Sunday, July 08, 2007

Shakespeare in the Park

Measure by Measure is not my favorite Shakespeare play. No, that would have to be Romeo and Juliet and I do not apologize for that. But when Joe said we could go out and do anything I wanted to do Saturday night, I immediately said, "Shakespeare!"

I sat on the bleachers later that evening, looking at the huge trees that surround the stage, surround us, and wondered exactly how much they had grown since the first time I was seated here, well over 30 years ago.

Odd, those little snippets of memory that remain lodged in our minds, those scrapbooks of still shots that make up a life. During the 1970's I see my brother and I driving up from Lexington to Louisville to meet up with my pal C. at Central park. I can see us sitting on grass left of the stage, on a red blanket.

I see myself during the 1980's dragging my daughter Bridget, who would have been five or six, to the plays. She typically was bored to distraction, but this particular play had sword fighting, and they fought not only on the stage but descended into the crowd and crossed swords in the aisle next to our seats. My feisty daughter jumped up and joined in the fight with an imaginary sword! I'll never forget the actor slightly turning his attention towards this tiny little girl with the blonde hair and swinging arms, smiling and nodding at her.

We were watching an interesting scene where a landlord from the village was accusing someone of running a house of ill repute when out of nowhere one of the local park residents entered the seating area yelling at the top of his lungs with a voice that rivaled the trained actors on stage.

"HUNGRY!!"

"HUNGRY!"

"HUNGRY!"

Over and over he repeated himself as he walked to the center of the seating area and plunked down on an empty bench surrounded by .....us.

"Us" who were frantically avoiding eye contact and acting as if nothing were strange and unusual. He was two rows in front of us, and several benches over.

"TELL BUSH A BUM IS HUNGRY!!!! TELL BUSH!!"

I began to wonder if he was going to stop the show or become violent. I worried for nothing, as he got up after 30 seconds into his soliloquy and began to leave the area. Still over powering the actors with this accusation and message to Bush, he stumbled and knocked over a bench. Those sitting behind the bench immediately leaped forward to catch it. It was the only recognition he received from any of us. He began to apologize to those closest, "Sorry, sorry".

As he righted the bench then righted himself he continued his departure, my attitude of alarm gave way to sorrow. I had no money on me, and neither did Joe. I wanted to reach out and shake his hand and palm him a few dollars, but I had nothing.

"BUSH, BUM, HUNGRY" he chanted as he left the area and began to walk back into the recesses of the park, two wary security personnel of the Shakespeare production following him at a respectable distance as he circled the stage. He faded away into the evening, traces of his accusations lingering lightly in the cool night.

My attention focused on the stage production again. As soon as it was intermission, we left.

I had such a heavy heart.

It seemed there was more drama and emotion in the audience than on the stage that evening. At least for me.

2 comments:

meno said...

That is sad. No one should have to be hungry. Kind of kills the play-going mood. I would have sat there and wondered how i could have gotten him a meal.

LightYears2Venus said...

We have summer Shakespeare in the park here, too, but people bring picnic suppers so someone would have been able to offer up some food. Maybe not. As you describe, the usual reaction to the discomfort is to pretend you don't see them. I have the same reaction when I pull into a left turn lane and a homeless person is begging on the median with their cardboard sign. We're told there are services for vagrants, including the mentally ill, and that cash handouts are spent on alcohol or meth. I'm sure feelings were very mixed in everyone's hearts in the audience. I'm going to go write a check to the shelter. Thanks for a poignant entry making me grateful for simple summer pleasures despite the heat--at least I'm not going hungry.
*debbi*