Sometimes, love exits stage left.
Kathryn Allen knows one of those stories. It’s about a Broadway actor who was on tour.
“He ended up traveling on Valentine’s Day, a long bus trip, and his lover that he had just recently broken up with was two seats back, cooing and smooching with a new lover,” Allen said.
People can hear the second and third acts of the story on Monday at The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy. Allen is curating the one-night presentation “Valentine’s Day: Dilemmas and Disasters.” Seven writers will read pieces about personal experiences with love’s occasionally odd lines, circles and angles.
The writing and reading exercise, part of the ongoing “Bookmarks” series at the Arts Center, begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
‘Valentine’s Day: Dilemmas And Disasters’
WHERE:The Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy
WHEN: Monday, 7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: www.artscenter-online.org
Allen, a self-employed writer who lives in Menands, loves the subject.
“I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day,” she said. “My mother made a big deal out of it and I always made a big deal out of it with my children, who are now grown. There have been Valentine’s Days where I was not connected with a romantic partner. When that occurred . . . I realized, wow, this is kind of an awkward holiday if you’re just starting to date someone or if your relationship is in flux. I thought, maybe there was an opportunity to pull out some stories about those experiences. And it worked.”
Allen was happy to provide some sneak previews for some of the readings, which will last about seven minutes each.
“One woman wrote about an experience in first grade,” she said. “We all had that experience in first grade or in elementary school, where you were required to make Valentines for everybody. And she just had a very embarrassing experience, which 40 years later can still make her blush.”
Other writers decided against a Valentine’s connection. They opted for stories about love — and the hope for love — instead.
“There’s a story about a woman who on her 36th anniversary went with her husband to renew her vows at a wedding chapel in Las Vegas and Elvis was the officiant,” Allen said, adding the preacher was really an Elvis impersonator.
“She writes it as if it is the real Elvis,” Allen said.
Still another story will come from a woman who has divorced. “She bought a box of condoms, long before she ever began dating again, and treated it as kind of a talisman,” Allen said, “promising herself she would again find love.”
Allen expects the evening will be fun for both Valentine readers and listeners.
“Storytelling can be a magic experience,” she said. “I love this quote by Robert McKee — he’s a very famous creative writing instructor . . . and he calls stories ‘the currency of human contact.’ It’s definitely fun for the people reading. I’ve been at a lot of these events, there’s laughter and nodding along. It’s a good experience all around.”
While not an expert on romance, Allen believes she knows why it is so treasured.
“Love is kind of the essence of life, one of the most powerful things we experience in life,” she said. “So when it goes well, it’s fabulous. And when it goes sour, it’s devastating.”
Allen has kept her Valentine souvenirs. Some are cards her grandparents exchanged, others are antique and homemade cards her mother used to give her. She’s even kept the cards she received as an elementary school kid growing up in Decatur, Ill.
Allen thinks some people dread February 14. These people might be in a relationship and are trying to find a way out. “Or they’re long married and it’s stale,” she said. “And they know they have to do something because it’s too awkward not to do something. So they’re looking for that card that has that minimalist message.”
As curator, Allen is not required to deliver her own message about Valentine’s Day.
“But I think I will,” she said. “I might just do a little survey off the different Valentine’s Days that I can think of and how different the character of each one was.
“I had a friend who was weeks away from dying one Valentine’s Day, and there was this stunning flower arrangement on the cover of Martha Stewart’s magazine that was a heart made out of hundreds of baby carnations. I determined that’s what I was going to do for my friend, for her last Valentine’s Day. I did it. It meant a lot to her. It meant a lot to me.”