On March 3, 2020, on the first day of rehearsal for Birthday Candles, director Vivienne Benesch read aloud the following words from the play’s leading character, Ernestine Ashworth: “The genius of a party is to offer us all a rest from the daily human errand to travel morning until night. To stake a claim in an hour and say I will notice this.” Ten days later, rehearsals were halted, and the COVID pandemic had begun to change the course of each of our lives. A focus on attentiveness and gratitude became an antidote to despair, and Ernestine’s mantra stuck with me. After many delays, I’m so thankful to bring Noah Haidle’s beautiful new play to the stage, to stake a claim in this hour together.
Birthday Candles travels through 90 years of Ernestine’s birthdays and highlights the joys, triumphs, laughs, mistakes, and losses she experiences along the way. In doing so, the play becomes a celebration, a respite, a moment to reflect, to honor, and to appreciate our lives and the lives of those we love. That is the genius of Birthday Candles, I think—as we watch Ernestine mark the years of her life, we are also given the opportunity to consider our own.
Thank you for joining us at Birthday Candles. As always, I ask you to share your thoughts on this production and our whole season by emailing me at ArtisticOffice@roundabouttheatre.org.