When John chose the song, “Every time I say goodbye,” for today, I thought, “how perfect.” There is perhaps nothing we, as actors or “show people,” are better at, than saying goodbye.
When you think about theatre jobs, there are very few long running shows. You spend every waking, working, playing moment together and then, boom, everyone goes home, many on to other jobs in other cities. You never see them again. Then, there is another show and another cast, another group of friends and another goodbye.
I think because of this, many theatre people may not open themselves up as far. You keep to yourself and only open your heart far enough so that it won’t hurt when it’s over. Because it will be over and you know it.
At Hampton, it was hard to say goodbye, and nearly impossible NOT to open yourself up, at least to Alfred. He had this way of knowing you, better than you knew yourself. You could have an off night, and Alfred would find the one bright spot, and if there was no bright spot, he brought it all into perspective for you with a laugh. How many times he took me aside and reassured me that I was on the right track? He had such a good heart.
Alfred loved music, singing and a good laugh. He always said at Hampton the secret to their success was casting. “We hire funny people,” he would say. And there were plenty of funny people at Hampton, Alfred among them. Alfred balanced his calm, reassuring, fatherly presence with a wicked sense of humor.
I remember Bobby telling us about how Alfred made him duck down behind the box office window when they were working one afternoon. An older, disgruntled, regular patron approached the window and Alfred grabbed Bobby’s hand and they ducked down out of sight. “Al, I know you’re in there,” she said rapping on the window. I can still hear Alfred’s unapologetic laugh as Bobby recounted every detail of the story.
From the handling of the little old ladies at the box office…to the doting on his mother selling candy at intermission…teasing actors with too much ego, you know, the ones that don’t realize they are being teased…coaching workshop kids…presiding at a table at the Galley Hatch…Alfred handled everything with a quiet grace. You could always be yourself, because Alfred was always Alfred. And when the summer was over and we returned to our lives, there were those days, when I know I could have used a little of Alfred’s reassurance, or could have benefited from his easy going perspective.
When the playhouse was re-developed, we said goodbye in what seemed like a final way, but the memories were attached to the people -- all those funny people that Alfred and John assembled -- not the building. While it was a great old barn, it would have been empty without Alfred, his nurturing and the history he and John built in that place.
All the years of saying goodbye, year after year…in my heart, I never really did. Because no matter how much I moved on to the next show, Alfred, John and all the people they brought together, all of you -- stayed with me.
Today, we say goodbye again and this time it does feel final. Like the song says, I’ll die a little, I’ll wonder why a little, but in the end, I’m just not going to do it. I’ll say it, I’ll even sing it, but I’m not going to do it. Alfred had a long run. But not nearly long enough for me. He may be gone, but like the melody you can’t get out of your head, or the memory of a good laugh… I am going to keep a little bit of Alfred with me. I’m going to keep him, right here, where he’s always been.
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