It’s hard to define catharsis. I remember learning about the term in a high school English class. I remember it was defined as “a release of emotion”. But it’s hard to truly understand it until you experience it. Part of what theater and the arts provides for me specifically are moments of catharsis in a space and through a medium that is outside of my daily norm.
Have you ever been moved to tears by a movie? That is catharsis. The movie caused a release of emotion.
And while movies can certainly provide a nice cathartic moment there is nothing, for me, quite like the theater.
I am lucky to live a short car ride from the train station which has an express train to Grand Central. About a month ago my friend and I bought second row tickets to Six. We hopped on the train this morning, made it through GCS, during which I heard a few New Yorker’s put a woman in her place for yelling at a child who tripped resulting in her having to stop short resulting in her yelling at said small child whose dad was clearly a tourist who just looked scared. My friend says people on the East coast are kind but not nice. I feel that in NYC more than anywhere else.
These three clear New Yorkers stepped in for the tourist Dad and son and yelled at the woman for yelling at a child for making a mistake. Then tsk tsk’d at her, and clucked over the child. While not smiling at all and seemingly sounding generally loud and scary but when they are on the side of good….it’s a sight to behold.
That all unfolded outside the bathrooms. Inside of which a random woman had started directing traffic into the open stalls because she was waiting for her sister “Who is taking forever”….from a further away stall “Well I’m sooooo sorry Dotty, you can wait out in the hall ya know?!” “Who needs the hall I’m directing people. Just do your business so we can leave!”
We then fast walked/ran to the theater, and came upon a Polish parade on 5th avenue which detoured us a couple blocks south back to 45th street from 47th. Side note- the Polish parade was still going 2 hours later on our way back…and we talked to some NYPD officers who also could not believe it was a 5 hour parade and it was running late because “it’s Polish” and “only a Polish parade would run for 5 hours on 5th avenue” per the police officer…
So we finally make it to the restaurant right next to the theater. We eat super fast. Then with nine minutes to show time we think we can go stroll in. Well we walked. And walked. To find the end of the line. When we started questioning if the line could really be that long a man heard us talking and was like, “Hey over here, you guys are with me right?” He was super nice. The people behind him hated us. But we totally cut the line. His wife showed up with diet cokes for them. And then we are being waved through security by a security guard and he’s saying “Single file, single file, ladies looking very pretty today” and tips his hat at us.
Then we see this epic show. I mean totally epic. Six. The six wives of Henry the VIII reclaiming their stories and changing history to “her”story. So it’s heavy right? Because two of his wives are beheaded. I mean. There’s that. They also were all teenagers. Awful. Multiple miscarriages etc. But they did an amazing job of blending humor into the story and engaging the audience, and there we were. Watching Jane Seymour (the 3rd wife of Henry VIII) sing a beautiful song and she hits these high notes that I can’t even describe. And the song is about being unshakeable and brave and courageous in the face of so many fears. “You can build me up, you can tear me down, You can try but I’m unbreakable, You can do your best, but I’ll stand the test You’ll find that I’m unshakeable. When the fire’s burned when the wind has blown, When the water’s dried you’ll still find stone.”
And it was then, that I felt my eyes well up. And I thought why am I about to cry? Couple reasons. I have post-COVID grief. I’m sad and pissed that we missed two years of the arts and trips and fun times with friends out in places with people and hearing a New Yorker berate some one, and being told we are pretty in a super sweet and innocent way. Running through streets, stumbling on parades, we missed that. We missed so much. I grieve all that I do not even know that I missed.
And in that moment I also was thinking of all the shit I’ve been through. Personally and professionally and, it’s kind of like in therapy where you’re walls crack, and you hear a song that just hits you right. And I felt so much, incredibly deeply in that moment, about what we’ve lost, what we still have, and everything I’ve been through and still am going through; and that my friends…is catharsis.
I loved the show. But I also loved the experience of going to NYC for the day without fear of death. Let me rephrase- now the only fear of death is from mass shootings, bombings, car accidents, subway stabbings, you know the normal NYC fears. Not death from a virus.
Now we just have the normal fears back.
Overall the entire day was perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing. Well maybe I wouldn’t have thrown away the cup my friend had bought me at the theater. It had red wine in it, and I didn’t want it to spill on my bag. It’s a nice bag. Really nice. And we were in the street. It was crazy. It was red wine! So I threw it out. She will never get over it. I’d change that moment yes. The rest is all good.