In my assortment I noticed Playbills for exhibits I solely vaguely remembered and ones I didn’t recall in any respect. I checked out every one and the sensation was one thing like heartbreak, a tiny dose of grief. I don’t even have applications for each present I’ve seen; some I’ve misplaced, some I failed to choose up and a few, to my dismay, were digital.
Years in the past the Instances critic Walter Kerr wrote about his not keeping Playbills, contemplating the psychology of the collector, saying it “isn’t a matter of wallowing in nostalgia”; it’s at all times about in search of the subsequent addition to the gathering. I’ve to disagree. When my buddies recommend placing my applications in binders or frames or remodeling them into stylish Instagrammable décor, I resist, as a result of I’m not the collector Kerr imagined. I do wallow — or I’d say, extra precisely, bask — in my reminiscences, and I don’t need these previous performances to be displayed like trophies; I need to contact them, as if I may take these moments themselves into my fingers. It’s my little act of witchcraft: I thumb by the pages and all of the sudden it’s resurrected — my feeling at 18, sitting with my aunt within the Richard Rodgers Theater watching “In the Heights.”
I do know it might sound foolish to be so hooked up to somewhat promotional booklet — or, in some instances, a single unadorned piece of folded card inventory or sheet of printer paper — and picture it represents mourning when there are a lot of different issues to mourn in the intervening time. And by now I do know I’m stalling, am nonetheless watching piles of Playbills on the mattress as an alternative of packing plates and mugs. It happens to me that proper now, if it have been a traditional Sunday a yr in the past, I’d be leaving for a Sunday matinee.
One of many greatest challenges of being a critic is accounting for the artwork being made within the current but in addition recalling the previous. We bear witness to artwork, writing about it so folks know it’s there, that it’s occurring, that it occurred. However as I’ve already mentioned, reminiscence is flawed, and so are we. We’re at all times within the strategy of forgetting some element or one other: final Wednesday’s breakfast, the telephone variety of a childhood dwelling, the opening variety of a musical from 2013, the colour of a costume an actress wore onstage simply final yr. They go one after the other.
So, I pack up my Playbills for the productions I recall and those I don’t. When theater returns, I’ll accumulate extra to shelve with the others and look by them after I’m feeling nostalgic. And I’ll know that though I’ll not bear in mind the particulars of each single efficiency or set, there’s nonetheless one thing valuable within the data that for one particular second in time, one thing particular occurred, I noticed it, I used to be there.