The next day, Phil told me he had learned something from Aunt Corene's gaffe. Maybe she had done us a favor. How so? Well, in her own mind, she had obviously cut the Bud-Pam scene she walked into. What if subconsciously she was right? Did we really need that Bud-Pam scene? What would happen if we cut it?
"Let's try it," I said. That evening we did, and the second act flowed much better. After Sunday's matinee, the cast had two days off. They came back rested and did a great job Wednesday night. I was elated. We invited tour bookers to Gloucester. They liked the show and wanted to send us on the road. One even mentioned investing a million dollars. We'll see.
Over the three-week run, our audiences kept getting larger. We sold out our final week. The last performance was our best. The audience gave the cast a standing ovation. We all went out to a restaurant called the Rudder and danced until almost dawn. During a pause in the dancing, Lesley proposed a toast: "When you get to Broadway, break a leg and all their hearts."
Our next step will be a run in February in Fort Myers, Florida, followed by a possible tour and . . . Broadway? I am in that all-too-familiar position of hoping but trying not to hope too much. Some mornings, I wake up and feel that all my red blood cells have taken on extra oxygen and are pumping me up with optimism. Other mornings, I wake up with no oxygen in my red blood cells. Hope gasps for air.
The curtain is going up on a whole new act in my life. There will be no guaranteed happy ending. This isn't a movie; this is theater, and I am on the edge of my seat. No, Phil isn't Jim Bridges, but I've stopped needing him to be. Phil and I never write the same dialogue overnight, but we do agree on things the next morning. Usually. And for a time, at least, my cowboy has indeed come back.