Sandwiched by Angels

My daughter arrives home from the National Portrait Gallery with the gift of a post card.

Tom Phillips lithograph of Samuel Beckett: “NO MATTER. TRY AGAIN. FAIL AGAIN. FAIL BETTER.  So many of the people who I met in the US squeezed time for conversations in between the wild rush to meet funding application deadlines. (Footnote –the Rose Reading Room of the New York Public Library is a brilliant place to write UK Grants for the Arts applications) We all had stories of moments when we nearly didn’t make it through.   But wherever I went there was an optimism. In the face of the massive economic uncertainties in both societies there is a curious kind of hope. As Dickens’ Newman Noggs says: ‘Hope to the last. Don’t leave a stone unturned.’  There is a shift. There are changes. We are all starting to have conversations with people in other sectors that five years ago we would have only dreamed of: necessity makes for interesting bedfellows.

“In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead,” says Harper Pitt in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. All last week I was surrounded by the company of Angels. At either end I managed to catch both of Signature Theatre’s powerful off Broadway revival of Kushner’s plays: “An angel is a belief, with wings, and arms that can carry you.” And then on Thursday there was Clarence just about to get his wings in a clip from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in the Tribeca Cinema in Downtown Manhattan. Artists for Alzheimers stage these cinema events where they present fragments of old movies for people from care communities. It’s part of the “Meet me at” series. The ‘A Walk Down Memory Lane,’ in interactive film program that takes people living with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones/ caregivers these visual tours of some of the twentieth centuries most memorable film clips: Oklahoma, Casablanca, Top Hat…  Between each clip there are conversations wit the audience. The memories dance out: “We’d wait around after the shows waiting for the actresses and performers to come out. We saw every body. We’d wait half the night. It didn’t matter. I was young. I didn’t care”

“See you next time” I say on the ramp of the cinema as the audience move back towards their waiting busses. And that’s what it is. A longing for what has been but still a dreaming ahead.

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