The last time I went to a theater, COVID-19 was in the news, but at this point, (just under two weeks ago,) it was still possible to step out of a cool evening into the warmth of a crowded and well lit lobby and not feel overwhelmed by thoughts of the virus.
We saw Geoff Sobelle’s “Home,” a performance that nearly defies description. Prior to attending an event, my husband will sometimes ask, “Is it a play? Or a piece?” He needs to know what he’s getting into. He needs time to prepare. “Home” was a little of both.
We sat together in the dark and watched the magic unfold. A door opened. A wall was built. A bed appeared. It’s hard to describe this show without ruining it. I don’t want to ruin it because it feels like an expression of faith to imagine that you might, one day, buy a ticket and take your seat amidst friends and strangers in a quiet space. It is an optimistic assumption that you will have a chance to see this show and experience it for yourself.
As a high school student, I considered the theater my home. That space was so critical to my identity that, even with the burden of three decades on my shoulders, I could still sit at a table with my eyes closed and draw for you a map of the Performing Arts Center at Manzano High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I imagine my pen travelling from the last row in the house to the tiny dressing rooms just off stage right. The front of the stage was high enough to encourage sitting with dangled legs. The curtains were heavy and velvet. The scuffed sound tiles around the house phone, just off stage left, where I leaned my shoulder and pressed the receiver into my ear, is where I heard my stepmother read aloud the words of my college acceptance letter.
Geoff Sobelle asked us to consider the definition of home. He asks us to imagine the life of a house. What happened before you lived in your house? What will happen after? He showed us the daily rituals that, year after year, create a union of continuity among the residents.
The virus asks me to stay in my house. At home, we practice rituals of social distancing, while continuing to perform the rituals of ordinary life. The rest of the world is distant, but sometimes it feels that we are on top of each other. Every day my husband and our two teens create our own performance. We make schedules, prepare food. We try to work and study. We walk the empty streets of the neighborhood or we run on the treadmill in our garage. At meals, we laugh a lot. We sit at the table together for longer than we have in some time. We let ourselves be held by the order of placemats and forks and knives.
My son is waiting to hear from colleges. The end of his senior year of high school is being held on line. A few days ago, he showed me the Minecraft model he was building of the sanctuary where his graduation would be held. “The CDC is limiting gatherings,” he said. “Just in case we need to go virtual…” He showed me the rows of empty seats, and the arches and doorways. He walked me through the space and I marveled at the way the light streamed through the stained glass. “I wanted to put the sun where the light would stream right through the big windows,” he told me.
There was a graduation in Geoff Sobelle’s “Home.” A member of the audience played the role in cap and gown. Other audience members were given a bridal veil, a baby, a funeral. The rituals of our lives take place when and where they can. They bloom out from our homes like scarves pulled from a magician’s sleeve and then, in times like this (have we ever had times like this?), fold back into the most familiar of places.
Today I took a pencil and wrote on a piece of paper: Breakfast. Walk. Be creative. Lunch. More work. Read. Prepare dinner. Rest.