Watching performers on a stage can do something odd to interpersonal relationships. To the performer, I’m just another face in the crowd. But to me, watching an actor on stage tricks me into believing that we’re old friends with a long history. When Andy Harvey and Katelyn Crall dropped by the Hub office for a conversation about Crane River Theater’s upcoming comedy, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," I might have stepped over the boundary.
They arrived with Corey Urbanek, managing director of the theater. She reminded me of one of those "minders" that reporters speak about when visiting North Korea. To be honest, our conversation started off wild and got weirder from there.
I saw bits and pieces of the show, written by comedian Steve Martin and scheduled to open Thursday at the Miriam Drake Theatre in the Fine Arts Building on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus. The show continues through Sunday.
I knew Andy from his work in the musical, "Annie," last summer. OK, I was just another face in the crowd at the time, but I felt like I knew him. I wanted to ask how Annie enjoyed living the life of a millionaire, but caught myself just in time to avoid complete embarrassment. I think at one point I asked Katelyn, who currently lives in New York City, if she worried about finding a decent bagel in Kearney.
Corey shot a worried glance my way, which allowed me to gracefully return to more relevant questions.
After talking about their love of the show and the humor of Steve Martin, I stumbled around until I settled on a path of asking about their careers. "I just finished college," Katelyn said, which made taking a theater job in central Nebraska even more sensible. As for Andy, he said he loved coming to Kearney. The people, the show, the weather — everything about it rocked his world.
This time I shot a worried glance at Corey.
You can read more about our conversation — from a sanitized point of view — in Thursday’s Bravo section. Sometimes the process of realizing an article feels more like making sausage: It seems elegant enough at the time, but a lot of meat gets ground up on the way.
Oh, we shared a few laughs, too. I tried to explain how I felt — that I knew about them from watching their work on stage. Andy seemed to nod in agreement. Katelyn looked a little lost as I tried to explain the art scene in Kearney, how groups like Crane River Theater treat audiences to shows of high quality. I also talked about the support that patrons in Kearney give to artists who come here to share their talents.
She seemed to get it — on a professional basis. Making connections takes time, but it does happen in a small city like Kearney. And then something extraordinary happened.
After the interview, I walked the trio to the door. As I did, one of the Hub staff members recognized Andy, got up and gave him a huge, enthusiastic hug in the middle of the office. After greeting each other, Andy explained that they knew each other from their work on "Annie."
I turned to Katelyn and said, "Don’t be surprised if that happens to you when you come back to Kearney after this show." Performers never know how their time on stage will affect audience members. And that’s the joy of the connection.