While it is July now, it was not the hottest of days, since there had been enough cloud coverage to block at least some of the intense Florida sun. Still, they kept the air conditioning on rather than roll down the windows on the drive south. Rather than getting on the highway, they were stuck taking State Route 1. Though it was a more direct route, it was slower than driving along the highway, as they passed through shopping plazas and medical centers and car dealerships that now lined the route.
I looked forward to the play perhaps more than would seem reasonable, given it was just a small local production, hardly anything with a large budget or A-List casting. However, sitting out on the lawn, beer in hand, losing myself in the production for a few hours in good company was always a pleasure. Simply seeing a movie paled in comparison to a live performance; though film may have more special effects, and they can reshoot as many times as they want to make each scene as perfect as possible, and have more freedom in setting, there is something about a traditional play that makes it more powerful, more capable of connecting us to those who experience it with us.
After a quick meal at a local Panera, we arrived and found parking easily enough. We crossed over A1A, the road that most closely hugged the coast, and made our way to the amphitheater. Already, the section closest to the stage was claimed by a variety of patrons. There were family with large picnic coolers and foldable camping chairs, there were young adults with blankets and wine or beer, there were older retired couples settled in, some with light jackets despite the warmth of the evening. As they searched for a place to declare their own, they passed the “Wishing Will” where patrons could donate to the company. Coming for all around us was the sound of light, joyful conversations, and in the background there was instrumental music that was reminiscent of a time long ago- simple melodies plucked on mandolins or other similar instruments. Overhead there were some clouds that lingered from earlier showers, but there was no real threat of rain, there was a pleasant scent in the air that spoke vaguely of the sea, evaporating rain, and healthy grass.
We quickly choose a spot off the the side where we would have a bit better of a view. Nicole announced she needed to use the restroom and smoke a cigarette, and I agreed to join her. We meandered down the path towards where the restrooms were, and discussed various Shakespeare works, noting which we were more familiar with and the ones we hadn’t yet been able to read. She would be teaching Macbeth this upcoming school year, which she had to read and design lessons for, and I knew I would be teaching either Othello or Hamlet myself. We shared old memories about plays from the past and adventures from high school and college, some of them long forgotten and brought back to memory.
We didn’t have to wait very long for the play to begin; I had read the synopsis online prior to coming, of course, and vaguely recalled reading at least some parts of it at some point long ago. As it started, the sky had darkened just enough to allow the lights to accent the stage in the appropriate way. There was no overly dramatic effects created by the lighting; it simply accented the actors so the audience could better follow the action and dialogue. One of the opening scenes features Don Armado, the lively Spanish clown character who attempts to woo and court a “loose woman”. Though some moments were difficult to understand, we all were immediately absorbed in the humor and laughing along.
Local productions may not have have a “quality” of a Broadway play, but they have charm and character. They are relatively average people transformed from their standard, daily jobs, and becoming something else, even if only for a few hours. Yes, they have rehearsed for hours and studied drama in some way before, and while they are actors in every respect, they have not been “polished”. It is evident that they are doing it merely for the enjoyment of it, because it is something they love, rather than a formal job they are being paid for.
D. had never been to a play before, so I was a bit anxious to see his reaction. What if he hated it, and had a miserable time? But I could immediately tell he was enjoying it, as he laughed genuinely at the appropriate times. Looking in his eyes, he was completely immersed in the world of the play, a feeling I knew so well. Slowly sipping our beers (not chugging, of course, but drinking them slowly to appreciate and savor them), we wrapped our arms around each other, letting ourselves luxuriate in that time-worn comfort of the physical presence and nearness of the one you love.
After getting so enwrapped in the story, the quick dialogue and turns of phrases, the characters who were both cunning and oblivious, the subtly included deep truths about our human experience and love that transcend the centuries. How we deceive ourselves and are deceived by others, believing we are being clever or that we will be able to better accomplish our goals this way. And in the end… Well. Perhaps we can never be prepared for what life will bring us, but we can press forward regardless, and somewhere along the way we can find that joy and love that we deserve. I’m not a Shakespeare scholar, though. To some extent, we see what we wish to see in any text or performance, and our own biases and our own knowledge changes how we see certain characters and interpret difference actions. But back to the real focus of this piece.
The final scene is brief but substantially powerful, and the whole audience gave a short standing ovation, and we began packing up, tossing our beer bottles in the nearby garbage can. We were smiling and remained lost in the world of the play for a few moments longer. During the car ride home, we had a rambling conversation, one of those conversations that jumps from topic to topic naturally without any clear intent or clear logic. At moments, I began to drift in and out of sleep, my sandals off and lulled by the motion of the vehicle. D. and I dropped Nicole off at her apartment and continued north towards our own home. Sometimes I was still struck by the fact that it was our home; that we truly did purchase a house together, that we were somehow establishing ourselves as adults and committing to a future, however vague or susceptible to change it might be.
We remember big events and moment: weddings, graduations, the start of a new job, moving, starting at a new school, a major accident or illness. Sometimes all we need, though, are these uncomplicated moments of companionship, of joy and hope, of being completely present in the moment and allowing the past and future to be insignificant and discarded, if only for a temporary amount of time.
Despite the constant pressures we have to always be doing something more, and despite the dangers our country faces daily under the current conditions, I hope that we all get to have these brief reprieves that allow us to recenter and maintain perspective, and serve as reminders of why we must never lose hope. We keep fighting, keep trudging forward and work through our daily challenges for these fleeting moments that provide us with a great sense of purpose, and may us connected to those we care about. Certainly, we will remember the moment we first saw the Grand Canyon, but we are shaped more by sharing apparently incidental, minor events such as a car ride down the coast and a local play that was highly entertaining.
We didn’t crawl into bed until near midnight, after walking the dog and washing up upon arriving home, which was far later than our usual time, but we did not feel any resentment about this. We curled up next to each other, arms entwined, and promptly fell into a deep, contented sleep.