“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
If you’re anything like me, you probably have heard that expression more times than you can count, and you probably understand that it means that intentions, however good they happen to be, are meaningless without action.
That might be true sometimes, but this past weekend, I gained an entirely new appreciation of the value of good intentions – even when they don’t – or can’t – lead to action.
A couple months ago, I started working as the dramaturge for a small, touring Shakespeare company headquartered in Clarksburg, West Virginia (the only one of its kind in the state). Being able to be a part of bringing sharing Shakespeare with the Mountain State was something I had wanted to do ever since I started grad school a decade ago, and over the summer, the pieces finally started to fall into place for me to have the chance.
I’d been looking forward to the first performance of the show (The Merchant of Venice) for weeks. One of my friends from a couple counties over was planning to make the drive out to Clarksburg with me. Along the way, we were going to meet two of my other friends (both from Morgantown) for dinner, and then all of us were going to see the show together.
My two friends from Morgantown aren’t into theatre – at all. The sole reason they wanted to go that night was because they knew the show was important to me and wanted to be there to support me.)
Even within that context, I know it might not sound like all that big a deal, but it felt like it was going to be a perfect night – one of those moments when the stars align and everything feels right.
Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out quite the way that anyone expected.
One of the actors (who was playing Shylock) unexpectedly fell ill; Thursday night’s performance had to be cancelled; and even though I would still be able to see the show the next night, none of my friends could be there to see it with me.
Early the next afternoon, I set out, in the rain and fog, for the three-hour trip to Clarksburg, knowing that nothing about the trip was going to be quite what I planned – and, I’ll be honest: I was disappointed.
I got to the theatre, waved to a few members of the cast, and hung out with a couple members of the crew until it was time for the show to begin. The actor playing Shylock was still ill, and the director was backstage doing his best to prepare to play the role himself.
As I was sitting in the audience waiting for the show to being, I had butterflies in my stomach, even though I knew I wouldn’t be anywhere near the stage myself. I still wanted my cast – my company – to do well.
Those butterflies made me realize that the performance (and my role in making it happen) didn’t matter any less to me just because I was watching it alone.
And I stopped feeling disappointed, because I realized just how fortunate I was to be there in that room, watching the first preview performance of the first show I’d ever done with this company.
I also realized that the fact my friends couldn’t be there with me didn’t matter even a thousandth as much to me as the fact they wanted to be there with me.
The intention was there, and last Friday night, that was enough.