Bottompost 5: adventures with the audience
Three remarkable audience interactions in two days requires some reportage:
On Thursday’s show, I stared out of my ass-head at a woman of a certain age and said: “I see their knavery. This is to make an ass of me.” She replied: “Not possible.” Now, I’m not sure how to take that. On the one hand, she might have been saying, you’re not an ass, you’re too – what? Noble? Handsome? Talented? Given the circumstances, even that reading of her reply is tinged with irony. Or was she saying, you can’t possibly be more of an ass than you already are, as evidenced by your ridiculous performance thus far. As I was pondering these weighty issues – on stage – I managed to mutter, “Well, we’ll see”, then promptly bungled the rest of the little speech before Bottom sings. In the second act I got a hint as to her point of view. She was missing.
Then, at the end of that show, as I am winding up into Pyramus’ freak out, I wandered down the front row of audience on both sides – “Eyes do you see? How can it be?” – and came face to face with a different woman of a certain age, dead asleep. With handkerchief extended, I stopped in my tracks and stared at her as the the audience laughter swelled. I waved the handkerchief in her face, maybe her husband nudged her, and she came to. She was suitably apologetic. Just to let her know there were no hard feelings, I took the “fairest dame/That lived, that loved, that liked, that looked” bit to her later.
Then, last night, just as I am about go bat shit with the suicide, yet another woman of a certain age calmly rose from the aisle in the red seats, walked down the stairs, across the stage not five feet away from me, and exited. Dave Johnson remained delightfully in character as Philostrate, opening the door to the theater to let her out and nodding politely. When her feet hit the stage, I stopped speaking and watched, dumbfounded, then began a comic deflation made all the more commedia by my sagging sword. There was that wave of audience laughter which begins nervously – did that really happen? Was she a plant? Is he pissed? – followed by an exploding roar of laughter cued by Joey and Charlie nearly wetting themselves on the bench and me making it obvious that it was Bottom, not Ben, who was devastated. Truly, the woman handed me a great comic gift and we all – audience, actors, all – enjoyed it immensely.
My performance clearly works for most in the audience. Except perhaps for women of a certain age?