I began my acceptance by magnanimously allowing that Seattle was a pretty good theatre town. The crowd approved. Then I lofted my caveat: we were good, but we weren’t great. The crowd grew quiet, restless. I said I believed we had everything it takes to be great, but we weren’t great; and worse, we didn’t even seem to be moving in the right direction. More awkward noises. Then I said I believed we could be a world class theatre city within 5 years, but only if we wanted to. We had to want it. The crowd liked this. They clapped, they hollered. It felt great. Lots of toasts and backslaps afterwards. I made a self-congratulatory moment into a community-wide challenge. And every one seemed to slurp it with a spoon. Success, by any definition.
Since then, however, not many people have mentioned my acceptance speech, though there is one particularly notable exception. A month after that night I got an email from my sister Margaret. It said simply: “Just in case you were wondering. 9/13/13. Make it so!” Since odds are about even that you do not know my sister, allow me to unpack her cryptic note and translate it plainly into the words I know she intended. “Dear Brother, in case you were thinking that you could make that challenge publicly solely in order to arbitrarily raise stakes and thus add empty entertainment calories to your speech, hoping no one will remember, please think again. I will remember. I will hold you to it. I will publicly mock you if you fail. So deliver me a world class theatre town by the Fall of 2013, or prepare to face my undying scorn.” You see, I come from a very loving and supportive family.
Which kind of reminds me... How much do we hear anybody in Boston talking about the questions raised by the Stagesource conference two summers ago?