August 2021

“No! NO!” she shouts from the middle of the crowd, interrupting clinking glasses and congratulatory flourishes. The guests are stunned as their stiff upper lips are met with a display of messy, unbridled emotion and the anniversary party grounds to a silent halt. I refer, of course, to our beloved early 2000s everywoman, Bridget Jones. Her reaction stops the room cold and she makes a less-than-smooth exit into a chilly foyer, marking another year of making bad decisions and having a big ass.

a blond woman stares open-mouthed while wearing silly red penguin pajamas; Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary

We love Bridget for saying the things we wish we could express, but watching her flail makes us glad we keep quiet. I thought of Ms. Jones last week when I attended an outdoor performance of Sondheim’s wicked romp, Sweeney Todd. For someone who spent her first 20 years unapologetically showboating I find attending live theatre (even pre-Covid) an unnerving experience: I worry I’ll lose all sense of decorum and bring the fourth wall clattering to the floor as I run to the stage and shout, “It’s made up! These people are pretending!” It’s an utterly ir/rational reaction to the invisible scrim that separates player from audience, but one I have poked holes in before.

a white man wearing a sailor shirt sings in an office setting; Ed Helms as Andy Bernard in The Office

I was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in A Christmas Carol and, while slowly descending steps through the audience in my heavy robe and black veil, fell on a man and we both squealed, ruining Scrooge’s climactic epiphany. I was Kate in Kiss Me, Kate and sent a stool flying into the pit orchestra and onto the clarinetist during a particularly rousing performance of “I Hate Men.” I was a nun in The Sound of Music and, while exiting stage right, tripped over a piece of the set and launched myself off stage, headfirst.

a white woman with messy hair mugs to the camera; Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary

While squirming to keep my mouth shut during Sweeney I realized it was the 20 year anniversary of my brief stint as a flying nun in the same theatre outside of which Mrs. Lovetts was now wielding her cleaver. It’s also been 20 years since Bridget Jones’s Diary was released and, lucky for everyone at the theatre that night, I’ve finally learned Bridget’s lesson.