The Boothbay Playhouse
As August’s dry heat envelops me and I long for some relief, I wander into my garden. A sudden breeze kicks up, soft whispers of summers gone by. I’m back on an old wooden bench in front of a grey, weathered cottage where foghorns call me out to sea, and lobstermen pull up their nets as seagulls gather for scraps. My mind drifts, like it does every summer, to how my parents met.
“When I was nineteen, I went to a place as familiar as my own skin, a place I had visited in memories so many times around the dinner table that I knew it by heart. The director at the Boothbay Playhouse, the same theater where my mom and dad had met twenty-five years ago, called and offered me a summer internship and I grabbed it without hesitation. I flew to Maine and took a taxi far from the city, deep into the Boothbay Harbor woods. As we turned into the driveway of the Playhouse, my heart skipped a beat and, in that instant, I knew how my mother felt.
In my mind’s eye, I could see my father, in the old yellow robe, on a ladder painting the weathered garage door. My mother’s mind in mine, her excitement raised in goosebumps on my skin. A featured actress… a summer rehearsing one show in the day, performing a second at night. Anticipation pounded in our nineteen-year-old hearts in unison and just why was that handyman on the ladder staring so hard at her as she swung her Barbizon perfect legs out of her parents’ car and into the beginning of the rest of her life?
That day was my beginning, too, not as a featured actress, not even close to finding my husband, but my first day in Boothbay Harbor, the town I would call my summer home in years to come. I suppose I needed to relive their romance, to find the true magic that spun around the three of us kids at the dinner table as Dad recounted the playhouse days he and Mom had courted, when he had acted as leading man to her leading lady, really kissing his lovely ingénue with all the passion an actor could give. Years sweetly remembered as the best years of their lives before television and film gave them their fate.”
When my parents came to see me on stage that summer in my first leading role, they fell in love with Boothbay Harbor all over again. Renting at first, then purchasing a cottage on Southport Island, they gave their children and grandchildren many happy summers. Twenty-two years have gone by and both my parents have passed on, as has the Boothbay Playhouse, leaving its rich legacy.
-Excerpt from the Foreword to Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business by John Gay and Jennifer Gay Summers, BearManor Media, 2009
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