The town next to me has a theater built in the late 1870s. It has seen several revivals of sorts throughout the years, its most infamous use being when the Renaissance Community – the commune/cult I grew up in – owned it. I spent many days and nights in that theater as a teenager, so it has a difficult history for me, but that history has become less overwhelming since 2000 when I auditioned for my first play at what is now the Shea Theater. Its renovation removed the gaudiness that Michael Rapunzel (née, Metalica) imposed on the once beautiful theater, but the balcony was removed, leaving only a light and sound booth for shows, and tiered rows of seats down to the ground floor of the theater.
The other night, several community groups helped present a large screen showing of: It’s A Wonderful Life, for free, but people were encouraged to bring canned goods or monetary donations for our regional food bank and local food pantries.
I wasn’t going to go, but I wasn’t born when that movie was first shown in theaters, so I thought it would be fun to see on a big screen, even though I suspected I’d be in a largely empty theater. Boy was I wrong! The theater was packed and there were many families in attendance. It was a festive experience to see the film with all those people, some seeing it for the first time, and probably plenty for the last as well. I mean that last part to convey that it’s an outdated movie whose quaint filming and content don’t satisfy a movie going public in the way it might have when it was first released.
After the show, the crowd was told that the pub across the street was serving ‘flaming rum punch’, a drink that Clarence, the angel (second class), tries to order at Martini’s in the alternate world he’s escorting George Bailey through. I decided to go over, and again, thought I’d be among very few, but the pub was crowded, with more filing in after me, and many there had just come from seeing the film. It was a very jovial crowd, and it felt somewhat surreal, like we were all characters from the story somehow. I half expected a saxophone rendition of Auld Lang Syne to play over the pub’s stereo.
The rum punch was just spiced cider with rum, but it was warm and soothing on a cold, dreary night. The people sitting next to me at the bar started chatting with me, and I asked them if they had ever seen the movie before, and they hadn’t. They said they liked it, and thought it was a great idea to offer, and hoped there would be more community events like that. A young woman related that she had always wanted to see the film, but her mother hated it, saying it was too depressing, and turned it off any time it was on television, so the woman just assumed she’d hate it too. She was pleasantly surprised to find that it was more uplifting than depressing, even if set during the Great Depression and World War II.
It was a lovely oasis in a difficult time, not only for recent tragedies, but for this dark time of year that starts my yearly descent. I hope this will be the year I fall no further.
Enjoy each other, tell those who matter that you love them, tell strangers you’re glad to meet them, be helpful, and kind, and you may receive no heavenly reward, but you will uplift humanity, and I think we can all use more gladness, even if momentary. Peace.
© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.