Shona Benson reflects on life after seeing the touching, live theatre production by SRT, Tuesdays with Morrie
It was Wednesday when I went to the theatre to see Tuesdays with Morrie. I’d never read the book although I knew I should have done. I’d ordered it from the library but life had gotten in the way, as it does, and I’d totally forgotten to pick it up. Stupid really. Annoying.
I knew it was a touching story, one about life, death and the journey in between: what it means to love, to connect and, essentially, what it means to be human. The blurb said it may change my outlook on life. A lot has happened recently that has changed my views on many things so I was very open to the possibility of it happening again. I was also itching to go out!
There was much excitement, going back to watch a live performance: real people telling real stories, sitting in a real – albeit socially distanced, masked up and so somewhat thinner than normal – audience. After the routine scanning and temperature checks, the old familiar space with it’s new Covid safe refurb welcomed us in warmly; candle lights added to the ambiance and the buzz of no screen but a real stage was electric.
As the story goes, sixteen years after graduation, career-obsessed journalist Mitch reunites with his former college professor and mentor, Morrie, who is battling Motor Neurone Disease. What starts as a simple visit turns into a life-changing weekly pilgrimage – always on Tuesdays – that enables Morrie to teach his final and most important lesson – how to live.
Now, call me a cynic, mamas, but this isn’t a wholly new concept. From Aristotle and Shakespeare to Oprah and Glennon Doyle (although I must admit to finding her quite annoying at times), and many others too have had a few words to say on this matter. But what makes this telling so touching is not just the telling, it’s the storyteller and his scribe, the teacher and his pupil, and the relationship that grows in between.
Morrie was a brilliant professor of sociology who spent his life studying how we, as a species and society, behave. When he learns he is dying, he sets his mind to putting his teaching into practice. Thanks to him, and the book and the play, which continues to sell on average 20,000 copies a year, despite having been published over 20 years ago, we are all the richer for it. “The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
As Charlotte Nors, SRT’s Managing Director, says in the program, “many have read and loved the book. Reading it again was like meeting a wise old friend.” I could see why SRT chose this production to reopen their space. It was comforting; it wasn’t pushing any artistic boundaries, it was there simply to say we are here, we can be together again, the things we all love will endure.
As Morrie says wisely, “Death ends a life, not a relationship…as long as people remember how you made them feel, they won’t forget you.”
There are many moments to recall, some to smile at, others to cry on, emotional nuggets to take away. Back in my bed, slightly giddy from the post show wine and analysis with friends, I stopped myself from getting picky about the production and allowed myself to think about all that Morrie had wanted to share.
Just as Morrie asked Mitch, I asked myself: am I at peace with myself? Am I being as human as I can be? “The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community and devote yourself to something that gives you purpose and meaning,” said Morrie. Am I doing that, I worried? I wasn’t sure I was honest enough to answer it, even to myself. Could do better, a report card might have read.
Unsurprisingly much is said of love and Morrie’s observations and sentiments feel as poetic as they are perceptive. “Love is the only rational act…We say we’ve fallen because it is helpless.” And he goes on. “Without love, we’re like birds with broken wings.” I thought of those I loved and smiled picturing them, remembering another line, “The things you want to say at the end are the things you should say all the time,” desperately hoping not to forget it.
As I drifted to sleep, I vowed to myself I would go and get the book in the morning. Typically, I haven’t, not quite yet anyway. It’s the story of my life! “Accept who you are; and revel in it,” Morrie may have said, although that might be stretching it a bit when it meant not going out to buy his book!
I will get it soon though, I promise. I feel I need to really. You should too. Or go and see the play, on any day of the week! It’s just the sort of special we all need right now. But if there’s one lesson I could share its: go easy on the mascara, mamas, or pick a waterproof variety. As brilliant as he was, Morrie forgot to mention that one!
Tuesdays with Morrie is showing at KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT until 11 December 2020