I happened to be down by UIC today, for a photoshoot (which you will actually get to see here later, because it involved my beautiful black and cream Christmas dress). For the uninitiated, I used to work as the box office manager for Provision Theater, which was, at the time, located at Roosevelt and Morgan, virtually surrounded by UIC campus. The building had once been a YMCA and boasted a completely random 200-seat theater space, a little too west of the West Loop and a little too south for everyone else. I knew that, about a year ago, they left that space for good, as it was slated for demolition. So I decided to swing by to see if it had been done yet. I was skeptical, since demolition of that building was something that was threatened on a yearly basis since at least 2011.
Well, they finally did it. 1001 W. Roosevelt Road is a hole in the ground and a heap of concrete rubble where the parking lot used to be. I don’t feel sad about it, but I do feel a little hollow. My relationship with Provision (they still exist, as far as I know, renting space in other theatres) was tempestuous. They were ambiguously religious. I’m an athiest stripper. We had no managing director and the artistic director isn’t great at making business decisions. Working for them in an administrative capacity was hellish, the only full-time employee, working alone out of a windowless room in a sometimes otherwise completely empty building. But working for them artistically was magical.
The same artistic director who would leave me hanging about space rentals and mailing lists could compile a cast of actors who not only fit their roles, but also meshed so beautifully together as people. The Hiding Place, the first production I was hired for, boasted a cast of 30 and 3 stage managers, and we maintained a mailing list for two plus years, each of us keeping the others abreast of what we were working on. In the fleeting and ephemeral world of professional theatre, when you may or may not ever work with the same actors ever again, this was something special.
We’d go out drinking at The Skylark in Pilsen every Saturday night, closing down the bar and then stumbling in, hungover, for the Sunday matinees. It was here that I discovered that I wasn’t the awkward girl that people only dated because they felt sorry for her. I took one of them home with me, twice, and marveled how someone could be simultaneously so self-conscious and overbearingly confident in his abilities. I had a six-month long affair with Charlie, which culminated in him divorcing his wife, breaking up with me, and dating another stage manager even younger than I was. (He was 43 at the time. I was 25.) I had to walk in front of his moving car in that parking lot to get him to give me my spare apartment key back.
I met Kenneth. I met Kenneth the afternoon of the first meeting of the 2010/2011 box office team. There was Priscilla, Pilot Jeff, Miguel, Martin, Kenneth, and me. I went to the meeting straight from the clinic. It wasn’t a good day for me. I would argue that that day might actually have been the lowest, most pathetic day of my life. I was falling asleep at the staff table. Martin was trying, awkwardly, to make conversation. Kenneth was… I thought he seemed like a self-absorbed asshole, talking about his time in Paris.
But I got along with him, as the season wore on, and we worked together quite a lot. The day I had to walk in front of Charlie’s car, I was supposed to work alone, a performance of The Wizard of Oz. I was swamped. And then, there was Kenneth. He came to see the show. He walked in the box office, looked at the line, looked at me, threw his bag behind the desk and opened the second box office laptop.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Bailing you out.”
He took me for coffee after that performance, listened to me cry about Charlie, and… six and a half years later, he’s still here. He’s ok, I guess. I still think he’s a self-absorbed asshole, but at least he helps me with the dishes, and sometimes takes the pictures for this blog.
So… understandably, it’s a little hollow to say goodbye forever to the room where so much of my life took shape. To know that I’ll never stand on that stage again, or call another cue from the booth, or snag another coke from the box office mini fridge. And I’ll never sit on the lawn outside, like I did sometimes, rarely, and marvel about how this could possibly be my life.