One time my friend bought tickets to an *NSYNC concert. Unnecessary: I received industry seats for the show and she was to be my guest. So she had these two extra tickets and she told me that she would sell them. No big deal. Easy. She tried various friends, eBay…

The day of the show came and she still hadn’t sold them, but she assured me that someone must want floor seats and that it was totally legal to sell them at face value out front of the venue so if I’d just wait with her it would take no time at all. I stood with her. It didn’t work.

“Well I guess that’s it, “ she said, upset at having lost over one hundred dollars. While she tried to convince herself that our seats were so good that she had still gained more than she lost, I was struck with a most awesome idea: “Why don’t you find someone looking glum in the nosebleeds and give the tickets to them?”

“Sure. You can do it. I don’t want to be the one to do it,” she said.

“Sure, I mean if you’re sure?”

She didn’t really understand what the big deal was and gave me the tickets along with an emphatic, “I’m sure, Jess.” So we trudged up and up to the very top of the stadium where there was a girl who had had to come along with her mom. Neither party seemed too pleased about the arrangement. Add to that they had the worst seats in the venue, it was outdoors and overcast… everything about their expressions said, “Ho-hum this is not how it was supposed to be.”

“Hey do you guys want these tickets? They’re floor seats and we have other tickets,” I was shaking with excitement as I huffed up the last few steps to where they were sitting.

The mom was confused by we two girls, thinking we wanted to sell them, but I assured her that it was no trick and that we were giving them free of charge. She took them, stunned. The daughter gave us a silent “thankyousomuchohmigodyoutotallyjustsavedme” look. I nodded back in typical peer fashion. I don’t remember much of interest about the concert or the after concert, but I remember that moment.

. . .

I hadn’t committed to attend until an hour before the show. “I shouldn’t have even come,” my conscience said, knowing of my current position and heaps of work and… but I was there, and when you commit late, understandably, your seat is toward the back. The theater was small, however, and I knew I was in for a treat. “Plus, every seat is good in a theater like this one, and at least they worked me in,” I thought. And I then relaxed because I was in a theater and that makes me feel just fine even if I don’t fit in with the old Beverly Hills money making up the majority of the audience. For some reason, everything was pulsating, like sitting outside in the calm winds of spring evenings. I did not feel ho-hum at all, but I was alone…

And I was inside…

I was in my own world—

“Excuse me, do you have a single?” asked a tall man, now standing over me, looking very resigned.

I did have a single seat. He had an extra ticket in the very front, had failed to sell it and gave it to me.

This, I knew, was no trick: I had been here before.

“Are you sure?” I confirmed.

“Please, take it,” said he.

So I moved up front where I might have sat had I been my normal commit-to-going self. I had instead gone with the Sunday flow and ended up there anyway.

Which makes me question how I approach my entire life, really.

Anyway, his name was David.

And now, with David’s extra ticket, I was seated in the front next to a nice gentlemen and his wife. After asking if I was an actor, my new neighbor confessed that he was a huge LOTR fan. He said it as though he was used to people not understanding that sort of thing. I then proceeded to engage him in discussion of the Wraith scene at Weathertop.

You see, friend, we were seated front and center for Sir Ian McKellen’s one night only, one-man show, A Knight Out in LA. Thus, LOTR was topical.

Over the course of the next two hours, Sir Ian shared narratives from his life and times with performances of past roles positioned between personal stories like roses pressed between the pages of a beautifully traveled journal. Gems we saw included Richard III’s famous “Now is the winter of our discontent,” we heard him read poets as though by fireside and as though his soul itself was on fire, and we saw the one Shakespearean role he was the first to play professionally, to create.

He painted pictures.

What stirred me most, and this shall be of no surprise, was when Sir Ian produced Glamdring, came front and center, and read from Tolkien’s Fellowship the end of the chapter, The Bridge of Khazad-Dum.

It is here that Gandalf meets the Balrog.

Yes, Sir Ian McKellen just Gandalf-ed five feet in front of my face.

Yes, he did bellow, with that same authority, (but in this moment, a different, more powerful moment),

“You cannot pass!”

And I didn’t want to: I wanted to stay right there on that bridge.

But time forced forward.

So Sir Ian played on and we thought about humanity and saw what it was like to be knighted as he sweated through shirt and blazer, shifted from character to character, and then back to himself, sharing his stories and art.

It ended. It dispersed. I stayed seated until it was time to greet some people. I met some others… Truthfully, it was not a great atmosphere for talking to even the most interesting guests,

Which forced time forward.

So I left and drove on. When everything seemed like it was going wrong, with the music on and the world drifting together in the night,

The inside and the outside,

The theatrical and the real,

The master and the apprentice,

I learned more than I have in a long, long while.

How is it that someone so much your senior can make you, a young girl full of vim, feel old and feeble in their presence?

I had never felt that before.

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