The sun was setting slowly, shadows lengthening through the trees. The wind had died down finally. There was not a cloud in the sky, and if I hadn't been wearing my headphones, I could have heard the sound of pop tops and beer bottles opening as the audience settled in.
I leaned over, pushing agains the stone wall to stretch out my calves, rolled my neck from side to side to get out the worst of the snap crackle and pop, and knelt down a couple times to give my knees one last chance to pop off like a .22 long. Eminem on the iPod talking about vomiting up his spaghetti, and I feel the butterflies come on. No panic, not even really stage fright, but that tightening up, the anticipation of going on. Like when your turn at bat is coming up and you know you've had the sweet stroke for the past week and it's gonna go long. A welcome tightening up of all the muscles, a sharpening of all the senses.
I could smell the beer from the audience. I could see the veins on every leaf in the tree in front of me. I could feel every imperfection in the stone wallI leaned against. I could hear Eminem telling me to lose myself. Then the sun went down, the lights went up, and I did.
Saturday night's show was one of the good ones, one of the magic times when things just gel, when you can invent new things in the middle of a centuries-old play and your scene partner goes right along with you, and you drag the audience along for the ride. Somewhere along the kicking, biting and spanking in Act II I could really tell that it was gonna be a good ride. I can always tell when that scene goes well by how much I sweat when it's over, and I had sweat almost all the hair gel out on Saturday, so it went really well. We came up with new bits, fine-tuned our reactions and connections, and it all got dialed in for a couple hours.
Tomorrow we all go back to work. Tonight I'm sporting a sunburn I picked up this afternoon tearing down our stage. But Saturday night will hang with me all week, and well into the rehearsals for the remount of the show in June, as an example of what it can be, what acting is supposed to be. Oh yeah, that's why I spent 6 weeks driving 50+ miles 5 days a week to rehearse a show that I'm not getting paid for. Because it's what we do.
And when we can have someone say to us later "I don't get Shakespeare, but I really liked that," or better "you know, I've never really been to a play before, but that was really enjoyable," then it's worth every minute and every gallon of gas. It's worth every bruised knee, every slap to the chops, every kick in the jaw. It's worth the panic attacks over my lines, the frustration over liability insurance, the sticker shock over Porta-Jon rentals. Yeah, it's worth it.
Yeah, I'm an actor. Again. I haven't been for a long time, but now I remember why I started down this road to begin with.
The revival is June 21-30. You're all invited. I'll be there.