Editor’s note: On Sunday, Nicole Galland posted a thank-you on Facebook for all who attended the Saturday show by Shakespeare for the Masses, a loose group that stages hour-long edited-for-fun versions of the Bard’s plays for free; such a thank-you is not an unusual thing for her to post. Except she called it a “magic-sad night.” Asked why, she sent the following reply, which has been slightly edited for style and clarity.


Jon Lipsky passed away yesterday morning, which was hard enough. But we were doing Winter’s Tale (a) at the Playhouse, with which he was affiliated closely and (b) with his son, Jonah, in the cast. After conversations among playhouse artistic director M.J. Bruder Munafo, board chairman Gerry Yukevich, Jon’s wife, Kanta, Jonah, Shakespeare for the Masses co-creator Chelsea McCarthy and me, the decision was to honor Kanta’s desire that the play must go on. With Gerry replacing Jonah. At 4 p.m., Chelsea and I met with Gerry, to walk him through the role, and that was all the rehearsal he got. He had never even seen the first part of the play (he arrived halfway through as an audience member the first night).

So it’s 7 p.m., and Gerry steps on-stage and tells the audience, “We have some news you might not know, which is that Jon Lipsky died this morning,” prompting distressed gasps from a number of audience members. He explains who Jon is within the playhouse family, explains it is Kanta’s wish we do the show, explains he is replacing Jonah, and then leaves the stage. We play waltz music for about three or four minutes to allow the audience to digest the news.

Then we have to go onstage and I [who is reading as narrator] have to tell the audience it’s time for COMEDY, for Christ’s sake. Chelsea and I had no idea how to make that transition work, from tragedy to comedy. We were sure the entire evening was going to be absolutely wretched.

Instead, here’s what happened: As we were all getting into place, the audience started to applaud. It’s like they had decided, collectively, to lift us up so we could lift them up. And they were with us, they were on our side, they already loved us, before we said a word. I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience, that strongly, in my life. In the middle of the play, there’s a lot of death, and Chelsea has an extraordinary monologue (at which she was brilliant) about a beloved character dying, and she sort of lost it while she was doing it, and I sort of lost it, and Leslie Stark started sniffling, and people in the audience started sniffling, but we all held it together. At the end of that scene, there’s a pause and then I am supposed to say, “That sucks.” Which was funny the first night but I was afraid it would seem flip the second night — but the audience snapped right back to it, they were sending out psychic vibes of “It’s okay, we’re still with you! Go ahead and be funny again!”

It was a really good show; at the end, the audience applauded for so long that we’d all gone downstairs and started changing into our street clothes, and they were still clapping and pounding their feet for us to come back, which was sweet but it made us feel almost bashful.

So that was the magic-sad experience.