Friday, May 25, 2012

Hellen Hayes Theatre 100 years old

I was in honorable company yesterday but the star of the show was the theatre herself. Just for posterity here is a transcript of my short speech. I gave the staff a shout out by name at the end that was unplanned. I had a great time.

Helen Hayes Theatre at 100 years old
It is really wonderful to be back on this stage. I have not stood on this spot since we closed my show. The theatre is exactly the way I remember it except for one thing. When I was here the seats were blue, today they are red and filled. It is difficult to believe that this theatre is 100 years old, until you flush the downstage dressing room toilet.

Like everyone else who has been here, the moment I arrived I never wanted to leave. Being a television and comedy club guy I really didn't know the proper theatrical etiquette and superstitions. However, I quickly tried to learn about them so as not to anger the gods of the theatre and jinx the run. I even found out that the Helen Hayes theatre had it's own set of unique rituals and superstitions. I tried to perform them to the letter in the best manner I could. I eventually found out these special rituals were actually stunts created by Joe Beck the lighting tech. It became a joke to see if I would actually do them. No one warned me about the wicked humor of Joe Beck.
During the run of the show I saw the door behind that lighting alcove open. From the ambient light I could see it was an elderly woman with glasses, she peered in and looked around. After realizing there was a show going on she closed the door rather quickly so as not to disturb.
After the show I mentioned it to my stage manager and casually asked how one would access the hallway to that door. The word came back that there was no hallway up there. Well, perhaps it was not a hallway, but how would one get to the doors behind the alcoves. The word came back that there were no doors to those alcoves. I found this really hard to believe since I had seen it with my own eyes and called bull shit when I found out the source of this empirical information was Joe Beck.
It was not until Joe offered to set a ladder up to prove there was no door that I began to think of the event in paranormal terms. It was there after referred to as the time I saw a ghost in the theatre. From that moment on any unusual event that did not involve Joe Beck was attributed to the ghost
It finally came time to close my show.
In the lobby after the last show we had champagne and of course goodbye speeches. In my speech I said I intended to pack up a couple of the ghosts in my trunks and take them on the road with me so I wouldn't miss the theatre so much.
However, Susan Meyerberg reminded me that contractually I could not take any ghosts with me. And rather was obligated by tradition to even leave some behind.

There is a point to the story. This building is named after the first lady of the American Theatre. One of the very few theaters on Broadway to ever be named for a woman. And for me that could not be more relevant. A theatre, like most living things becomes that for which it is known. This is known as the Helen Hayes, it seems to have taken on the nurturing and graciously mothering traits of the feminine while embracing the beauty of a consummate artist. This theatre is the mother and the shows are her children. For those of us who have been reborn in this artistic womb we have a notable pedigree.
My show was not one of her most famous children, one of her most profitable children, nor one of her history making children. My show is simply one of her most appreciative and grateful children. At one hundred years old I can not give this theatre anything she does not already possess. But like a perfect mother she does not take she only gives.
So Susan, I disobeyed, I did take that ghost with me. It lives in my heart with so many other memories of being here. Marty, Happy birthday, happy anniversary, happy journeys. Thanks for making me part of this family.
As you were,


BarryF said...

Beautiful speech, Jay! Thanks for sharing.

P. Grecian said...

A great speech, a great story. Thanks, Jay.

Cheryl said...

Thank you for sharing your terrific speech and marvelous photo, Jay!