As I sat watching the Kennedy Center Honors last night, I started to get emotional. Working as a theater critic based in the Maryland-Washington DC area, I have been fortunate enough to review dozens of shows at the Kennedy Center over the years. It has always a place of comfort and hope, and a way to stay involved and engaged with the world of theater and performance.
I started to remember the last four years (this past year of covid aside), and thought back on how lucky I am. As a seventeen year old kid, I was invited to the world renowned John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to review a production of “Into the Woods.” I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was determined to soak up every moment. On a whim, I asked their press department if I could continuing reviewing shows, and was honestly completely baffled when they said yes. But I was determined to prove that I deserved to be there and earn my place in that line to pick up press tickets.
Over the years, I began to get more comfortable with my position as a theater writer and critic. I no longer felt small walking into the Kennedy Center’s massive and opulent Opera House, and instead was able to confidently make my way to the secret ladies room with the shortest line. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the awe of that first night wore off, but I had found my routine. I knew my place.
Building this website, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the last four years and how I want to move forward. Like most of us, I’ve missed theater with a deep ache, and I have only begun to take the time to remind myself what it means to me in the last year.
As I sat watching this evening of theater and performance at the Kennedy Center last night, I remembered how lucky I am. Watching one of my favorite performers, Derek Hough, sing and dance to songs made famous by the absolutely incredible Dick Van Dyke, I was moved to tears (if it is not already evident by my previous posts, really good theater often makes me cry). I realized I had almost begun to take my privilege in this beautiful place for granted. But as I watched speakers and performers in this space I have gotten so comfortable with, that feeling I had as a first semester college student was back. I was reminded of all that theater can do, and the place that the Kennedy Center holds in the world of performing arts.
This space of collaboration and hope stands as a physical manifestation of what makes theater so special. Watching performers I have admired my whole life receive this honor, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have ever gotten the chance to be welcomed into the same space even just once.
Feature Photo: Me in front of one of the rotating art exhibits at the Kennedy Center