Monday, May 12, 2014

A Friend in the Front Row

This Mysterious Ways essay by Laura Kaye appeared in Guideposts magazine.

 This was the worst seat in the house. Why did I sleep through my alarm? I’d missed Easter Sunday service at my church, and a friend recommended St. Malachy’s instead–just blocks from my apartment in New York City’s theater district.

I’d made it just in time, but the pews, even the aisles were so packed I could barely fit inside. An usher led me and a few others to a spot directly in front of the priest–and the entire congregation. As a former Off-Broadway singer, I was used to the spotlight, but in front of all these strangers I wanted to disappear.

I mumbled my way through the service, trying not to draw attention. When the basket came around for the offertory, I passed it quickly to the woman beside me. She couldn’t quite reach the next person, so she slid it across the floor. “I hope God doesn’t mind!” she whispered, in an impeccable British accent.

“Oh, are you a visitor here too?” I asked, surprised by her accent. She shook her head. “I’m a regular,” she said. “My husband worked at the Neil Simon Theatre before he passed away, and this church has always been very supportive of the arts.”

The Neil Simon Theatre! I’d never performed there, but I had worked at the August Wilson Theatre, right across the street, several years ago. I’d never forget the evening I ducked out early from a performance of Jersey Boys, exiting the Wilson onto a deserted street.

A menacing man approached from the shadows behind me, screaming violently. I braced myself for an attack… when suddenly, someone else shouted, “Stagehands out front!” In seconds, a group of stagehands from across the street surrounded the crazed man and drove him off. Their leader was an older gentleman they called “The Mayor of 52nd Street.” I still thought of him whenever I passed by the two theaters.

“What did your husband do at the Simon?” I asked the woman, just before the service resumed.

“He was a stagehand,” the woman said. “Everyone knew Tommy–he’d always stand in front of the theater and keep an eye on things. People called him the Mayor of 52nd Street.”

Worst seat in the house? Not quite. I’d been seated here for a reason.

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