Last night at rehearsal, another actor mentioned that she had been cast in a new production, which will begin rehearsals the day after our closing night.
I was excited for her, but concerned that she was courting exhaustion without at least a brief break between plays.
"No, I wanted it this way," she said. "I get so sad when a play ends. I want to plunge into something new right away."
"I always get depressed at the end of a run," our stage manager chimed in. "It's so intense, you get so close to everyone, and then it's over. People promise to stay in touch, but it never happens."
I had forgotten about that part. I have been so focused on the mechanics of learning lines, and on dealing with the emotional upheaval my part evokes, that I lost track of the fact that we close just 24 days after we open.
This process is always difficult. A company needs to form a close enough bond so that it is safe to experiment, to be vulnerable, even to fail. Especially if you are lonely, it is easy to mistake this real, but temporary and functional, closeness for a deeper, longer term connection.
The first time around, when I was in my teens and early twenties, the period immediately following a closing or wrap was devastating. Back then, I had no family except my nuclear one, and we were not a happy, close unit by a long stretch. The cast and crew of whatever production I was in became a substitute family, and the sense of abandonment when we broke up was intense.
I feel lucky now that these wonderful people form a supplement to, not a substitute for, my real and enduring family. Still, I got into this in the first place to fill the void left by the emptying nest, so I expect some serious sadness in a few weeks when it is over.
On the other hand, Bill and Ben will be there opening night. My brother and his wife will come up from NC the following week, and one of my nephews and his fiancée are going to try to make it out from Minnesota. My college roommate and her husband are coming up from Virginia. The family that lived next door to us until I was twelve plans to come out from Long Island, and some high school friends have already bought tickets.
So as this temporary family grows closer and prepares to fragment, I am more grateful than ever for the familial connections that have grown and strengthened over the years.