Isn’t there a television show called “Fox and Friends”?

I prefer the real life Friends and The Fox — The Fox Theatre, that is.

Plays — acting out stories of heroes and hunts and encounters with God and gods — have been a part of our human experience since prehistoric times. Telling stories and reenacting events up on a stage or in front of a campfire have been ways to remember important events and acts of courage since humans came to consciousness. Dramas and comedies have been teaching tools through which the ideas and morals of a society or a religious group confirmed their mores and beliefs.

These days we have stories and plays at our fingertips and in our earbuds with television, movies, streaming, podcasts, etc. But the live stage play is still thriving.

Many churches still use drama and reenactment for teaching the stories of Christ and creation. Did you march down the center aisle and wave palms on Palm Sunday? On May 9, Griffin Choral Arts is presenting a series of excerpts from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I plan to be there.

And about six times a year, Broadway comes to Atlanta. We get to see well-rehearsed, polished stories sung and danced with professional aplomb, stories that have made it from New Jersey barns to Broadway and then on to tours, where I get a chance to go and marvel with my friends. Up on the stage, men sing and dance and tell stories, instead of running back and forth and knocking each other senseless.

It is an exciting treat. Usually there are no balls.

At the theater we are all laughing together, hundreds of us, crying and feeling anger. It is like the shared experience of a concert. But more thoughtful maybe?

Feelings and thoughts? We can still be transformed by the performance of a great artist, but our minds are engaged beyond the moment to our real lives. Every time I see “Les Miserables,” I come away with a new sense of what generosity and love truly are. I am inspired to be as good as Jean Valjean

But for us small-town theater aficionadas, it is also the experience surrounding the play that we enjoy, as well as the play itself.

We take turns driving up to The Fox for a matinee, except that I usually wimp out on my turn. I will drive all over Georgia if I don’t have to merge. My friends get perturbed when I try to drive in the slow lane all the way downtown. Usually, one of them will say, “I love to drive, let me drive.” And I will offer to pay the parking fee and we all feel better.

We usually eat at the same restaurant, and we usually get either the fish or the pasta special. I always get my favorite arugula salad with caramelized onions and tiny dots of pancetta. The pasta is handmade, and the wait staff pretend that they remember us from month to month. We go along with them. We try to remember if this is the waitress who is an artist? Is this guy the actor? Is this guy a count in exile?

Sometimes they sound like trained rhetoricians, smoothly reciting the specials and persuading us to fall into confusion and order everything.

This restaurant caters to play goers and understands that we need to be served and out before the 1 p.m. curtain rises. We really like to be early and enjoy the organ concert. The Fox’s Mighty Mo is the second largest theater organ in the United States. Radio City Music Hall is the largest.

We always park in the same lot. It is near the theater and claims a resident homeless man, Sam, who stops traffic for us to exit onto the busy street. All we have to do is show a $5 dollar bill and he wades out into the melee, waving his arms like a drum major, but yelling like a drill sergeant.

Sometimes we walk across the street to the Georgian Terrace and have coffee or wine and discuss the ideas behind the plays, the structure of the plots, the range of the soprano, but much of our conversation does include comments on the costumes in the audience. Some women still wear mink. Some women wear barely anything.

I have not ever seen a play I didn’t like. Well, maybe one or two, but I have never walked out on a play. I love all of the old Broadway classics and luscious revivals, the amazing choreography, snappy dialogue and sharp humor, the wonderful voices and the improbable plots.

Last Sunday we watched an elderly woman who could hardly walk up the aisle. I thought: There I am. Will I know when to stay home, or will I cling to my love for the theater when I am a danger to myself and others?

For now, I can still safely enjoy Friends and The Fox. As long as I don’t have to merge.

Cheryl Hilderbrand is a Jackson writer and educator. Email her at cmhild@bellsouth.net.

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