One thing about visiting a galaxy far, far away. It makes bedtime far, far easier.
“Did you have a good time?”
A vigorous nod came in reply.
Missy’s smile was a mile wide as I pulled up the covers. No surprise. What she loves, she loves without reservation. And when it comes to Star Wars, the passion of our developmentally disabled ward reaches a force (or even a Force) that would astound George Lucas himself. Just a glimpse of R2-D2, or the mighty Chewbacca, or (especially) Darth Vader is sure to mean a quick tug on my sleeve and a cry of “Da’y, look!”
And so, when the chance came to see it on the big screen, courtesy of a local theater, Heather and I had the same thought: “I have a good feeling about this.”
Needless to say, Missy was in heaven. She laughed, she cheered, she gave huge cries of “whoooooa!” at suitably big moments. Sitting still isn’t always easy for her, and her devotion didn’t entirely change that, but most of the motion was either bouncing with excitement, or turning around in her seat every so often to see if everyone else was having as much fun as she was.
She needn’t have worried. The audience was held in a grip Darth Vader would envy. For many, this was the first time in years they’d seen it in a theater … or even the first time they’d seen it in a theater at all.
The first time to really feel the magic. To live the story.
Some of you know what I mean. These days, we are surrounded by stories, and especially visual stories. It takes only a moment’s thought to binge an entire series on streaming television, to call up favorite clips on our smartphone, to download and immerse and enjoy.
It’s fun. It’s amazing. I don’t deny it.
But it’s also … well … small.
And you don’t realize how small until you step into something larger again.
Understand, I know the original Star Wars films cold. Saw them in the theater, played them endlessly on VHS, practically memorized the script. But when I walked back in with Missy that night, it was like I hadn’t seen them at all.
Suddenly, there were details that had vanished on a television screen or computer monitor. Suddenly, the music was swelling and the explosions were roaring.
But most of all – best of all – was that audience. Large. Absorbed. Laughing and applauding, unafraid to show how much they were enjoying this. I knew that power from live theater many times, but only rarely from modern movies, where multiple screenings often result in smaller, quieter crowds at each individual showing.
Here, the tale and the audience had become one.
And that, ultimately, is what any story is about.
Authors need readers. Actors need audiences. Tales need listeners – to bring their own lives to the story, their own thoughts and experience and wonder that fills in the blanks and makes it whole.
And when you have a lot of those lives in one place, where they can merge and transform and build, it creates a power that carries along everything in its wake. A hundred pieces, suddenly joined into a larger whole.
Inside the movie theater, that’s a powerful metamorphosis. Outside the movie theater, it can change the world.
I don’t mean the mindless conformity of an Imperial stormtrooper unit, though stories have been and will be twisted to do that, too. No, this is the power of the Rebels, bringing together aliens and droids, princesses and smugglers, ancient warriors and naive farm boys, into a cause that’s greater for having all of them. A story that’s richer than any one of them could have done alone.
That’s our story. Our epic.
And one heck of a smile at bedtime.