'Birthday Candles' Playwright Noah Haidle on the Deferred Dream of a Broadway Opening (Guest Column)

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Front row from left: Andre Braugher, Debra Messing and Enrico Colantoni; back from left: director Vivienne Benesch, Crystal Finn, Susannah Flood, playwright Noah Haidle and Christopher Livingston at the 'Birthday Candles' photocall

Roundabout Theatre Company on Wednesday announced that its spring production of 'Birthday Candles,' starring Debra Messing, Andre Braugher and Enrico Colantoni, has moved to the fall due to the coronavirus shutdown.

The dream of my writing life is to have a play on Broadway.

During the second week of rehearsal for my first play on Broadway, Birthday Candles, the street itself closed for the longest period in its history.

Yoinks.

Many people who work in theater say, "Rehearsal is my favorite part of the process." Mine, too.

But what if it's the only part?

A day before what would become our last rehearsal, we did a press event for the Roundabout Theatre Company, on the 5th floor of the American Airlines Theater, the proposed home for my play. I got interviewed on camera, tried my best to be funny, tried my best to look brooding, and had my picture taken mugging with my company of actors. I thought to myself, "Wowie zowie, I'm the luckiest playwright in the world."

An hour later, I watched Debra Messing and Andre Braugher crush a fight scene between a cheating husband and a wronged wife. As two of my favorite actors went toe to toe in a good ol' fashioned American domestic blowup, I realized there was the distinct possibility that no one but three stage managers, the director, the assistant director and myself would ever see these two powerhouses chew up this scene.

When the hero's birthday party arrives in my play, the other characters call for a speech:

ERNESTINE:
Oh, God, an audience.
The genius of a party is to offer us all a rest from the daily human errand to travel morning until night.
To stake a claim in an hour and say I will notice this.
The house full again, sounds of laughter and music, this hour shared with all of you is my favorite.

What's the point of rehearsing a play that might not ever be seen?

My answer is simple: To offer ourselves a rest from an uncertain world and to express in art our inner experience of living, no matter if anybody witnesses it or not.

"Things won are done. Joy's soul lies in the doing." Shakespeare is right. Our reward must be the work itself.

Whether anyone sees Birthday Candles or not, my dream of having a play on Broadway has come true already.

During the second week after our last rehearsal, Roundabout decided to move the production of Birthday Candles to the fall, when Broadway opens its doors to a new iteration of audience, destined to discover that hell is not other people, it is our inability to connect with them.