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EDITORIAL: Grief and Musical Theatre

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

By Chris Marchand
The necessary routines of family life have a way of lulling your senses into complacency. There’s not a lot of high emotion while making your kid’s lunch every morning, in watching Netflix on the treadmill or shovelling the driveway.

It’s easy to take for granted an uneventful life, full of people who you need and love, until one day one of those persons are suddenly gone and the raw edge of grief heightens your senses in ways you’d forgotten.

It happened about two hours before I was to sit down behind the drums for the opening night of Theatre 17’s three-show run of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, for which myself, the rest of the band and dozens of dedicated cast and crew had been preparing for months.

My wife inconsolable over the loss of her father, I left my shocked and confused seven year-old with my folks and stumbled to The Centre utterly torn over where my responsibilities should lie in this most unlikely of scenarios.

I wasn’t that worried about being off my game. After 20 or so rehearsals and countless hours with the score, there’s a certain robotic ease with which you can play notes in a sequence. Let the front brain run the program and unplug the emotional lizard brain for two hours. It was sweet relief, to be honest.

And what unfolded was a pretty magical opening night. A fantastic, giving crowd and a confident, talented cast delivering a daring and outrageous show the likes of which Dryden has never seen.

There I sat, having the time of my life, drawing from a warm audience and the absurd comedy of the Rocky Horror experience, while two blocks away, some of the people closest to me were struggling with heartbreak and loss.

That first night I walked off that stage feeling like a sociopath, or at the very least a cheater for not only having escaped my circumstances for a time, but for leaving that venue with my heart glowing.

For two more days and nights I would move between these alternate spheres of grief and joy — as though the nights on stage were recharging my soul for a difficult day to come.

What a thing it is to feel the true weight of the world without the usual buffer of the uneventful life, that illusion of control. To both cry and laugh with such abandon is to feel like you’re six years old again.

My wife felt able to make the final show, where she snuck backstage to seek out the show’s star, David Huffman — a former elementary student of hers from her days at Lillian Berg School, who while being the next thing to naked (save for short shorts and fishnet stockings) went in for the bear hug. That kind of trip outside one’s comfort zone pretty much sums up the Rocky Horror Show experience.

I have to thank the cast, crew and especially the rest of the Rocky Horror Show band for being a beacon of joy in an otherwise dark time. We all worked very hard, but I think I received much more than I could have ever put in.
— Chris Marchand

2 thoughts on “EDITORIAL: Grief and Musical Theatre

  1. “The show must go on” is one of those old
    saws that are muttered perfunctorily, but which don’t
    mean much …until they suddenly do, until they
    apply to our life, to our tragedy.
    Thanks, Chris for being there, and for your
    contribution to this powerful, funny, moving show.
    Not just for the music, but for the support. And the

    1. Chris, your editorial regarding the show “Rocky Horror Show” a timing of personal agonizing conflict of responsibilities touched my heart, here in Wisconsin State/side. Your wife’s coming to the final show and hugging her former pupil — brings tears to my eyes! Beautiful , poignant story of life in Dryden. New Year’s greetings to too, your family and Observer readership.

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