Monday, January 18, 2016

Alan Rickman

I knew who Alan Rickman was before I had ever seen his face or heard his voice.

It was Spring 1987, I was a junior at Western Kentucky University, and the theater and dance students were all abuzz about the shows on far away Broadway - productions we would very likely never see, because we had no money for the trip, let alone for the tickets. We had no Internet, yet we knew about so many of the shows - who was in them, who directed them, why they were successful or why they wouldn't last long, and on and on. We knew people who had seen the shows. Or knew people that knew people.

And the non-musical play I heard about most of all was Les Liaisons Dangereuses, starring Alan Rickman. Yes, even in Bowling Green, Kentucky, people were abuzz about Alan Rickman on Broadway, someone none of us had ever seen or heard - but, oh, the stories we'd heard about his performance. He was the primary reason I watched the Tony Awards that year - to see and hear him, at last, even for just a few seconds. When I got the opportunity to go to London in the Fall of 1988 for two weeks with the WKU theater and dance department, getting to see nine theatre productions, including Les Liaisons Dangereuses, I was beside myself - I knew Alan Rickman was long gone from the production but, hey, he had been on THAT stage, speaking THOSE lines. Good enough for me. Jonathan Hyde was excellent in the role of Valmont - no disrespect. But when I re-read the play - and I do, every other year or so - its Rickman I hear and see in my head.

In the summers, I'd go to the Henderson Public Library and look through a book that had photos and summaries of Broadway productions for the previous season. It was the closest I could get to Broadway. I would stare at the photos and try to imagine the live performances. I did it with Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and there was Alan Rickman. In Henderson. At least on paper.

I may never have said I was a fan of David Bowie, even though I was, but anyone who really knows me knows that I am a HUGE fan of Alan Rickman. Massive. That his brilliance could translate to film was what all us oh-so-deprived Kentucky theater fans were dying for. He was so obviously, overwhelmingly awesome in the first shot scenes of Die Hard that an extra scene with his character and Bruce Willis' meeting face-to-face was written in while shooting was still happening. Watching him steal Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was hysterical. Years after they were released in theaters in the USA, I finally tracked down Truly Madly Deeply, which is the role he's known most for among his most diehard fans, and Bob Roberts, which gave me a hint of his political leanings. Sense and Sensibility, Dogma and Galaxy Quest are my favorites of his films - I own all of them. In fact, I have more movies in my own library featuring Alan Rickman than any other actor - even Harrison Ford. By far.

I'll never forget watching Sense and Sensibility yet again, this time with my dear Spanish / Catalan / Swedish / global tribal friend, Alexandra. She was tired through most of the movie, and almost dozed a few times. But when Colonel Brandon came out at the end of the movie in his British uniform after his wedding, she almost flew off the couch. "Stop it, stop it now, rewind the movie, look at him, oh, so handsome, why didn't you tell me he would wear this?!?" We rewatched that scene three times, and the next day, she found a photo from that scene and made it the background of her computer screen at work.

Part of the reason I became so endeared to Benedict Cumberbatch was because his imitations of Alan Rickman are absolutely hysterical. I loved that Stephen Colbert took a few moments out of one of his show to acknowledge Rickman's death and contributions to film - it's not like Rickman was a household name, but Colbert is so obviously a fan. How could anyone not be?!? I'm so sorry I didn't hear what Jimmy Fallon said during his show - I'm sure he said something, because he was absolutely giddy whenever he was around him and about him.

Oh, the missed opportunities to see him live... when I moved to Germany in February 2001, I didn't know he was in the London West End in a revival of Private Lives, and didn't hear about the production until it had moved to Broadway. When I would go to London, I would always be on the lookout - is that him over there? Or there? Or there?!? And when he did Seminar on Broadway in 2012, I didn't fly to New York City - Stefan and I were hoping to buy a house (and we did!), and I was trying to be a grownup. BTW, my biggest regrets in life are over what I didn't do, when I chose being a grown up over doing something crazy and wonderful and expensive... I thought my time would come, another, better opportunity would happen, and I would somehow see Alan Rickman live, in-person, on stage. Somehow. It would happen.

It didn't happen. And now, it never will.

Alan Rickman died the day before my 50th birthday. My sister was with me when it was announced, and she knew before she turned and saw the look of horror on my face what the news would do to me. She's probably never seen an Alan Rickman movie in her life, but she knows me. And oh how I cried. I had a wonderful time celebrating my birthday, but, honestly - every now and again, amid all the joy, I would remember: Alan Rickman is gone. And it would hold me back just a little, just a bit.

The Voice is silent. Too soon.

NPR remembers.

No comments:

Post a Comment