May 11, 2010

R.I.P. Doris Eaton Travis

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:31 pm

I must take a moment to address a sad event, but also to celebrate an amazing lady.

I just found out not five minutes ago that Doris Eaton Travis passed away today at the ripe old age of 106. She is without a doubt one of my favorite people that I don’t actually know. And I must add that I don’t know this because I saw the very extensive obituary on Playbill, but because I got a text message from a friend as soon as he found out. Her name may not be widely known, and her actual career was relatively short, but she was much beloved in the business.

I came to know of her, like most people in the Broadway community, at the 1998 Easter Bonnet Competition, when she appeared with several other former Ziegfeld girls to usher in the first Easter Bonnet held at the New Amsterdam Theatre, after its restoration by Disney for The Lion King the previous year. It was a nice nod to the building’s former glory, and it was fun to see those ladies return to the stage after more years than many people’s entire lifetimes.

The following years the other ladies didn’t return, but Doris participated in the Easter Bonnet by herself, usually recounting a story about her years in the business, and demonstrating some dance moves from her shows, while flanked by a few boys who could be her great-grandsons.

The Easter Bonnet is probably the best show anywhere in New York all year, and is almost exclusively attended by people who work in the Broadway and Off-Broadway community, as well as devoted supporters of Broadway, so the audience is particularly receptive and appreciative of someone with such a rich history in the business. It’s almost inconceivable to sit in a theatre surrounded by friends and colleagues and right there in the same room have someone tell you about the time they were in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1918. Nineteen. Eighteen. She made her Broadway debut in 1917. To have a connection with someone whose work experience extends back basically to the birth of musical theatre, and have that person still alive and well and dancing onstage with today’s Broadway gypsies was just amazing. And she did it year after year.

Obviously we all knew the year would someday come when she would not be around to perform at the Easter Bonnet, but she even made it this year, just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I’ve missed the last two years of Broadway Cares events due to touring, but I was especially thrilled that she was around for the 2006 Easter Bonnet, when I performed with the Phantom cast, crew and orchestra, singing the Broadway Cares anthem, “Help is on the Way.” Her part of the show was right before us, so we couldn’t actually watch because we were getting in place upstage of the curtain, but I did get to meet her very briefly in the wings, and that was exciting after eight years of being in awe of her from the audience.

The Easter Bonnet won’t be the same without her, but I’m so happy that she had such a long and active life that she could share her experience and love of performing with so many later generations.

February 16, 2010

In Memory of Sadie

I call this: random — Posted by KP @ 12:19 pm

I’m sorry to bring everybody down with a somewhat off-topic post, but this is my little corner of the web and I must take a moment to share with you the memory of my dog, Sadie, who passed away early this morning from lukemia, at the age of 10 (or 70 depending on how you’re counting).

In fairness, I suppose Sadie really wasn’t my dog. My parents got her about a year after I moved out of the house, following the death of our previous dog, who died the week before I moved out. Talk about an empty nest. I would love to have a dog myself, but my lifestyle just doesn’t allow for it, so I have always considered Sadie my dog. When she was little she came to visit my apartment once, and within 30 seconds had peed on the floor. I wasn’t such a fan of that, but I enjoyed going to visit her.

Sadie was born while I was on the road in 1999. I was rather upset because I was excited to be a part of the choosing of the new family pet, and playing with a puppy (my first dog had lived 15 years, so I hadn’t had a puppy since I was three), but my parents were looking for a Tibetan Terrier, and when the breeder they were dealing with had some puppies, they couldn’t wait for me to come home. So they picked Sadie, who I should say was a very good choice, and sent me some pictures — which at that time, had to be printed on paper at a special store, and then put in an envelope and mailed to the person you wanted to show them to. I still carry one of those puppy photos in my wallet, despite the fact that now when people are sharing pet pictures on their phones, I pull out mine and say, “Here’s a video of my dog.” But I also have the puppy picture in my wallet.

Speaking of which, I have uploaded my video of Sadie, which I made when my parents got me one of those Flip video cameras for my birthday a couple years ago. It’s not really that exciting, I just wanted to play with the camera and she was the most interesting thing to film, although her interests at that particular moment were basically constrained to sniffing and lying under the dining room table.

Despite the fact that I didn’t get to see her very often, Sadie treated me like a member of the family from the very beginning. She always looked forward to being driven to the train station because she knew that meant I was coming. She enjoyed chewing on paper very much. For Christmas, she was always more excited by the wrapping paper than whatever toy or treat was contained within. Much to my initial dismay, she had absolutely no interest in playing fetch, and my old dog loved to play fetch, even when she could barely see anymore. I think Sadie was taking too much of a practical view on it — she never understood the point of running after an object, only to return it, only to run after it again. Which I guess I can’t blame her for. If she cared about the object, she would run to it, and then lie down to chew on it. Half the time she didn’t even care enough to chase after it once, she would just sort of turn her head back at the thrower as if to say, “So? It’s over there now.”

Lately she had been having some health problems, but it wasn’t really anything too concerning until just recently. While we were at the Guthrie she was diagnosed with lukemia. The vet thought she might live a while longer with treatment, but then things went downhill quickly this week. She stopped eating a couple days ago, and by last night my parents had made arrangements to have her put to sleep in the morning, but she passed away on her own overnight. I’m very disappointed because we’re getting back to New York tomorrow, and the last time I saw her, right before I left, she wasn’t even sick. If she had lived another day-and-a-half I could have seen her. The plan is for her ashes to be scattered at the beach where she loved to play. I think she would like that.