're joking; I'm saying all the normal things like "Lift your chin up just a little bit" and "Keep your head just like that, and just with your eyes look at me. Perfect." etc. Fine.
Then my time in the rehearsal space is up, and I pack it in. I walk out with the reporter and the director, and I have another David Hyde Pierce and Co. encounter as the cast trickles back in. One famous actor after another steps off the elevator, comes out of the bathroom, pulls on a rehearsal skirt. I can not BELIEVE I'm in the presence of so much talent. There are bottles of water, and character shoes, and a rehearsal schedule, and comps request forms for cast members' families, and sign-in sheets.
This is the moment when it hits me- HARD- that this is what every high school musical, drama camp, community theater troupe, regional fringe tour, intensive workshop and college drama department emulates. For so many people, this is what they want to be. This is literally WHERE they want to be. I think of all the people I love(d) who passionately love theater- not just Stephen, though obviously, yes, I thought of him, but especially my college roommates, because 1950s style Cowboy Western play-within-a-play Big! Broadway! Musicals! were never Stephen's bag, persay- and I know that I'm pushing the down elevator button and hitching up my camera bag right in the middle of their dreams.
As the elevator doors close, I'm wondering if the uber-talented actors ever get over it, or if it blows their mind, too, when a woman on the elevator says in an awed sort of voice, "Oh my God, there are SO many talented people in this building. I never get used to it." I've heard that voice before, in my living room every night, in fact, and it's a Law and Order: SVU actress. Which is when I can't keep up the charade of being a quietly cool professional any longer.
(The blurting I mentioned before, it happens now.)
"Oh My God, are you kidding me?! I was just thinking the same thing about you!" She's like, "Me?!? What, the crappy TV lawyer?" So I said, "I just can't believe you're talking about how your mind is blown by other people, because my mind is blown by the fact that I'm in an elevator with Alex Cabot right now." She laughed, and was like, "Well, I'm glad I could do that for you!" And when we got to the lobby, I was all confused and like, "This is the lobby?" BECAUSE I AM AWESOME LIKE THAT and she was all Duh? and then we were walking toward the door, and I stopped to turn my guest pass in at the reception desk, and she was like, "You should probably put your coat on." And that was it.
Then I schlepped all my stuff into this Starbucks to caption the photos and write this entry and a kill a little time before my next assignment. In a little while, I'll haul three cameras (two still, one video), a tripod and a laptop up to Lincoln Center for a Julliard student's graduation recital, because someone else's dreams are coming true tonight. And the truth is, mine are, too, even if there will be more high school basketball on the schedule tomorrow.