By Peter Marks
19 September 2020
On a frigid night in January 2003, I darted out of Signature Theatre in Arlington after a performance of the musical “110 in the Shade.” I’m often the first person out of the theater — a critic’s habit — but on this night, I spotted an older man rushing ahead of me toward a limo and a petite woman on the periphery of my vision, carefully negotiating an icy patch.
“Ruth,” the man called out, “move your ass!”
As it sunk in that this was the esteemed associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and her husband, Marty, I felt that special twinge of Washington privilege: to have witnessed a funny, unguarded moment in the life of a revered public servant. She became a real person to me in that instant, just someone who, like me, loved the theater and was now trying to beat the post-show crush, though not at quite the pace her companion was setting.
On countless nights to follow over the years, I would see Justice Ginsburg in the theaters of Washington, on the occasions critics were invited to Arena Stage and Signature Theatre and Shakespeare Theatre Company. She was the most faithful patron of the performing arts in the upper echelons of officialdom I have ever known. Often, she was seated in front of me or just across the aisle, and I had to resist the temptation to watch her instead of the production. Or to lean over and whisper: How do you have time to sit on the Supreme Court all day and schlep in the evening to see “West Side Story?”
The answer was obvious. She couldn’t stay away. That’s what passion for the arts does to a person.
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