Déjà Vu All Over Again

I heard about Yogi Berra’s death this past week and thought about all the times I’ve used one of his famous quotes. The guy had a way with words that made people laugh and think at the same time.

I found myself using one of those quotes earlier this month when Hubby and I had an evening at the theater. The first thing you must know is that, left to his own devices, Don would not choose to spend a Saturday evening at the theater, watching actors rush around the stage, spouting lines that half the time you can’t even understand. But because he loves me, and I love going to the theater, he will suck it up and take me there when I have a burning desire to see a play.

I had hinted around for a couple of months that Arsenic & Old Lace was coming to the Albuquerque Little Theater, and that I would like to attend a performance. As often as I said that, it never got a response. As all wives know, after subtlety goes out the door, the brutally direct approach is next.  I said, “I want to go to the Little Theater this Saturday night to see Arsenic & Old Lace.” We quickly eliminated the various friends he suggested I take with me, leaving him as the last man standing (so to speak.) I made the reservations and on Saturday evening, September 12, we headed downtown to the Little Theater.

All right, it’s confession time. In one of my previous lives within this current life (I can explain that to anybody who doesn’t immediately get it) I was an active participant in the Albuquerque theater community. For more than ten years I did shows with Albuquerque Civic Light Opera, Classics Theater Company, The Vortex, Old Town Studio, Tiffany Playhouse, The Players, and Albuquerque Children’s Theater. It was great while it lasted, and I had a blast doing it. But life is always changing, demands on your time become different, and you move on to something else. My last theater performance was the year before Don and I were married. He never saw me on stage, but he has no trouble picturing me there.

The main reason I wanted to see  Arsenic & Old Lace was to briefly revisit one of my own performances in that play, back in 1976. It was the year of the Bicentennial Celebration. For those of you too young to remember, the USA had a grand time in 1976 celebrating the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In keeping with that, the Classics Theater Company selected an American play (they usually did Shakespeare) to perform for the Bicentennial. They chose Arsenic & Old Lace, and it was performed at Popejoy Hall September 16-19, 1976.

Amanda Gordon, Phil Nicholson & Katie Martin
Amanda Gordon, Phil Nicholson & Katie Martin

As I watched the show at the Little Theater, it brought back so many memories of those days and doing that play. I found I occasionally even remembered a line or two. It was eerie, too, because it put me right back in time. When we came home that night, I dug out an envelope containing a handful of black & white publicity shots taken by the UNM Lobo photographer for their student newspaper. It also had the program, faded but preserved.

Phil Nicholson and Bill Hayden
Phil Nicholson & Bill Hayden

By the way, the actors at Albuquerque Little Theater did an outstanding job on the play. My character, Elaine Harper, was played by a lovely young woman—much younger than I was when I did the part. She made it look like so much fun to be up there that I felt a twinge of regret for those long ago days on stage. I had the opportunity after the play to speak to that young actor and tell her I had also done the part. She was appropriately impressed (and probably amazed) when I told her it had been thirty-nine years, almost to the day.

Phil Nicholson & Me (Pat Mead in those days.)
Phil Nicholson & Me (Pat Mead in those days.)

As I looked through those old photographs, it struck me how many of the wonderful actors of my day are no longer with us. Of the seven main characters in that play performed in 1976, only three of us are still around to talk about it. I thought I’d post photos here as a sort of tribute to them and to all the other talented actors I’ve worked with who have gone on to that big stage in the sky.


So here’s to Amanda Gordon (Lois Kimbrell), Katie Martin, Bill Hayden, and Jerry Jacobs, all of them fine actors in this cast as well as my friends. I miss you all, and thanks for the memories.

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