We are often a wonderful part of people’s special occasions. Whether the Lion King tickets were a birthday present or the ballet is providing a much-needed grown up night to reconnect with your significant other, we are happy to be a part of other’s happiness. As you can imagine, we also get a large number of requests every year to make special occasions public affairs, i.e. birthday announcements from stage, anniversary announcements on the Main Street screens, and, more than anything else, the opportunity to propose at intermission of the soon-to-be-fiance’s favorite Broadway show. If we had a nickel for every proposal request we have received, our Development Department would not have to work as hard as they do. As you may have noticed from all of your visits, we cannot fulfill these requests.
Don’t get me wrong, we are as loving, joyful, and sentimental as the next quasi-state institution, but that would be a slippery slope. What do we announce? When do we announce it? First-come, first-served? Do we charge? How much? Past all our local conundrums, there is the question of compromising someone else’s art. These giant productions that tour the country have worked hard to craft their image and create the work they have chosen to present. Seldom are they open to a proposal on their multi-million-dollar set. Even if you could convince the tender-hearted people of Kentucky Performing Arts, it would be a struggle to convince the producers of a touring production to let it happen. In their defense, one proposal would cause the floodgates to open and they would be bombarded in every city they played.
Aren’t I a ray of sunshine? Have I crushed anyone’s dreams, yet? I brought all of that up as a disclaimer to the story I am about to share.
During the Louisville Ballet’s 2011 production of The Brown-Forman Nutcracker, then Artistic Director Bruce Simpson allowed a young man to pop the question in a fantasy setting. Matthew Gambrell proposed to his now wife Christine on the chaise centerstage during intermission, just upstage of the main curtain. No one in the audience had any idea this happened. Matthew had started with our own Cupid, Becky Grider, from our Events Department, and gotten connected with the Ballet. Bruce thought it a lovely idea, and we were off.
Matthew and Christine had box seats to The Brown-Forman Nutcracker as a nice holiday treat. Someone came to them before the performance began and told them their seats had been chosen to meet the cast and see the set during intermission, before the second act began. When intermission came, they were escorted to the Stage Right hallway to meet the cast and then came on stage to see theater magic up close. I was in on it, you see me starting just over a minute into the video helping Bruce to tour the unwitting, soon-to-be-affianced girl around and distract her from how green her boyfriend looked. He was sweating as bad as the dancers. We ushered them to the chaise for a photo-op and Matthew hit his knee and did a great job of proposing. For those of you who like to skip the beginning of movies, the actual proposal hits at about 4:15. The kiss that followed was perfect, but I think what sets this proposal apart is the rats applauding the happy couple at 5:17. Nothing portends a happy life together like giant anthropomorphic vermin cheering you on. It was very touching.
Joking aside, providing unique experiences for people is one of the reasons I love this business. Momentous occasions are one of the times we demand art in our life. When we celebrate we crave music and dance, when we memorialize anniversaries and birthdays we write stories and poems, we take photos and make gifts. Arts are not a “thing” to celebrate, they are the celebration. They are the tangible expression of our being and feeling. So, while you may not be able to be in the middle of a huge production for your special moment, make your moment special by celebrating with the arts…and us.