Tuesday, November 11, 2014

MY FEET IN THE SAND: My Trip To Bountiful

Blair Underwood, Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams
The Trip To Bountiful Playbill
Ahmanson Theatre, 2014

You're trapped in a space of misery.  You live amongst the ruins of people who don't see you or get you.  Your key to tranquility and the utmost peace of God is locked in soil several lifetimes and hours away; hours that might as well be light years from where you reside.

In Horton Foote's, The Trip To Bountiful, circa 1954, Carrie Watts, is an elder who lives with and turns over her periodic pension check to a controlling, nagging daughter-in-law and hen-pecked son.  They reside in a cramped Houston, Texas apartment that provides a little more than a window for Carrie to gaze out of and a rocking chair to sway away the pain.  Carrie decides to hoard her pension check with the hope that it will one day fund her forbidden trip back to her beloved home town of Bountiful, Texas.  *[I only need to touch the soil of the land before I die, so that I may do so with dignity and grace].

The original production of this universal and classically themed piece was reprised on Broadway with a primarily African-American cast.  In 2013 the brilliant Cicely Tyson ( Sounder, Roots, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Diary of A Mad Black Woman, The Help) walked away with the well-deserved Tony Award for Best Actress.

When I learned that the play was coming to Los Angeles, I announced to anyone who would listen--my husband--that I had to see it.  After all, the final curtain call of the Fall run would conclude on my birthday and tickets to the show would be an phenomenal gift.  The thought to see a legend, a master at work, an icon--Cicely Tyson-- was astonishing. 

When it comes to the arts, Theater is my first love; I made sure the flyer sat on the table for two months.

I passed that flyer everyday, confident my husband wouldn't let me down, internally boastful that he didn't need a reminder.  However, as I crossed the days off of my calendar, arduous struggles began to wear on me.  I reminded me of my troubled year, decade even, over a myriad of issues both real and perceived.  I allowed bitterness, strife and angst to well up in me like the KÄ«lauea.  I adamantly struck down the notion of the desire to see or experience the play.  I made sure the Husband understood my wishes.

The Thursday before my birthday rolled around.  I didn't give myself permission to release my misery and so I with the Husband we headed over to friends for our weekly Shondaland night.  During the commercial break between Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, an advertisement for The Trip To Bountiful emerged.  The other wife--our birthdays are a day apart--announced they were attending the show on Saturday.  My face dropped; my heart sank.  What was I thinking?  I know I had a chance to see that play and I blew it.  I allowed my self-inflicted misery to over-power my love and strength and forbid anyone's aid out of my funk.

The Husband  allowed my disappointment to air and just before it settled on the sofa, he announced we were seeing the show on Friday.  Beyond grateful isn't enough to explain my joy.  "You really do know me..." Was all I could exclaim after of course, "I'm going to Bountiful!"

Me and Hubby in the theater
Not being familiar with the storyline allowed me to digest every syllable, word and phrase.  That wasn't hard to do.  I witnessed magic on that stage with: Cicely Tyson ( Oprah's Master Class);  Blair Underwood (Posse, Measure for Measure, Assunder, In Treatment, Sex In The City and co-author, the novel Casanegra: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel);  Vanessa Williams (Kiss of The Spider Woman, Ugly Betty, Soulfood, Desperate Housewives); Jurnee Smollet-Bell (Eve's Bayou, The Great Debaters, Temptations: Confessions of A Marriage Counselor);  and Arthur French (Two Trains Running, Medea, Henry VI, The Amen Corner)--acting royalty.  The story was simple, poignant and amusing.  No bells or whistles were needed.

Although crafted in the '50's,  the story, the theme profoundly resonated with me in the present.  I am Carrie Watts. 

We all are Carrie Watts.  We all yearn for our Bountiful.  All of us. 

Sidney Poitier visits the cast
l-r Poitier, Blair Underwood, Cicely Tyson, Vanessa L. Williams

Carrie Watts is the vehicle to display that we all yearn for peace, tranquility, dignity and spiritual/human connectivity.  In that theater seat, I inhaled bountiful joy and exhaled strife.  I am reminded that I don't have to travel seven hours to Bountiful, the soil is at my feet, solid in my soul.

The Trip To Bountiful, Stage
Bountiful, Texas 1940's

As strife, anger, bitterness, ugliness, confusion and dissolution threatens to return, I view my playbill and remember the soil of my soul.  Every once in a while, I have to remember to wiggle my toes in it.

This is Toni Staton Harris Checkin' Up & Checkin' In on... Where's your Bountiful?

*paraphrased from the play


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