The two performances of 'As You Like It' this past weekend went brilliantly.
Saturday's show at Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick was part of a larger and rather louder park-wide event, and as we were setting up thumping music beat out across the square, doing battle with the heavily amplified religious fervour of a speaker on the little platform in the centre that was our stage last year. The Parks Foundation provided us with a small wooden stage backed with black cloth and thirty or so lawn chairs for an audience. The final scene, otherwise known as 'Everyone get out there and explain what the hell is going on' was a little cramped, but by then there were people sitting on benches at the sides, on blankets and leaning through the fence around the park, and the chairs were full.
Sunday was even better. Sunset Park (near Park Slope) was busy and beautiful - views across Brooklyn to downtown Manhattan, towering chestnut trees, a busy public swimming pool, softball pitches, and tables with groups of animated men playing dominoes in the shade. As we walked into the park Krissa and I saw a huge lorry parked aside the path with 'PARKS DEPARTMENT' emblazoned on the side. It transformed into a huge stage, facing a gentle bank under the shade of trees and rows of white chairs, and the audience grew steadily bigger over the course of the play.
I'm not sure what happened before we started that affected me so much - it was very hot, everyone was drinking gallons of water, fanning themselves, and waiting until the last minute to change into costume, so after the five-minute call the tent was dangerously packed with people wobbling around pulling on shoes and boots.
I think, and I shudder to recount this (maybe it'll counterbalance what I'll say in a minute) that the feeling came from an embarrassing moment in a bodega about half an hour before the show.
I was trying to use an ATM and the owner walked past and said 'No trabajo.' and without thinking I said, 'Oh, gracias.' Krissa and I walked outside, scanned the street and I stuck my head back inside the bodega and said, in badly accented schoolboy Spanish, 'Hay otra ATM cerca de aqui?' and the owner got me to repeat myself three times before he pointed across the street and bluntly said 'Over there.' I wanted to run and hide - it was a gut-wrenching clanger of a moment begging quick flight and a hasty forgetting. After getting money, that same bodega was the only place we could see that did sandwiches, so I was forced to go back in. The guy smirked at me when I came in and continued to half-laugh for the next ten minutes as he sold beer, cigarettes and cockroach poison in between bursts of making our sandwiches. The squirm in my guts, so pronounced when we first walked back in, died down and I started getting excited about the show and looking around the store, even joking with the guy who had been laughing at me.
Maybe it was the mortification. Maybe I'd already touched on the answer to the unthought question, 'What's the worst that could happen?'. Maybe I'd already flexed my embarrassment muscles.
I felt absolutely electric going out on stage. It was a crackling feeling, like...like...it's difficult to explain. It was a high of anticipation, enthusiasm and confidence, and in the little gaps between scenes when I had to shift quickly between characters, I still felt sparks, all gung-ho and excited. As the good duke, I hopped on stage with a little Robin Hood pose before trying to pep up the merry men. I might have looked like a prat, but that character IS a prat. It felt great. As the bad duke my growling was gravelly and vicious, and I felt angry and exasperated. My voice, which hasn't done too well switching between loud throaty roars and chipper entreaties (and both at stage volume) over the last few weeks, held out, and I got louder and was able to accentuate a bit at volume rather than just shouting.
I don't want to descend into what is starting to feel like bragging, and I've no idea if how I felt affected how I came over or if I acted differently on Sunday compared to a rehearsal after a 9-hour working day, and really I don't care. That bolt-from-the-blue feeling gave me a kick, a huge kick, and it felt good. My performance could have been good or bad, but giving it felt bloody awesome.
Maybe there were traces of cockroach poison in the sandwiches.
So that's nice.
I had a full week of rehearsals last week, and last night it was wonderful to spend the evening with Krissa. We ate dinner, relaxed, laughed, talked and watched Buffy. These past weeks I've missed evenings at home with Krissa, and while there's been a delicious sort of intensity to them I've felt the lack of time with her keenly. I am madly in love with that woman.
It's not the first time that it's struck me, these past few months - I can stand in the middle of my life and, turning around through the different spheres of activity, effort, hope, and love, I can see good things, great things, everywhere. I am a dizzyingly lucky man.