Cold Seasons of Hope

Being a complete wienie about cold weather — after decades of full-body frying in the sunbaked Southwest — I worried about spending an entire winter in New York.  Was I tough enough to take it?  Would I have to be emergency-airlifted to some tropical climate in February?

Well, ha.  Like therapists had sometimes (usually at emotional gunpoint) assured me for years, I was tougher than I thought.

As reported earlier, I bought a thick coat and long underwear that made me look like the missing half of a salt-and-pepper-shaker set (my husband, swathed in his own chunky layers, completed the set).  I also bought boots so snug and faux-furry they usually required half an hour of squirming and swearing to get on.

The sun disappeared in the late afternoon, the wind howled, the snow drifted, the rain pelted, the temperatures went into an operatic freefall.  November, December, January, February March — and did I complain?  Not much more than usual.  New Yorkers even apologized for such a brutal winter, worse than usual, they said.  Not a problem! I answered.  We were fine!  Tough!  Uncomplaining!

That was then, this is now.  New York winters I can take.  It’s New York springs that shrivel the soul.

Today is April 20.  Late April.  That time of year means certain things to me — like it’s supposed to be warm and sunny and glorious and I should have packed away my wool clothes and coats a couple of weeks ago.  But, no.  The warm and sunny days come, then they go.  The cold and rain and Wizard-of-Oz winds shroud the East Coast.  Enough!  It’s spring.  Haven’t we proved ourselves already?  Can I stop my non-complaining yet?

Last night, we bundled up and walked four or five blocks to the Vital Theatre Company‘s presentation of performances by some of the top understudies and standbys from New York’s current musicals.  (According to WikiAnswers, standbys are not ensemble members, which understudies are.  But both are ready to step in to a role.  Also — a surprise to me — standbys are higher-status.)

We were inside a small, third-floor theater filled with people who were our age and older.  One by one, the seven performers bounded down the stairs and sang.  It was amazing to me — the sheer level and ferocity of the talent in front of us.  Understudies from Hair and Memphis and A Little Night Music and Million Dollar Quartet and Sondheim On Sondheim — alternately belting and crooning.  So much talent — and where will these people go?  Will they stay in New York and make it big — or stay in New York and kind of make it?  Go home — wherever that is — and teach and perform in smaller markets?  All so good-looking and wonderful and ambitious, with that precious and dwindling quality of youth.

Whoever thought of featuring these young people together (I believe it was producer Stephen DeAngelis) had a brilliant idea.  What an evening — seeing so much potential, enjoying it and wondering what would ultimately become of it.

As it does with springtime, New York raises your expectations.  But it never, ever promises you a damned thing.

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read one of my favorite posts about how awful it is to have a conscience

9 comments… add one
  • I think somebody might have mentioned that April is the cruelest month.

    As for the actors, full of talent and promise, I think of them all the time.  My darling younger son is trying to make his way that way.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Is he in London?

  • Jeez Louise, you’re hard to please! It’s GAWJUS out today! Go to my blog and you’ll see how I’m whining about MISSING my bike in  this BEE u ti ful weather.

  • Lynn Link

    Ah, perspective is everything–here in New England (I live in Massachusetts), we’ve been marvelling at how warm it is for April. Fruit trees blooming in mid-April? Goodness–quite unusual.

  • A show featuring standbys and understudies is such a wonderful idea. It’s always sad to think of so much talent and energy languishing unheard and unseen.
    The last time I was in NYC was mid-April. We’d come prepared for spring, and had to rush out and buy winter clothes in order to survive the freezing wind that blew down the canyons between the skyscrapers.

  • That’s EXACTLY what I said about Chicago winters — they didn’t know when to quit!  Every spring, I would plan a trip home to Austin the last week in March to get my warm weather fix. Seven days of bluebonnets and sunshine would sustain me until the warm weather finally stuck around Chicago in late May/early June. 

  • Winston Link

    I always think of standbys and understudies as members of a beehive locked in a room offstage buzzing ’round and ’round waiting for the door to be flung open with a sudden call, and then swarm forth to pollinate the stage with all their pent-up vigor, youth and talent.  It’s a wonder more lead actors and actresses haven’t been surreptitiously maimed in stage door alleys with the defense:  “But the SHOW Must Go On!!!”  How benevolent of some footlight angel to safely set them free for a couple of hours.

  • I wish I’d known about this type of show. Sounds lovely! What a wonderful idea; the room must have been swimming with talent.
    And yes, it CAN and DOES snow in April in New York. And it’s been mighty cold. Sob.

  • Wonderful observations. Triggers thoughts of Gypsy for me. I’m dying of envy. What an experience. Only New York City can make you or break you and everywhere else is always second best.

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