Memories and Opportunities

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…." The changes occurring as a result of the circumstances and situations surrounding my involvement with one particular theatrical production were profound. I have never lost and gained so much as a result of one show.

I lost my then best friend and future wife: she died in an auto accident occurring while talking a drive to "cool off" her growing anger over my being banned from the theater and prohibited from watching the midnight show of this production, for which she had called in favors at work, cancelled her plans, purchased a nonrefundable ticket and flew out over 2,000 miles just to be with me at something we both loved. Although it pales in comparison to the price that she ultimately paid, I had invested over 60 hours working on the set and other aspects of the show, requiring my own calling in of favors at work, and spent over $400 on my all-black crew costume that was in keeping with the theme of the show, which costume I never had a chance to wear because of a change in my role during tech week from usher and follow spot operator to working the lift in the pit, being a foreshadowing of the ban. Of course, I'd give up theater and everything that I have just to have her back in this world.

This ban was vindictively exacted against me in response to my sharing my heart to and calling out someone in the cast who used to like me but came to dislike me (for reasons still unknown to me) in the months preceding this production by those who were "protecting" (better, catering and pandering to) her as she held the show hostage: the theater management was given the ultimatum that either they ban me or she would quit the show with no suitable replacement available, shutting it down after only two of six performances. When they pushed back, she threatened to have me arrested and jailed on charges of stalking and harassment. The theater management caved, letting her have her way—ostensibly "protecting" me—rather than defending and indemnifying me while holding her responsible to fulfill her obligations.

I note that by the Business Manager's and Director's own acknowledgments after the fact, I had done nothing illegal or threatening, or anything worthy of being banned from the show: it was her vendetta against me arising out of a purely personal issue between us in which she drug outside "drama" into the theater. The Director recalled how she had tried to have me banned from working the show several months prior to this but he stressed how much they needed me. The Business Manager went further and noted that this woman used to like me, talking about me all the time, and that if I had been in the cast and not just the crew, this never would have happened.

I had been acting on patently bad advice from several persons for months. I should have recognized that the later advice being given to me to "share my heart" and confront this woman on the gossip and mockery that she was spreading about me was designed to exacerbate the very and growing division that I was creating by following that advice. They played me well and I was too blind to see it.

If only I had used my better judgement in all of this. I should have heeded the warnings of the manipulators who did not want us to have anything to do with each other and not interacted with her or, at the very least, not confronted her, asking her about having offended her (about which she lied and denied to my face), which upset her; offered her friendly advice (on the patently bad suggestion of one of a "friend" who I can see in hindsight knew that it would make things worse), which offended and angered her; and more than this, wrote those two emails, first sharing my heart while calling her out on her cruel mockery ("If he wants to be my friend, let him beg me!" I was told that she snidely remarked in response to the question, "Don't you want to be his friend?" in a conversation with several cast members in the weeks leading up to this show) then trying to appease her through assuring her that I was "moving on", that I was not going to pursue her, ultimately enraging her….

If only I had not made these errors in judgement with this woman (I say with a clear conscience that I never did anything to hurt or offend her intentionally—I truly and only desired to be her friend—and God knows I am ready and willing to apologize in as much detail as she desires), upsetting and angering her to the point of rage, my friend and I would be enjoying our "happily ever after" as of this last summer. Now all I enjoy in this regard is feasting myself upon a limitless supply of the bread of bitterness salted with unceasing sorrow.

However, some good did come out of this mess.

I made several new—and I trust life-long—friends, whose presence in my life means the world to me. I lost several "friends" who proved that fair-weather is transient and that loyalty can be fleeting at best, people scattering like rats bailing from a sinking ship. I found several people who, tossing me a life-line, lovingly accepted me and cared for my well-being, actively choosing to remain in my life and coaching me even while I was making and cleaning up from my mistakes (which I acknowledged and for which I apologized in this open letter published late last fall).

Particularly, one person who I met through this production and I have become good friends. Her presence in my life is one of the greatest blessings that I have ever received. She has helped me remember that looking forward, not back, that "living in the moment", is a key to happiness.

I have connected with more community theaters in the NE Ohio region. If it were not for my falling out at this particular theater, I likely would still be there in a time-wasting, passionless position as backstage crew working shows that tend to be mediocre in quality (albeit with a few very notable exceptions, this show being one of them!), used and abused by veritable social and emotional vampires, my life's energy and artistic lifeblood being slowly sucked out and swallowed up show after show with no potential for the use and growth of my talents and creative abilities.

The Youngstown Playhouse in particular has afforded me the opportunity to grow in ways that I only had dreamt and never dared to believe, including designing lights and sound and returning to sound engineering and stage managing. It is a small start but it has launched me on to more opportunities with other theaters based on my growing reputation.

In the end, it is the friendships that I have formed and are forming as a result of this that are the greatest outcome and redemption in the midst of it. It is this answer to prayer for which I am most grateful.

I was asked by a friend with whom I have shared the details of this experience in greater degree than what I have shared here whether or not I would go back and change anything surrounding this ordeal. Originally I said no, knowing that my life is better today than what it would have been otherwise—save for my friend's death. For her sake, yes, I would go back and not have written those emails, not have offered that woman friendly advice, not have asked her if I had done anything to offend her, knowing that we would be together living out our dream. I would gladly never step into a theater again—I would give up my own life!—if I could bring her back thereby. But I can not, so I look forward and not back—well I try, anyway—except briefly, like when Facebook reminds me as it did today, prompting me to share my "memory" in which I actively promoted that production. It is moments like these that so sorely tempt me to leave Facebook… or at least purge these old posts….

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James Reed

Love has EVERYTHING to do with it, all you need is love!

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