Oh my goodness. It is such an amazing experience to see my friend, this lovely, talented person, perform on Broadway. I have to keep telling myself it’s just Jim – the guy from Texas who auditioned in front of my friend Rick and me for a place in the graduate acting program. The guy we accepted into the program, knowing he was the real deal. In a program such as ours, you spend hours and hours with the students, in class, onstage, in rehearsal rooms, at parties. By the time they graduate, you know them very, very well. That’s the nature of a professional actor training program. (And why I have so many former students as Facebook friends!) Jim’s class was the last class that I taught at the University of San Diego/Old Globe Theatre MFA program. That class traveled to London together in the winter of their last semester and I was the faculty advisor who got to go along. Everyone had different plane reservations on different airlines. Jim and I ended up traveling together on Virgin Atlantic and laughed ourselves silly. I am crazy about him.
Anyway, the enormity of his talent shines through in this production of Harvey. What a wonderful performance – honest, funny, sweet and true! Not one false note. While I was watching him, I had the realization that this was my friend Jim, but I could be watching him on any stage – the Old Globe, the MFA theater on campus – it just happened to be on Broadway. The entire cast was excellent and lovingly brought this wonderful old play to life again.
As seems to be the norm in my life, I had an adventure on the way to the performance. My bus, which normally would take about an hour and a half to get to Manhattan, took almost 3 and a half hours. Curtain was at 7 pm and at 6:30 the bus still hadn’t gone through the Lincoln Tunnel (which runs under the Hudson River to Manhattan.) I was in a panic. I had no idea what was holding us up but I was sure I was going to miss the curtain. I had Don call the box office and tell them to hold my ticket, I emailed Jim to tell him what was going on, and I sat there on the bus watching the minutes tick by. We finally got into the bus terminal at 6:50. The theater is 12 blocks away from the terminal. In the midst of 95 degree heat and rush hour in the Theater District, with not one available taxi in sight, I speed walked those 12 blocks, reached the theater and sat in my seat by 7:04 – just as the lights went down.
It was worth it. I’m so proud of Jim. We had a wonderful time together after the show, chatting in his dressing room. I adore him.
Here’s where I realized just how popular he is: as we were getting ready to leave the theater, I saw a long barricade, stretching down the block. On one side of the barricade, 4 or 5 people deep, were fans waiting to see Jim. The line stretched down a long city block. They had been waiting in that heat for almost an hour; we had been talking away in his dressing room for quite a while. We said our goodbyes right before he hit the stage door and then I watched as cheers erupted when Jim followed me out the door. He has to sign autographs after every performance. And there were a lot of people there. His entire life has changed. But he hasn’t, thank goodness. He is still the same thoughtful, funny, serious, kind man I knew 12 years ago and know now. I’m proud to call him my friend.
Teaching can be enormously gratifying. Seeing my former students excel at what they do for a living, what I helped train them to do, is a blessing that fills my heart with joy.