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There’s a moment when I wake up each morning and I don’t remember it’s over. It lasts only a few seconds but it’s like a little gift I get at the start of each day. I start to plan what I’ll wear that night for the pre-show director talk and I even work on revamping my “spiel” in my mind.

And then it hits me. After a wildly successful eight performances, the show is over. The stage has been struck, and the theater sits in anticipation of its next show.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve mourned the end of so many shows in my lifetime. This one, however, is different. “Over the River and Through the Woods” by Joe DiPietro was one of the most meaningful theatrical experiences I’ve had. It’s strange, because I relish being onstage; and other than my little five-minute pre-show welcome message to the audience, my husband and I were co-directors for this special production…and therefore, very much behind the scenes of this entire show.

My very wise husband compared acting and directing to me one night when I was wishing that I, too, could have joined this cast onstage. “When you’re acting, you are totally focused on making your character come to life. When you’re directing, you are totally focused on making every character, the costumes, the set, the props, the lights and sound, the publicity, the comfort of the audience, etc. come to life.” No wonder we both felt like we had raised another child in the past couple of months.

And now the “child” has left the nest...for good.

When I think about what made this show resonate with so many people, I come up with one word: family. Audience members laughed and they cried; they saw themselves and their own family members in the six characters onstage. This show was about life and how we are annoyed by it at times, failing to stop and appreciate the little moments that may be indeed the most priceless moments of all…as well as how life goes on, even after the loss of loved ones.

So does life imitate art or does art imitate life? Oscar Wilde’s opinion in his 1889 essay, “The Decay of Lying,” was that “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

Whatever the case, this piece of theatrical art was “life” at its best and worst, and that’s why it touched so many people and made us yearn to be able to talk to our parents, our grandparents, our children just one more time. What a message in one two-hour play!

After each performance, we stood in the lobby and listened to audience members sharing their own stories and memories that this show helped to bring to the forefront of their minds. We laughed; we hugged; we even cried with some of them. Indeed, it was art that accurately depicted reality, and for most, the reflection was right on target.

I know that only a few people may have realized this, but the reflection of our own lives could be seen in little additions on our set. We had a family picture wall, and the cast and crew brought special pictures of their own families to adorn that wall. Every night, I saw my dad smiling at me in my parents’ wedding photo from the 1950s. Although Dad has been gone for a little over a year, I thought he’d like a special spot onstage. I know I teared up nightly just thinking about all of the very real family members “present” on that wall.

In this season of being thankful, remember what matters. Family, whether our original, our extended, or our newly-created, is where our memories will lie and where our legacies will be carried on far into the future. Happy beginning of the family gatherings in this Thanksgiving season. Be annoyed; be crazed; but mostly be glad that you have great people in your life.

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Michelle Sprout Murray is a freelance writer who lives in Mason City with her family. She may be reached at queenmom@mchsi.com.

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