Two Minutes' Traffic: The Secret Garden, Shakespeare Theatre Company

Sometimes, theatre can give you a moment that you didn't realize that you needed.  One such moment this holiday season came in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of The Secret Garden.  While I was  familiar with the story as a child, I somehow missed the musical version by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon that was beloved by most of my peer group.  I may not have known the show, but I'd been a fan of Daisy Eagan, the musical's original Mary Lennox, for years- I've knew her writing, bright with insight, humor, and honesty.  When I saw an early performance of The Secret Garden at STC, directed by David Armstrong, I was happy to see an actor that I knew I enjoyed in a show I was curious about.

There's a lot to enjoy in Armstrong's production, which is beautifully staged and sung. This November has been a difficult one for many of us, and when I walked into the Harman, I needed art that would fill me back up and send me out renewed.  As I watched the musical unfold, I was deeply touched by Eagan as Martha, a maid who finds herself reaching out to and caring for the orphaned Mary; I found her performance suffused with the warmth that I was craving.

 But then Daisy Eagan sang "Hold On," and something inside of me broke down and then built itself back up again by the final chorus.  It was watching Martha react with love, when love has been hard to come by for the young Mary Lennox.  It was knowing how often Eagan had stood there as a child, hearing the song that she now could sing as an adult, with all of the knowledge and the hard-fought grace that comes with years of experience.  It was all of these things and more, the perfect combination of a hard moment out there in the real world, an actress singing from her heart, and a song that told me that I could carry on, that even when there's "man who's raging", I can defy defeat. I didn't know the show, much less to expect the song, but it was exactly what I needed to hear that night.

The last month has brought me back again and again to the words of Leonard Bernstein: This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. I wasn't explicitly looking for it in The Secret Garden, but it's what I found on a cold November night, and I hope that more of us can do the same.


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