It's true that I've never been to a movie by myself. I don't think I've ever even watched a television show by myself. But my husband is out of town, and Friday night I did go to a play by myself.
Well, maybe not exactly by myself. It was me and about two hundred college students. Most of them eighteen years old.
At dusk, I met my students on the patio outside their dorm and passed out the tickets. It was a cool fall evening, a perfect night for walking downtown. My urban students have been to plays before, of course, but some of the students from small rural towns had never been to a live performance before. Some of the students were dressed up for the event, and many started switching tickets to make sure they could sit near their dates. Our first year students live in three different dorms, and about sixty students from the dorm up on the hill came walking down to meet us.
We started the long walk to the theatre, following the ugly grey streets of Snowstorm City, past a hospital, past parking lots, past anonymous brick buildings. At the first cross street, I looked down to see a gang of students heading towards us, the group from the third dorm walking to meet us.
"Let's wait for them," I said. As we stood there, all lined up along the sidewalk, the harsh street lights glaring on the grey asphalt around us, watching the gang of young people striding purposefully toward us, two of the students behind me began humming the music to West Side Story.
Twenty minutes later, our throng of first year college students converged on the little community theatre, taking up big sections of the place, including most of the balcony. The school administration had paid for our tickets, and the students kept thanking me. As the lights dimmed, they went quiet, all eyes on the stage. During the play, I kept glancing around me, looking at the faces of my students; most were watching intently, laughing at the funny lines, looking subdued at the sad parts.
"Hey, this was fun," said ConstructionManagement Student as we walked out after the show. He sounded surprised.
An usher marvelled: "All these college students! And not a single cell phone went off during the performance."
Even though I am tired on Friday evenings, the experience was completely worth it. I could hear students all around me chatting about the play as we pushed through the doors and went back out into the night.