Helen Laroche comes at you, live from New York…
I write to you this week from my Airbnb’d Chelsea apartment. I’d like to tell you that I’m sitting at a pristine desk facing a window, hair disheveled, musing aloud a la Carrie Bradshaw. But the truth is, I’m lying supine on the unmade bed, laptop on my knees a la Hannah Horvath. My husband and I are in town for a few days before we move on to New Jersey for a friend’s wedding. (If we’re lucky, we may even see fellow Theatre Pub writer and my former castmate Eli Diamond while we’re here!)
Like nearly every other theatre person on the planet, I’ve long considered New York to be a theatrical mecca. I incorporated my eventual move to The City into my post-college plans. I fantasized about my eventual life here. I added New York legs to any Eastbound trip and tried to see as many shows as possible. I even had my bachelorette weekend in Manhattan, with my 4 bridesmaids and I huddled into a hostel room for maximum savings. (Somewhere, a picture exists of me — in a “Bachelorette” sash — and my bridesmaids kicklining in Times Square. And I believe that this was before they turned Times Square into a pedestrian area, so it was extra annoying.)
So here I am, back in the city I’ve dreamed of for so long. And it’s not what I want it to be. Like every other crush I’ve ever had, the fantasy I made up for myself leaves no breathing room for the real thing.
First of all, there was the guardedness of the people around me that felt like a punch to the gut. Remember that Baz Luhrmann song “Always Wear Sunscreen”? One of the lines was “Live in New York, but leave before it makes you too hard. Live in Northern California, but leave before it makes you too soft.” I think I’ve gone really soft. I’ve gotten used to keeping my head up, making eye contact with other people, smiling and making some semblance of a connection, a sharing of energy, with strangers. (And, yes, even thinking the phrase “sharing of energy” is a sign of that NorCal softness at work.) The blockage I got from other people in the first few hours of walking around was noticeable. It wasn’t big, and it wasn’t from everyone, but it put me in a sour mood that I ended up directing at my poor husband.
Second of all, a realization that’s been dawning on me for some time now: Broadway, at least vision of Broadway I have in my head as a shining pinnacle of theatre, does not exist. Maybe it did when I was a kid, when I first built that seed of a dream in my head. Maybe it never existed. But my love for creation, for telling new stories, is greater than my love for telling bombastic, high-budget ones. And in light of that, I think I’ll always be a workshop and black box girl.
I have an aversion to things so overly polished that they’ve lost the crags and spots that make them relatable (I’ve always thought this was a backlash to my LA upbringing). I feel foolish saying this, but I never fully allowed myself to apply this aversion to my dream of Broadway. As with all childhood dreams, it’s surprisingly emotional to see this one laid to rest.
But maybe there’s still hope in Off-Broadway.
Helen Laroche is a Bay Area actor and singer. She can make you a 5 shot venti soy half-caf no whip salted caramel mocha. Learn about upcoming performance dates at http://www.helenlaroche.com.