I attended a theater performance last night, seated immediately behind a woman with a screen bigger than the color TV in the livingroom of my childhood home. As the story played out on stage, she browsed the Internet, checked her bank account (twice), watched a video, shared vacation photos with her seatmate, and (you guessed it) texted incessantly. Then her phone rang, and she answered it.

It was a grin-filled, charming evening, borne effortlessly on the singing, dancing, wisecracking shoulders of Megan Breit and Eddie Rose. Breit and Rose were born decades after the golden age of screwball comedy, but it must be in their genes, or maybe they were inhabited by some kind of theatrical spirit. Nice work, indeed.

The first time I walked into Players of Utica was May, 1994. The group performed in a former church on Oxford Rd. in New Hartford, NY, where they’d been located since 1962. I remember a ramshackle building, peeling blue paint on the outside, entering through the downstairs and going up to get to the theater. The floors groaned, the stairs creaked, it smelled like a hundred years of must. I found it absolutely charming.

Ciara Wiggins played an incredible AIDA, princess-turned-slave. I had no difficulty believing Casey Rice’s Radames would fall head over heels for her – her regal bearing was projected in every (seemingly) effortless note. Rice channeled Elton John – his voice was well suited to the pop/rock style of his songs, which he embellished with occasional growls and fillips.

I considered, “What am I trying to accomplish?” As a performer, director, producer or technical theater craftsman, my goal is to surprise and delight an audience, to make people feel and/or think. Any of those. As a writer, my goal is to surprise and delight an audience, to make people feel and/or think. The intention is the same, whether I make the show or write about it.

One of our castmates shared a story about another Sondheim show he’d been part of, when he blanked on his lyrics in front of an audience and had to stop the song. I asked if he’d been mortified. “Not really,” he said. “I think you have to embrace the whole process.”