The final curtain call of a performance holds a mix of sadness and relief. You can take off your costume now, wipe off the makeup, and finally eat the bag of curly fries that’s been calling your name since you arrived for call 5 hours ago. You get to see your loved ones again. You don’t have to say, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t. I have rehearsal.”
But once there was a curtain call that changed my life.
In May 2013, I watched Conor, one of our leading men and Pride & Prejudice’s producer, address the sold-out audience after we made our bows. My smile was fixed in place as he rattled off his thank yous to the men, women, and teens hoping to get extra credit in English for attending our 1960’s take on the Jane Austen classic. It was funny and heartwarming. There was a good energy. I was tired, but the beehive itching on my head was well-worth the sacrifice. My cast mates and I could go downstairs to the after party when this was over. There would be chips, champagne, and finally, some time with my boyfriend, Brent, who hadn’t seen much of me in the past 6 weeks. My ears perked at the flat creaking with Conor’s turn toward me.
“Mandy, can you come up here for a minute?”
Um, what? Was I getting thanked for laying out the program? Reaching out to sponsors to fund this thing? Shit, I mean, it was InDesign and email but it wasn’t like it was rocket science. He reached out for my hand as I stepped toward center stage. We, and the audience, laughed. Conor was smiling at me but said nothing. This was awkward. Bingley holding hands with Charlotte? Was it some kind of joke?
I heard a stray, “Wait a minute!” and frantic whispers from the back of the stage. All eyes turned to the back of the set: an open doorway. Brent walked through it.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have more more quick special announcement.”
Were they thanking us together? Me for the program and him for the promotional photos? He was dressed up, clean shaven but there was the unmistakable sheen of nervousness on his forehead. Then he spoke.
Before you pass out, your heartbeat sounds loudly in your ears and the whole world gets quiet. That slowing of time you saw in the movie “Big Fish”? Yep. That’s real. For a moment and longer it was me and him and the floating particles of dust in the spotlights.
“For the past five years you’ve been my confidant, my partner, my best friend and I…can’t imagine life without you. Mandy Leigh Boyle, will you marry me?”
Two sentences took hours, days, months, years, a lifetime. Inward, I was smiling and screaming and jumping up and down but I couldn’t say a word. All I could do was cry and nod. He’ll tell you that I made a noise like a motorboat. The answer was always, “Yes.”