6:27 pm. July 7, 2017. I pulled into my parking spot. The parking spot I had parked in for 3 years in the parking lot full of 14 years worth of memories. I was almost late, barely pulling in, annoyed at the traffic, and tired from a long day at work. To be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood for rehearsal. Little did I know that just a few minutes later, I would have given anything to be there. Afterall, today was my last day in the building I grew up in. I walked in, changed my shoes, and took my seat, as I had done for as long as I could remember on a Thursday evening. But something was different. There was a stiffness in the air. The head of the company stood before the cast. He said he had an announcement to make. Looking back, I don’t even remember hearing the words come out of his mouth. I was too shocked.
We would not be performing our show. Our show that we had been working on for months, that we had given up 4 evenings a week of our summer for. For the first time in 14 years, the rights had fallen through. The reason? “A troll,” as we had chosen to call this individual, who was not a part of the production, had taken the liberty of reporting the company on something that they had already cleared with the executives, had already made arrangements for. However, with an official complaint on file, we were given two choices: recast the show or don’t perform it. Two weeks to opening, the first was not sincerely an option. Not to mention the fact that taking parts away from people who had worked so hard on them felt insensitive and wrong on every level. After exhausting every option, the second was settled upon. There would not be any performances of Les Miserables.
That day, I was legally no longer a child. The people who used that against us had made that very clear. But my childhood ended that day in more ways than one. I learned that I was naive to think that people wouldn’t willingly hurt others, especially those they once called friends. I was wrong to think that people wouldn’t willingly take children’s hopes away for their own selfish purposes. I never thought such immaturity could come from adults with children, who would have ached to see their own kids in the kind of pain that was now painted across the faces of those in this production. And perhaps they thought they were acting in justice, that they were fighting against what they believed was wrong. I will grant you that things are far from perfect and there are certainly injustices. But I can guarantee you that victorious justice, done out of the goodness of a heart, does not look like this. I can guarantee you that anyone who was in the room that night would agree that those who willingly inflicted the heartache I witnessed were not looking out for the well being of others.
The tears started to fall all around me as reality hit us. And once they started, they didn’t stop. For almost two hours, we all sat together, talking and hugging. It was especially real for those of us who were performing for the last time in this company before going off to college or wherever life was leading us. One of my best friends, playing one of her dream roles in this show, came up to me and said, “That’s it. It’s over.” We had been slowly preparing ourselves to leave but suddenly that time was ripped away from us. There would be no final bow. After 14 years of blood, sweat, and tears, I, along with many others, would get no final performance. My friends, who had worked their butts off, would not get to share their amazing talent with an audience. The adults and parents who had given so much sacrifice and energy to this show, would not get to see the fruits of their labor.
And that was the last day I would spend in the building that built me. I had my first kiss in that building. I had my first heartbreak in that building. I attended my first prom. I made lifelong friends. I faced rejection that made me stronger. I changed from a tiny, shy, blonde piggy-tailed 5 year old girl into the 19 year old woman I have become. I found love in the experiences and friends that made me who I am today. But thanks to the selfish nature of a few, we would all leave the building that day with a memory that I wish we never had to have. And the worst part of all, is that these people put an end to a show that teaches lessons of hope, love, and true justice.
“To love another person is to see the face of God.”
This quote is the central message of a breathtaking show that my friends and I will never get to share with an audience because some people’s pride took control of their hearts. And through this act, this reality has only become more and more devastating, as it has only become clearer that the world is in desperate need of this message. As Jean Valjean and the school boys taught us all in the last few months, true justice can only come from love and perseverance, not malice or hate. Vengeance gets you nowhere. It doesn’t fix problems or make you the better person.
So to those who wrote the letter that shut down a show about love: Did it solve your problems? Did it fix your hurting? Did you finally get enough? Is tarnishing the memories of 40 hardworking kids your version of justice and victory? Because it is most definitely not mine. As Les Miserable taught us all, victory is supporting and loving other people in this world, even those that make different choices than us, even those who hurt us. This is a lesson that the bishop taught us in the first ten minutes of the show, when he chose to love the man who stole from him.
We too have been stolen from, but we did not lose.
Because that’s what we will take with us: the love. That is what I took with me, as amongst the pain, we all stood strong together and took comfort in each other’s arms. That is what I took with me as I shut the lights off one by one, closed the doors, took the hands of my best friends, and walked out of the building I grew up in for a final time. I am heartbroken that we all have to carry such a painful memory. And thanks to hate, we did not get to take our final bow. But thanks to love, we have the memories. Thank you all for the love. This show will not be forgotten. We made so many new friends and memories and no one can take that from any of us. You were all beautiful…Correction. You ARE all beautiful. And what we created together was absolutely stunning. I am so proud to have been a part of it. And I will always hold fast to the lessons these characters literally died to share with the world. Stand up for what you believe in, but stand up with love. Let love fuel you and make you unstoppable. As for me, I will always hear the people sing. And don’t forget that, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”