A Hothouse flower

Last night I attended the final performance at Hothouse Spontaneous Theater in North Hollywood. There is talk of reopening the theater at a new location in the fall, but we haven’t heard anything specific… and, in any case, we were saying goodbye to a space that has become like a second home for many of us. I drove seven hours (home from my mom’s place in Arizona) just to be there, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

When John Thies, the theater’s artistic director, introduced last night’s show, he talked briefly about the accomplishments of the last six years and how much we’ve grown as a community. “We’ve had several babies born,” he said, “and sadly, we’ve lost a couple of friends along the way.” I can’t remember most of what he said about Mike’s contributions to the theater, just that it was heartfelt and very moving. When he dedicated the show to the babies born and the friends lost, I cried.

The show was nearly sold out, and the only empty seat in the house was next to me. It seemed eerily appropriate.

The show was excellent. Three strong sets, high energy, and you could feel the love in the room. It ended with the entire cast dancing and hugging onstage, and pulling alumni out of the audience to hug us and dance with us too. The band kept playing, and some of us kept dancing… and nobody wanted to go home, so the party went on well past midnight. It was bittersweet to realize that I’ll never play on that stage again, or dance there while the band jams after a show.

I’ve been crying a lot today. Saying goodbye to our theater space has triggered a lot of memories for me.

When Mike and I first became part of the Hothouse, about three years ago, I felt so out of place among a group of extroverted performers, I stuck tight to Mike and practically hid behind him. A multi-talented performer himself, he found his niche in the Hothouse band and then signed up for the performance program. He fit right in. He belonged there, I felt. I didn’t know how to find my own place there and used to joke about being a groupie.

The Hothouse gave Mike a creative outlet, a place to play music and try out new comedic material. But mostly it gave him a community, and I don’t think anyone else knew how much that meant. They didn’t know he was struggling with clinical depression, which was the reason he dropped out of his first class before he got to performance level and the reason he’d had to quit playing in his last band. But I saw what being part of Hothouse did for him, and the two years that we were most active there were the BEST two years of our time together, in so many ways.

I’m struggling to find words to express just what this place, this community, has meant to me. In January 2009 I signed up for the Level 1 class at Hothouse, because I wanted to be “one of them,” not just on the periphery. I couldn’t imagine myself performing onstage, and I told everyone I wasn’t going further than that one 8-week class. The first night of class, I was so nervous and intimidated, I didn’t even know if I’d go back for week two. But something magical happened…

I said YES. I loosened up. I remembered how to play. I made connections, bonded with these beautiful, talented actors who I initially thought were so different from me. When the first class ended, I signed up for Level 2. Eight months later, I performed onstage for the first time in my life. And somewhere between that first nerve wracking class and our first show, I changed. As one of my classmates told me, “I have never seen someone so scared become so BOLD!”

Like a delicate hothouse flower, I just needed the right nurturing environment, the right encouragement to bloom. Mike’s love and belief in me laid the fertile ground… and my teacher/director, John Thies, and my awesome classmates helped me grow in ways I never could have imagined. I’m a different person than I was when I first came to Hothouse.

And I’m not done growing.


~ by hourbeforedawn on May 30, 2010.

7 Responses to “A Hothouse flower”

  1. Wow – what a beautiful telling of what Hothouse means to you! I love the double-meaning of your growth & the group’s name – nurtured like a delicate blossoming flower in a hothouse. The poet laurete, Donald Hall wrote that all marriages need a “third thing” – he & his (deceased) wife had their poetry. I have a quote from Hall on our bathroom wall: We learned to love each other by loving together good things wholly outside each other.

  2. I love this reflection of growth. It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how you were changed by Mike’s love, and his love of this theatre group. You will continue to flower. The image I use is the lotus flower, as it has to grow through all the muck and mud. In the end it rises above the surface, and it’s bloom is delicate and beautiful. We are that lotus, still growing.

  3. How wonderful that you had this experience in your life and were able to grow. I hope that, now that you are outside of the Hothouse, you will continue to grow in the way that so many flowers really come into their own when they are moved to the outdoors. Dan’s image of the lotus flower is such a good example of how it is possible to grow through adversity.

  4. Lira, the seat next to you at the last Hothouse Show was not empty. You just could not see the person sitting there. I am attempting to be attuned to odd occurrences around me lately and believe they do happen. Mike is still with us!

  5. I’m sorry I was never able to see any of the Hothouse shows. I can only imagine what the theater meant to you and Michael. Even though he struggled, he always seemed to be at ease when performing. I still enjoy logging onto You-tube and seeing “A Childhood Montage” and some of the other videos he made either at Hothouse or with friends he met at Hothouse.

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