I love the theatre.
As a child I would listen to my mother’s records of various plays and imagine the stage and characters in my head. While other girls were blasting the latest boy band in their room, I was singing along to Sondheim while doing homework.
My love wasn’t limited to musical theatre. Even though it would be years before I saw a play (outside of school productions) I read Shakespeare and Stoddard and Pinter, giving each character a voice and face inside my head.
It’s no surprise that as I got older I jumped at the opportunity to spend my hard earned cash on the occasional set of theatre tickets.
One year, my mother and I discovered that a small local theatre offered severely discounted tickets if you were willing to attend the full dress rehearsal. The evening before opening night, the entire play would be performed, beginning to end, just as it would every other night. It was the night that gave them an opportunity to work out the kinks, if there were any, in front of an audience. We decided that it would be great fun, not to mention budget friendly, to be that audience.
One evening, we made our way to see “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” (a work most associated with Shakespeare, although it is agreed upon by many that he only wrote part of the play).
We arrived early, as my obsessive nature often compels me to do, and after some time mingling in the lobby, we made our way into the theatre.
The setup of this place at the time was comprised of two rooms, referred to as “Stage Left” and “Stage Right”, where plays were held. We had only ever been in “Stage Right”, an intimate place with 100 seats (50 to the left of the stage, 50 to the right).
Or at least we thought that was intimate.
As we were escorted into Stage Left, we were immediately struck by the reduction in space. Seats were placed around the center of the room, or the stage, and there were only about 50-60 seats total in the room. My mother and I took a seat in the middle of one of the front rows, a bit taken aback by the small space, but pleased with our prime seating.
As the lights dimmed and the players began, I became painfully aware of how close we were to the actors. Not that I was regretting my awesome seat, but I was afraid to even breathe, for fear that I would interrupt the performance.
And then it happened.*
Pericles settled in for a nice lengthy monologue. Right in front of me. Here I was, in a room full of strangers, with a man sitting inches away from me, delivering an impassioned speech. To me. Looking me in the eye.
I sat, immobilized, my mind racing with what ifs.
What if I need to sneeze? Or, no, what if I need to yawn? Should I offer him a mint? What would he do if I just reached out and tweaked his nose? How does my hair look? Am I allowed to look away? Should I smile? Am I smiling? What is the appropriate expression to have on one’s face in this situation? WHY DID NO ONE GIVE ME A MANUAL FOR THIS??
The monologue seemed to last for ages. It was delivered beautifully, but my awkwardness made it feel like it would never end. I never broke eye contact, although I am certain I blushed, and I felt as though I didn’t take a breath through the entire thing.
At intermission, I turned to my mother and heaved a sigh. I can’t remember my exact words to her, but I know it was something like:
“That was the most intense first date I’ve ever been on.”
“If I had known I was going on a date with Pericles, I would have worn something cuter.”
“I’m so glad we didn’t have Mexican for dinner.”
Okay, I may or may not have said that last one, but I’m sure I was thinking of it.
Are you a fan of theatre? Have you ever had an awkward theatre experience? What was your most memorable theatre experience? How many more times can I say theatre?
*No, not that. You’re gross. Or, you know me too well.
[For the locals, the Mad Cow Theatre puts on some really AWESOME productions. If you love theatre, check them out.]