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From Dream to Reality

The Cleveland Play House; The Bolton Theatre - Cleveland, OH
Saturday, August 31, 2002 - 8:00 p.m.

(many thanks to my cousin for her assistance with some of the details and for being my beta reader)

Enamoured. That's me after seeing Kate Mulgrew in Tea at Five. A dream come true-seeing Kate live on stage. What I never imagined was to be sitting in front row, practically center.

I am not a person who gets really excited long before an event-even if it is Kate Mulgrew-because the disappointment would be too great. And it was the same on the night I saw Kate Mulgrew in the play Tea at Five at the Cleveland PlayHouse. My cousin and I spent the afternoon at the Rock and Roll hall of Fame. A fun but exhausting afternoon. So, if my excitement at going to the play that evening was there, the Rock & Roll Hall of fame successfully distracted me. But as soon as we left, I slowly started to get a familiar feeling--Nervous. I have been fortunate to see Kate on two previous occasions and each time I get majorly star struck and very nervous. I don't know why I consistently get nervous when I'm about to see Kate. I've met other celebrities and have been sufficiently and characteristically shy, but with Kate it's something else, something more. I've tried to figure out what it is about her that affects me that way, but I have yet to put my finger on the reason.

But I didn't allow the reality that I really was going to see Kate perform live and in person did not hit me until I actually saw the Cleveland Playhouse. We arrived about 40 minutes before the start of the play. I passed the time taking pictures and spent money in the gift shop. I was too nervous to sit down in the lobby. I got butterflies in my stomach when the lights went down to indicate that the Bolton Theatre doors were open. Once we were inside the theatre, the ushers insisted that they escort us to our seats, which I found to be slightly annoying. I mean, it's not that hard to find the front row. By the time I sat down (Row A, seat 5, orchestra left) the butterflies in the stomach were doing a chorus line and my heart was trying to beat it's way out of my chest. My cousin was chuckling at me, but I couldn't help it.

I was a little concerned about the authentic cigarette smoking in the Act I, but I could hardly smell it, even though I was in the front row. Before the 1st Act even started, my cousin commented that she smelled smoke. She deduced that Kate was backstage getting a cigarette in before the play started and it wasn't fair that Kate wasn't sharing with her.

The set in the first act was impressive. The furniture was white with a patter of red roses. An ottoman was placed stage right, at the edge of the stage (and practically in front of me) -- In the middle was a sofa with a sturdy, dark wood coffee table in front of it (that Kate occasionally sat on). On stage left was an overstuffed chair and beside that was a basket that held magazines, some of which included an old copy of LIFE magazine and Better Homes. In front of that, and closer to the edge of the stage rested some tennis balls and a couple of tennis racquets. There was a table behind the couch that initially held the old rotary phone, but it didn't stay there since Kate moved it from place to place throughout the whole first Act. In the background the were pictures on a wall at the back of stage left, a fireplace slightly off-center towards stage left. It that had a mantelpiece that also held pictures. What was interesting was the window stage right of the fireplace and behind the couch. At the start of the play it showed a beach and a blue sky, but when it started raining later on in Act 1 it was gray and dark and raindrops were falling 'outside' and onto the window. With Act II came snow. Each change went very will with the mood throughout the play.

From the moment Kate came on stage (through a doorway on stage right), my eyes were glued on her every move. The way I watched her seemed to be more than just watching a play. As enamoured of the woman as I am, it was more like, well, I don't even have a word to describe it. She was wearing a navy blouse with off-white pantsuit, which was accented by navy blue stitching. My cousin, who is much more observant of style and definitely more objective, could give you a much better description by my attention throughout the first half was held my Kate's face, her hands, and loving those moments when she was close enough that I could see the color of her eyes. And for those of you who are wondering, I did take a moment to see if her freckles were visible, but I really couldn't see them.

I did note that the newspaper Kate read from (as she sat on/stood in front of the ottoman) was the Hartford Courant.

You may be asking, how was Kate's performance? Well, we all know how good Kate is at what she does and how serious she is about it, so I think it should be clearly understood that she was simply extraordinary. Kate is good with the humor as well as the tragic. I love how, as many times as she sat down, or laid down, non of them were 'normal' and how she curled her feet under her, very much like she did as Kathryn Janeway.

When Act II started, the lights came up and Kate's back was to the audience as she was facing the fireplace at the back of the stage. When she turned around, there were gasps and murmurs of astonishment from the audience. The resemblance to Katharine Hepburn was absolutely eerie. While Kate was quite animated in Act I, she was very much less mobile in Act II. Mostly due to a cast on her right foot and ankle. It might have gone higher, but I couldn't tell. Act II really capture the tragedy in Katharine Hepburn's life. I found myself wishing I'd done a little research about Hepburn before attending the play so that I could have better understood more about a lot of the references in the play and some of the jokes.

It was interesting watching the stagehands reset the stage for Act II. Pictures on the wall were replaced with wooden mask and a replica of an antique bicycle, a vase filled with flowers was replaced by a fern set just so, and a wooden bench replaced the ottoman on stage right with a newspaper on the top. The couch was more of a natural color and fabric with a red afghan thrown diagonally across it for texture and color. The coffee table, which held a silver tea set, was about the same size as the previous table but with a more natural wood. The phone (now black, 80's style with gray push buttons) now sat on the end table to the stage right of the couch. There was a wooden rocking chair stage left in front of the fireplace

It was fun for me to see all of the familiar mannerisms that I recognize as being Kate's own. As deep into character that she was, to me, those were glaringly obvious - her facial expressions, her hand movements, and even her walk. What was eerie to me, especially in Act II, those mannerisms intermingle with that of Katharine Hepburn and made hard for me to see her as wholly Hepburn.

In the middle of Act II I had the fleeting thought that it would be fascinating to read a copy of the script. On top of the tragic feel of Act II, I was also very sad to see the play end. It was about 2 hours long but for me it went by very fast.

So at the end of it all, the reality has seemed to once again become a dream, living within my memories of that weekend. Memories that I will not soon forget.

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