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Step One: Relax

A note to Kiss & Cry audiences
By David Dower

Way back in the late 1970’s I received my first ATM Card. It was for the Dolly Madison Bank, in Washington, DC and was, at least as I remember, the first time any of my friends had ever heard of an ATM. I’m not sure it had even acquired its initials yet. I remember the machine’s name was actually Dolly.

At the time, I was living in a sort of college flophouse with many more roommates than bedrooms and even more overnight guests who would just serially forget to go home. Sometimes for months.

When the card arrived in my mailbox I assumed it was an overdraft notice, so I didn’t open it right away. You remember those days? Perhaps you’re still living in those days? Trust me- things have gone way better for me since I started opening the scary envelopes the moment they arrive. But I digress…

This was scary in a different way than I’d anticipated. The letter said something in some now long-since forgotten but no doubt chipper tone about how much easier it was going to be to bank with Dolly now and how I now had access to money any time day or night. I didn’t even need to see a teller anymore to get money. This sounded dangerous to me, though I had the faint hope that the machine wouldn’t know what my balance was and that could, indeed, make getting cash easier. Instructions for the card’s use were printed on the back.

I don’t remember Step Two or Step Three, or even how many steps there were. What I do remember is Step One.

“Step One: Relax”

I have very frequently, in the decades since, used this instruction.

When I first saw the performance you are here to see, I looked at the elaborate organization of the equipment on the stage (entirely undecipherable from my seat), saw the screen hanging over the proceedings and the cameras in the center and thought to myself, “how will I know where to look?” I scoured the program for hints about how to watch this thing and found little comfort there.  First, it was in French. I don’t speak French. I asked the Festival Organizer and learned that this was somehow going to be a story danced by hands, filmed live, and staged on these toy theater sets. What on earth was I to do with that?

From the opening moment, I was swept away and all of these questions evaporated. One of the most visually beautiful, openly romantic, intricately woven, and virtuosically performed stories I’ve ever seen entirely took me over. I understood every word. And, as I say, I don’t speak French. I didn’t know what to call this type of performance, and I still don’t. I’d never seen the form before. Haven’t since. And I thought afterwards that, if I ever get to share this experience with Boston audiences, I will want to give just one instruction to anyone, like me, trying to figure out how to be ready to watch this show:

“Step One: Relax”


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