A while ago, my friend Marisa let me know that a New Jersey theater group she was involved with was soliciting coming-out stories for a theater piece they were building for Pride. I submitted one, then immediately forgot about it. When the director contacted me a few months ago to get me to sign a release form to use my story, I was delighted, and then couldn’t remember (or find) what story I’d submitted. Well, InterACT Theatre productions presented This Is Our Story these past two weekends, and we went to see it, so I could remember what the hell I’d submitted.
I don’t live anywhere near there, and don’t have a car, but Marisa assured me that some performances were essentially right next to the Maplewood train station, and it would be easy-peasy by public transportation. Fine as it went, but I wanted to bring C and C is not walking very well now. My friend Susan wanted to come too, and she has a car, but she’s shuttling between her apartment in Queens and her late parents’ home in (southern) NJ and it wasn’t sure whether she’d be able to drive us in either direction. Then our buddy Tessa, who we had dinner with last week, wanted to come too, and she’s not that mobile either.
So this was a big first post-pandemic outing, fraught with logistical issues, and of course I had no idea what the show would be like, either. But, well, here we go. First effort was to get tickets, which I didn’t think would be a problem, except when I ordered them online last week, turned out they were enforcing social distancing by not using half the seats, and not allowing you to buy multiple tickets unless they were in the same row as a group. Since the matinee was almost sold out, and only individual tickets here and there remained, I decided to try getting 4 tickets against the wall, one behind the other, that were all available. But they weren’t in the same row, you see, and in order to buy them and get past the UI rules, I had to buy 1 ticket at a time in 4 different transactions, ugh.
I was very aware of the possibility for catastrophe – what if we missed the train we wanted? What if C and T couldn’t walk even the small amount we needed to? What if there was a problem with the tickets anyway and we came all that way for nothing? What if Susan had problems getting there, or the car broke down, or the train broke down, or … any number of things that we couldn’t control. But I planned as much as possible, with contingencies, and reminded myself that this was very much not a big deal in the Grand Scheme of Things, even if it all fell apart.
But… it actually was fine! C and I took an Uber to Penn Station. It was traffic-y and we were running behind, but Tessa got there first and picked up the tickets for us. We didn’t have trouble finding her, and I had enough time to run (and I mean “run”) to the john before they posted our track. Train ride was very pleasant, and we got in about an hour or so before curtain time.
We of course disembarked on the middle platform and there was no way to get out of the station in either direction except down and then up stairs (two not-mobile people here). Taking a guess, I led them out in what turned out was the wrong way. But I had a mental picture of where the theater was (and also a Starbucks and some other restaurants we could park at) and they should have all been right there, so I put C and T on a bench and said, ‘let me go find everything, and I’ll come back and get you’. So I did. Turns out that we could get to the other side of the tracks without doing the staircases, if we just walked down the hill, and then I found the Starbucks and then the theater – and yes, we had tickets, and show was at 3:00, not 2:00 and everything was fine. So I fetched C and T and we made our slow way to Starbucks and had a little lunch. Meanwhile Susan arrived and texted and called me with great detail about finding a parking space and she’d meet us at the theater. But then she met us at the Starbucks, whatever. And I got my little crew to the theater on time.
The show itself was really terrific, both in concept and in experience. First, it was just delightful to be in a real audience for a live theater thing again, first time in a year and a half. Second, this sort of community-led experimental theater featuring actors of all sorts (and talents) is the sort of thing I used to go to (and participate in) all the time in my YOUNGER DAYS, and haven’t in forever. Third, I’d been worried about the seats, but they were just fine, and since they were on the aisle and sort of pointing sideways, lots of leg room. Production-wise, it was very simple. It being a warm day, there were fans going and that interfered a lot with hearing the dialogue – some actors were a lot better than others at project, but you got most of it.
Large cast: old, young, men, women, all colors. Various vignettes, some monologues, some staged scenes. Narratives about what it’s like to be a bisexual woman, an ace woman on the spectrum, a trans woman. Men who were HIV positive and long term survivors. Men who were addicts and did not survive. The various reactions of parents and family. Coming out later in life, when you’ve already been married and have had kids.
My favorites were the bisexual woman, the woman with kids who came out later in life, and the Indian guy coming out to his family (that actor was delivering his own story) – and of course, my own.
I can’t find my original submission, but it was of a couple of stories I like to tell, how to come out at the office by putting a picture of your beloved on your desk.
1996: I start working at a small software company. C and I had only been together a year or so. I put a picture of him on my desk.
RUSSIAN IT GUY, doing a install: Is that your father?
ME: (huge guffaw) No, he’s my partner
RUSSIAN IT GUY: translates answer into Russian in his head, looks confused. Business partner?
ME: (laughs again) We live together.
RUSSIAN IT GUY: Oh. OH.
(the staging of this was excellent, and Mike, the actor, nailed the guffaw, went on to describe co-worker’s reactions as word spread across the office, which was staged, a lot of people in the scene, very funny)
2019: another new job, this time the picture is very obviously a wedding picture.
STRAIGHT YOUNG COLLEAGUE: That’s a great picture… um, how long have you been married.
ME: Five years, but we were engaged for 18 years on top of that.
COLLEAGUE: Oh… why did it take so long?
ME: Well, it was illegal. Well, not ‘illegal’, but you know… (I go on to tell him about DOMA and Obergefeld and all that)
Anyway, it was fun to watch on stage, they got it exactly right, and if I get a video of it, I’ll share it.
After the show, I said hi to a cast member I knew, then had her introduce me to the director/writer who’d put the script and show together, that was great. They have hopes for a future for the show, either as a published script or as something that gets redone and updated periodically. I also introduced myself (and C) to Mike, who played “me”, with “Hi, I’m Eric, I’m the picture on the desk guy.”, and we had a good chat.
Anyway, it was terrific that they did it, they thought my story should be part of it, and that we got to see it.
Susan drove the four of us back to Queens, and I cleverly managed to use Opentable to get us a reservation at Bistro Eloise, a fairly new local restaurant right by Cannelle, the fantastic bakery that made our wedding cake. Susan and I had each been there once, C and T had not. It was an excellent meal across the board, for everyone. C started with escargot, then had bouillabaise. Susan started with French onion soup, then had the beef bourguignon. Tessa started with baked brie, then had mussels. I started with a caesar salad, then had octopus and chorizo with fingerling potatoes. Everything was fantastic. There were also kirs royale and a martini and a glass of scotch, and then dessert – two floating islands and one banana crepes with nutella (mine). Only downside is although the waiters were really good and friendly, the actual mechanics of getting more water or bread (many requests, little action) or clearing the table was poor. Maybe it was a bad night ,not enough bus people showed up? But fantastic food – not unreasonably priced, but pricey overall because we all turned off our filters and got a whole buncha food and it was absolutely worth it.
And that was it, except for everyone agreeing it was a lovely day and hugs and kisses all around, and me collapsing in bed pretty much ASAP.
I’ll have more pridey-pride stuff later, I think, but HAPPY PRIDE DAY and month and life!