It’s come full circle, the season of the World Premiere of Native Gardens at The Cincinnati Playhouse has come to a close. As I write this post I am sitting outside on the balcony of our Pasadena home, next to all of our plants and flowers, and the newly added Cyclamen, from our set, that I carried on the plane from the theatre. The weather is 30 degrees warmer, I can hear parrots in the palm tree and see hummingbirds at our feeders.
Closing night was a success! The audience was generous and giddy. We all played full and with fervor on that stage, filling the house with our story one last time. After getting out of costume we gathered for a champagne toast in the green room, led by our brilliant director Blake Robison. Actors cleared their dressing stations and loved ones mingled while sipping bubbly and moonshine soaked cherries. We then trickled up to the lobby for a wine party and celebration, hosted by a doner, with the two other casts currently working at the Playhouse. We joined The Revolutionists and To Kill A Mockingbird in a spread of mushroom Brie, crackers, pork tenderloin, roasted root vegetables with apples and a slice of bannana cream pie. All the while being served a delicious deep red wine as we looked out over the city and leisurely wrapped up the run of our show.
It was a lovely and magical setting to deliver our goodbyes, so longs, farewells, see you laters, thank yous and love yous… Smiles, tears and big hugs were shared and eventually the evening ended and the final preparations for departure began. At the beginning of closing week I finally ventured to the Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park. Just a short walk from actor housing I entered their current exhibit of spring flowers and my jaw fell to the ground! It was an explosion of color and scents, a celebration of growth, petals and blooms. I imagine this is what it looked like when the Greek Goddess Demeter allowed abundance to fill the lands when her daughter Persephone was returned from Hades.
Sitting here reflecting on closing our play, I can’t help but realize how much a theatrical production of a new play is like a garden. It begins with a seed of thought that grows into a script, this seedling of a play thrives in the soil of a theatre that provides all of the necessary elements to cultivate the growth of a story. Actors, crew, staff, rehearsals, tech, lights, set, sound, costumes, tickets, publicity, audience, patrons, donors… All of which are an elemental part of the production, just as the garden needs sunlight, water, earth, bugs, bees, love and care…
The theatre has seasons, just as our planet does, and there comes a time when all of the effort, work, sweat, ideas, adventures, creativity and performances must come to an end. The set is torn down just as the earth is tilled, ready for the cultivation of the next play. My aunt Dolores arrived on Thursday to visit and see the play. She is my mother’s sister and also my godmother. Since I was little she has been a big influence in developing my own interests in identifying birds, naming plants, flowers and trees and exploring nature around me. She was a teacher before she retired and one of her big projects with her school was to develop an outdoor classroom for students to have hands on experience in understanding ecosystems and habitat. When I was younger I accompanied her 5th grade class on a field trip to Chaco Canyon. She lives in New Mexico in the middle of a Cottonwood grove and from her sunroom you can hear dozens of different birds tweeting and eating on her outdoor feeders equipped with little microphones that are connected to speakers inside. She and my Uncle Clyde travel all over with their dogs, camping and sightseeing wildlife and National Parks.
The day she arrived we ate a late lunch at The Montgomery Inn overlooking the Ohio river. We caught up over crab cakes, ribs, shrimp and hot wings. That night she rested from her trip while I performed our last Thursday night show. Friday we explored the Cincinnati Museum Center, located in Union Station, taking in the Natural History Museum, the IMAX film National Parks Adventure and visited the old control tower on the third floor. Then we drove all around downtown Cincinnati so she could see the architecture, churches, bridges and murals. That night we enjoyed a beautiful view of the city over a mixed grill of seafood (salmon, grouper, scallops and shrimp) at The Celestial Steakhouse. She helped pack some of my belongings while I performed our final Friday night show.
Saturday morning we had the great pleasure of a VIP tour of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens with our cast and the actors of The Revolutionists. We were up close with the Asian elephants, we fed Wallabys, and saw our tour guide handle armadillos, a bearded dragon a python and a scorpion. It was super exciting and the warmest day of my entire Cincinnati stay. Miles arrived while we were at the zoo to celebrate closing week with me, and the three of us had a yummy brunch at The Rookwood. That afternoon Dolores attended our final matinee performance in the second row center and had a blast! Miles worked on lines for upcoming auditions and then joined me after my evening performance for food and drinks with the cast while Dolores packed up and rested for her return trip. I drove her to the airport Sunday morning and hugged her goodbye…
Dolores has been such a fundamental part of my growth as a human, her presence in my life has helped cultivate my interests and has been a solid rock of support. She videotaped my earliest community theatre projects, she would hand sew birthday presents, take me out to lunches, create photo collage gifts and now travels to see my shows. What a treat it was to share my work and explore this city together, can’t wait to see where we meet up next! Now I’m Home! Miles was by my side, lighting up my life, for the final weekend of shows and festivities. He generously got himself a seat on my return flight and we flew back together yesterday. He has been at every opening and closing of my shows since we have met and just as a flower loves sunlight, I am grateful for his presence on this journey. He visited three times while I was in Cincinnati! Helping me settle in, exploring the city together, ringing in the New Year, hanging with my cast and crew, celebrating opening weekend, closing weekend… He was a huge part of this production, and we have now made wonderful and close connections with everyone involved in Native Gardens. I know our paths will cross with these incredible folks again… We now get to continue cultivating our own garden on the balcony of our little piece of Pasadena paradise. I purchased the gardening gloves that my character Tania wore as a memento of this very special and joyful process that was the World Premiere of Native Gardens by Karen Zacharias. Until next time Cincinnati, Hasta la proxima!
FRANK: …Like I said, new neighbors.
End of Play