This past Sunday, I returned home from a fun night at a karaoke bar to receive one of those emails that every arts enthusiast dreads. Richard Jay Simon, artistic director at Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre – the best theater company in Broward County, and one of the top three in South Florida – announced that he would be stepping down from the organization for the completely understandable reason of spending time with his new wife and raising his first child, due to be born in January.
This shouldn’t be reason to shutter the theater, but apparently Mosaic’s board thought it best to do so, even though Simon had previously stated he would continue his duties through the 2012-2013 season. So, with two shows outstanding, Mosaic Theatre is gone like a gambler’s bank account, with subscribers being refunded their money.
I arrived at this story late; by the time I read the depressing and shocking news, others in the arts media had already blogged about it. I won’t rehash the basic details again, other than to add the following. As you may know, Mosaic is the fourth great South Florida theater to fall in the past two seasons, after Florida Stage, the Caldwell and the Promethean. Only in the case of the Promethean was the announcement made in enough time to properly mourn the upcoming loss. Not to be too morbid, but if the Promethean was at least given a one-month prognosis to accept its death, the other institutions were hit by buses, run over backwards and incinerated in the blink of a press release. Actually, the Caldwell didn’t even send a press release, letting its corpse fester for months in a glittering building, with no hope of reopening, and with a world-premiere play forever forthcoming on its website.
For me, this is what makes these losses hurt the most: the immediacy of the closure, the lack of fanfare surrounding it, the sudden absence of greatness. Now you see them, now you don’t. This may be the nature of the beast, but I don’t have to like it, or even grow accustomed to it.
About a year ago, my favorite talk-show host, Lynn Samuels, died from a heart attack with just as much immediacy, leaving her own loud-mouthed void on satellite radio. Lynn isn’t the only person I’ve admired whom I’ve lost in recent times; I certainly spent many more tears on my mother-in-law’s passing. But I saw that one coming, and I was as prepared as anyone could hope to be when I heard the horrible news.
In Lynn’s case, she just didn’t show up for work one day. I assumed she took a sudden holiday, but a hastily posted New York Times obituary told me the real reason. I still think about Lynn every time I’m in my car during her old time slots, which have grown considerably lamer in her wake.
I’ll be driving near the intersection of Broward Boulevard and Flamingo Road a little bit less often now, but when I do, I’ll similarly miss the Mosaic sign with every cultural bone in my body – to say nothing of the timeless comedy, drama, tragedy and provocation that unfolded on its stage over the past dozen years. Farewell, Mosaic.