I always advise people to never pass up an opportunity that excites them, even if the timing seems inopportune. Opportunities are fleeting. You never know when another window will open if you miss the first.
When the opportunity to go to New York City on a Broadway theater tour presented itself earlier this summer, I knew I must practice what I preached.
I left 2 days after the Bianchi Cup, my biggest shooting event of the year. I didn’t have time to return home to California from Columbia, Missouri, after the Cup, so I brought a suitcase to Missouri that included everything I needed for my trip. After the Cup, I shipped home all my shooting equipment and left from Columbia for New York.
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The timing of the trip wasn’t ideal, but it was worth the hassle.
I saw 5 Broadway shows in 4 days during my 6-day trip. I also visited the 9/11 Memorial and took in Robert Rauschenberg’s “Among Friends” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.
As a bonus, I got to experience it with a family member, too, because I met up with my sister-in-law, Dr. Winnie Fang, for the trip.
At times, the trip made me introspective. At other times, it inspired me. Many times, it entertained me. Suffice it to say, it was worthwhile.
Before seeing any shows, I visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, better known as the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Memorial Museum. The site includes 2, 1-acre pools that feature the largest man-made waterfalls in the U.S. It marks the footprints of the Twin Towers and symbolizes our nation’s loss that day.
Throughout the entire site, you can tell the construction workers poured everything they had into this memorial and museum project. Their work shines through and honors those who lost their lives.
I was not born in the United States, but I have lived here most of my life. Like most Americans, I remember where I was on Sept. 11, 2001. I was at a Hampton Inn in Columbia, there to practice for an upcoming match. When I went to the breakfast area that morning, I saw several people hovered around the television. Curious, I went over to see what had everyone’s attention. As I stood by the TV, I saw the plane fly into the second tower.
At the museum, I listened to recordings of phone calls the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 made to their loved ones in their final moments. Everyone at the museum came away with tears in their eyes.
Visiting the 9/11 site made me reflect not only on all the innocent lives that were lost that day, but also about other horrific moments in history that were fueled by the ideological differences of one group of people compared to another. It is important that we remember the evil that has occurred in this world so that we stay vigilant toward not letting history repeat itself.
That night, my mood changed from somber and reflective to motivated and inspired.
I attended a production of “Hello Dolly,” the first of the 5 Broadway shows I’d see on my trip. I later viewed “Hamilton,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “War Paint” and “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”
Bette Midler played the lead, Dolly Levi, in “Hello Dolly.” Her performance moved me. I’ve always enjoyed Midler and remember watching her while I was in college. Midler is 71 years old, but she sure didn’t look her age on stage that night. She was amazing.
To do what she’s doing at her age, you have to love what you do, and she clearly does. She poured her heart and soul into that performance. She had fun on stage and made the role seem effortless.
Later in the trip, I watched 70-year-old Glenn Close perform the lead role of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.” I’ve always thought Close was a great actress, but I didn’t know how well she could sing until watching her in this role. Close’s voice sounded exceptional paired with the music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber of “Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats” fame.
Watching Midler and Close perform the way they did at their age was especially impactful for me, because I am 70 years old and sometimes wonder how much longer I should continue my shooting career.
They inspired me. There’s no reason for me to feel self-conscious or think that age should force me to quit doing what I love before I’m ready. Aging is a natural part of life. No one can escape it, but we all can strive to keep ourselves young at heart. Continuing to pursue our passions is a way to do that.
Between the performances by Midler and Close, I saw “Hamilton,” the musical about Alexander Hamilton that’s become a big hit across the nation. “Hamilton” had been on my radar for a few years. I’d heard nothing but rave reviews about the show.
My daughter, Christina, prepped me a little about the show and about Hamilton’s history. When I learned that the show’s music was rap music, I grew a little concerned. I don’t listen to rap music, and I worried about whether I’d be able to understand the plot.
In the end, I had no reason to worry. I had no trouble understanding the story. Rather, the music and dance accompaniment were quite entertaining.
The cast’s focus impressed me. All cast members were entirely in the moment and completely dialed in to their roles. You could feel the energy. It’s a treasure to see people approach their jobs so passionately.
When the show finished and the cast members came out for their curtain call, you could tell they’d slipped out of their role and were their regular selves again. But during the show, they became the people they portrayed.
As a former college art major, I love all kinds of art, whether it be a Broadway show or the Rauschenberg exhibit that showcased 6 decades of art and demonstrated the progression of technique, medium and approach.
I’m so glad that, although the timing wasn’t ideal, I seized this opportunity. I came home with many memories and a renewed sense of inspiration and motivation.
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Vera Koo is a first-generation Chinese American woman. She’s a wife and mother, author, entrepreneur and retired competition shooter. Along with Vera’s fantastic memoir and life story, "The Most Unlikely Champion," she writes her column, Vera Koo, at "Women’s Outdoor News." View all posts by Vera Koo