I get a pang whenever we go to a Lamplighters show (we saw Ruddygore today).
This is the backside of the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, part of the Mosconi Center. The company has been performing there (and several other theaters around northern California) for many years, but I was not part of the company when they made that move. I had not been a part of the company for several years when they made that move.
The Lamplighters has been a huge part of my life for over fifty years.
In the beginning Walt and I got ushering tickets so we could see the shows for free. They performed at the Harding Theater then, a dilapidated old movie house in a marginally bad section of town. It's where my love of Gilbert & Sullivan and this company really began.
When the neighborhood started going downhill faster (and audience members were being accosted on the street), they moved to the Presentation High School theater. That was my sister's alma mater and over the years I definitely spent more time there than she ever did. That was where they were performing when Alison, Carolyn and I started researching what would eventually be "The Lamplighters: Twenty-Five Years of Gilbert & Sullivan in San Francisco."
I saw my first rehearsal there, it was Act 2 of Die Fledermaus and I still remember the great thrill of walking into the theater and sitting quietly watching them rehearse the opening chorus, which to this day I cannot hear without thinking of that moment.
We wrote our book and I stuck around as a volunteer in the office. I became a Lamplighter and made lifelong friends there. Gilbert & I collaborated on several original musicals there. And I had my heart broken when he died in 1986.
Walt and I continued to be involved, though now the major involvement was his, as he joined the tech crew and the friends he made there are the ones who joined us at Arthur Sullivan's memorial a week ago. We see them socially a couple of times a year. It is sad that we have started seeing them at funerals in addition to dinner parties.
As time moved on and new people started performing, they weren't "my" people any more, and really, how many times can you see HMS Pinafore in a lifetime anyway? We started skipping some shows, though we still see at least one a year (in addition to the annual fund-raising gala, which I used to help write).
So when we go to a show it's with a sense of familiarity, though when I open the program and find only 4 familiar names among a whole cast of new faces, it's not "my" Lamplighters any more. And when of the names I recognize, one has been performing with the LLs for 50 years and the other for 40... They both used to do leads, this time they split the small character role of Old Adam, who has very little to say and/or do. But they want to keep performing (and one of them is now also the company General Manager). Chris is still in the chorus after 49 years.
Walt pointed out to me the name of someone on the tech crew. He remembered working on the tech crew with her mother when she was pregnant with the girl who has now joined the company.
I looked over the extensive donor list and found John and his wife [last name] I remember when they used to include the name of their daughter Alicia and when their daughter's name disappeared off of the form when they submitted their donation some time in the mid 1980s, I called them to find out who Alicia was and what had happened to her (she had gone off to college). We had just gotten a computer that year and I was inputting all the donors into a database, which is how I happened to notice.
Paul worked a show one time and Tom was in a production of HMS Pinafore. Ned worked on the tech crew for a production of Patience. He still remembered the quote "oh to be wafted away from this black Alcadama of sorrow where the dust of an earthy today is the earth of a dusty tomorrow." I played the doorbell in the overture to Something's Afoot when it was done for the first time. Jeri was on the tech crew for several years too.
I can barely remember before there was Lamplighters in my life and can't see there never being Lamplighters in my life again, but it's not "my company" any more. It belongs to the young kids who have moved it into a whole new level of professionalism.
Still when I see Mad Margaret and Despard doing "I once was a very abandoned person" and realize that the choreography for today's production is almost exactly the same as it has been for the past 60 years (it was declared "perfect" and nobody wanted to change perfection), I realize that it will always be "my company" on some level.