Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fair Hope in Love

August 30

In spite of itself, Fairhope is a romantic town. Its picturesque location, its sultry climate, its layers of complex human endeavor, all lead to the ultimate love affair -- a love affair with the town itself, that often lasts a lifetime.

When I was a teenager, there was a viable, if somewhat shabby venue for theatrical productions in Comings Hall, the building on the campus of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education. Comings Hall had seen better days, and even in its best days had been rustic and plain -- but it had a stage and a house that seated about 150, a backstage area, good acoustics. It was the place where traveling theatre troupes, along with the old Fairhope Little Theatre, and the Organic School, used for performances. A civic theatre organization provided a series of plays from university and other out-of-town sources.

One year my sister got a phone call from a newlywed couple that was staying at the Colonial Inn, Fairhope's quaint hostelry on the bluff overlooking the bay. The young man, Richard Brown, had been an actor in a theatre company in New Orleans that had appeared in the drama series the previous season. He had taken note of Fairhope as the perfect place for a honeymoon -- private with just enough local interest to provide a distraction from the huge responsibility the couple had just taken on. Growing up in Fairhope, I had never thought of it that way, but ever since then I've thought the young man was right.

In a couple of years I myself would experience the romance of Fairhope, from a dogwood-blossom assignation on the northeast corner of Knoll park one evening to the cataclysmic revelations at sunset on the pier. (Dogwoods have long since been taken by the blight in this area, more's the pity.) At least one of my readers will recall such storybook events, of personal impact and longing, and how Fairhope just seemed the only place in the world where they might happen. The little Fairhope Theater, where those heavily-censored movies of the 1950's were playing every evening, and the open-air "walk-in" Beach Theater were the places where many a couple found courage to hold hands for the first unforgettable time. Young people were everywhere, and, even with the restraints that once were part of our lives, the air was combustible with love.

These days, romance is programmed into Fairhope, as I guess it is everywhere. When I was running the Jubilee Fish Theatre in the 1990's, a couple from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival was doing a romantic two-hander for us in the fall. Love was in the air when the had their time together in Fairhope. They watched the lighting of the trees downtown, and sophisticated as they were about such things as lighting effects, told me they were breathless awaiting the moment the switch would be thrown and the trees of downtown would begin to glitter for a whole season.

I'm sure there are hundreds of stories about love in this town, from a certain amount of free love that existed here when it was an isolated village whose population was ahead of its time, to the traditional sweethearts who met in kindergarten at the Organic School and have been married for 50 years. What causes the phenomenon? I'll have to think about it...maybe you have your own ideas.


Benedict S. said...

I’m not sure about your last question, “What causes the phenomenon?” whether you’re asking about the cause of “love” in general or what causes it in Fairhope. I suspect the former because it seems to me that people “fall in love” in Fairhope for the same sort of reasons they do in other places.

You take that “dogwood blossom assignation” you “experienced” on the “northeast corner of Knoll Park.” I would wager that a photograph of that tryst might very well reveal a cataclysmic sunset and dogwoods in bloom. But I would wager an equal sum that it was you and not the scenery that enlivened your young man’s ardor.

Of course, not knowing the young man, I could be wrong about that.

Robin said...

L'amour est partout !

Benedict S. said...

" toujours."

Finding Fair Hope said...

benedict, if you don't know who the young man was you have a severe case of Fairhope Amnesia...which I doubt.

I suppose y'all are right, romance is no different in Fairhope than anywhere else. But you couldn't prove either theory by me.