The man in the blazer indicated a dining room the size of my studio apartment. Then he indicated a corner of that dining room. “This is your performing space,” he told me, describing the carpeted square with his hands. Harvard Square’s oldest and friendliest looked on, munching on nachos (courtesy of John Harvard’s Brew House), as I looked around for electrical outlets. Or room for my cast to enter and exit. Or room for my cast to stand. But this is the perpetual condition of most theatre (knowing it an hour ahead of time was a bonus, even), so I wasn’t nervous.
“You look nervous,” Rachel said as I retreated to the hallway. She waited with half of the Discount Shakespeare cast in the lobby of John Harvard’s, commandeered as a performance space for the annual “Shakespeare Slam” coordinated by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project on the weekend nearest the playwright’s birthday. We’d been moved indoors due to inclement weather. A server, with the efficient ponytail of all female servers, hustled between us with a tray full of nachos; we scooted against the walls. Applause from the dining room; someone was telling a Richard III anecdote.
“I’m not nervous,” I said, fumbling for something to write with. And while I might have been worrying about things beyond my control – can I plug in these speakers and get sound? how will we take care of the scene transitions? what will “improvised Shakespeare,” which we promised them in addition to our show, look like? – my cast seemed much more laid back. As they should have been, because they went in there and killed. To the kind of crowd that’ll pack itself into a small dining room on a rainy Saturday to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, a half dozen talented actors doing Shakespeare will clean up. Robyn L., who happened to be in the crowd, helped me plug in the speakers I’d swiped off my desktop so we had a modicum of sound. The cast distributed our remaining promotional postcards after the applause died down; hands shot up from the audience, unbidden, like hands from Macbeth’s forest.