Little did I know my son had given me an Orchestra seat to see the last performance. What a birthday present.
My wife and I went up to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Forty-third Street, stood in a long line and finally found our seats.
Looking around, the theater slowly filled up until there were almost no seats left. The audience must have been 75% black. You could feel the excitement in the air. And we all waited, waited for the curtain to go up.
We were not disappointed. Ms.Tyson played the part of an old woman who lived in a room in her son and daughter-in-law's house. The daughter- in- law made life miserable for her. The old woman, in desperation, packed her bag and said she was going back to Bountiful--where she was born and grew up. She escaped from the house, found the bus station and said she wanted a ticket to Bountiful. Waiting for the bus, she began to sing: "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine..." And across the audience singing quietly swept across the room.. "This is My story, This is my song--Praising My Savior All the day long." She finally hobbled on the bus and made her way to the place she loved the most. Hours later she got off the bus to find she was twelve miles from Bountiful. Her old house was boarded up. But she stood looking at the trees she remembered and named the birds that still sang there. She was not disappointed.
Everybody I know has a Bountiful. Some place where the memories are strong and the world seems to be safe and at peace. We can't really go back--none of us--we have to keep moving on. But maybe the old song kept her going. And not only her but the audience who wiped away the tears as they sang along with the old mother there in the darkness.
At the end of this magnificent performance--a choir of black young people surrounded Ms. Tyson and sang "Blessed Assurance" and other Gospel songs. The audience was now on their feet. They sang and they clapped and they cheered. It was a great moment for theater.
As the curtain went down for the last time, people didn't want to leave. It was like they had been to church. We smiled at each other. We wiped away some tears. We chuckled. Slowly we moved back into the city with is blaring lights and milling crowds. But we had all been to Bountiful--and it was something I think we will always remember.
--by Roger Lovette, email@example.com