Two weeks ago, after lunch with my son Orion, I repaired to my London hotel with my magic iphone. This message appeared in my mailbox:
I was walking through Regents Park on my way to work in Charing Cross listening to some Buddhist talks (it comforts me, ok?) when I thought of Orion. What is he doing now, I wondered? Who did he turn out to be? I remember babysitting for him all those years ago. A quick google search revealed he is in London,and further following my train of thought I was quickly led to your blog and the Theatreworks newsletter, to discover that you were in the neighborhood just last month.
Madi Weland was a young woman when you knew her, and you plucked her from her high school to play a virginal Juliet in your production of Shakespeare's classic. Her world changed when you opened that door.
I'm an executive for a publishing company now, a mother of and 11 year old daughter, celebrating fifteen years of marriage to a film maker, and living in North London...
When you find yourself in town again, won't you give me a ring? It would be wonderful to share a meal, a pint, or a cuppa, and thank you for my life."
Even in the brave new world wide web, this is not the sort of email I get every day---or ever. Madi was 17 years old when she appeared in Dwire auditorium to audition for our very first Shakespeare production. She was bright, light, quick and radiant. She had just come over from Air Academy High School, but she seemed like a gift from heaven. We cast her on the spot, and she was a truly enchanting Juliet. I looked forward to going to the performance every night so I could fall in love with her again and watch everyone else in the audience do the same. She was innocent but alert, tender but tensile, a Juliet with beauty and go power, and watching her at herbalcony after the dance no one bothered to think it was rather a short balcony (about four feet high in Dwire auditorium)--we only saw her face, her hand upon her cheek, a young moon in moonlight, her heart high and rising on a summer night. Madi was magic.
Not long after she died for the last time in the Capulet tomb, Madi went off to collegein Boston,and I never saw her again. We heard a thing or two--she was on a short lived television series . . . she was working for a wealthy art collector in L. A. ...otherwise nothing.
I wrote Madi back in the instant, saying she was off by a month and was she by chance available for dinner tonight at the National Portrait Gallery? She was, and she was waiting for us at the top of the gallery's escalator. I told Orion, who joined us, there would be a mystery guest at dinner, and he saw her by the lift and recognized her immediately, almost before I did--- rather impressive considering he last saw when he was five years old. Madi must have been a great babysitter too. We had a very good dinner.
I am fully conscious that if one lives long enough, the chances of improbable chance meeting are surprisingly likely. There she is, your high school prom date 40 years ago, selling cobras in the Calcutta market! Such things are too strange not to be true. I learned this as a five year old child on the Queen Mary in the middle of the Atllanic when my dad suggested we write a note and put it in a bottle and throw it overboard. We did, and two months later I got a letter from a fisherman in Ireland who found the bottle in his net. Still, it is remarkable to find yourself having dinner with a lovely person who was special in your life but who you haven't seen or heard from in 35 years. And of course we both looked exactly the same! And Madi still knew all her lines!
Here she is as a 14 year old Capulet in Verona, 1975:
And here she is as Mrs. Solomon of London, Director of Content Standards for Pearson, with the same foolish gentleman who put her on that short balcony 35 years ago. O, She doth the teach the torches to burn bright!
Murray Ross and Madi Weland