Thursday, July 14, 2011

When I'm onstage, please talk back to me.

Last night at during a performance of The Comedy of Errors, I experienced the incredible joy of having children in the audience speak back at us, like they were characters in the show (as indeed they are!) These boys were two friends about 9, one black and one white, both dressed like they were colorful cartoon characters complete with striped shirts, red sneakers and backwards baseball caps. They sat in the front row, laughing and elbowing each other.

During the fifth act, Balthazar and the Courtesan (Dave & yours truly) stand on the sidelines of the back of the stage as all the plot highjinks get worked out by the other characters. These two kids talked to us throughout the whole scene. They were totally with the story of the show. For example:

On Antipholus not recognizing his father Egeon: "Oh, that's cold."
On the reveal that the Abbess is actually the twins long lost mother: "That's their mom, right??"
On our collective "OHHH" after said reveal: "You guys just got that??"
On the Courtesan getting her ring back: "You got your ring back! That's great!"
On Antipholus kissing Adriana, the bearded woman: "She's got a beard! Doesn't anyone else notice that!"
On Dave and I shimmying: "Look at that man shaking it!"
On the Riverdance at the end of the play: "I know this! This is Irish dancing!" (they begin to imitate our arm movements)
On the play in general: "I'm about to stand up and tell everyone this doesn't make sense!"

It is the best feeling as a performer to look out into the audience and see people, young and old, with smiles plastered on their faces. Audience members look aglow as they watch Luciana, the mermaid, grow legs after receiving true love's kiss. In times like these, it is no small feat to bring 500 people together to smile, let alone laugh and cheer.

Ephesus, as Kurt Rhoads has created it, is a magical place where everyone is a freak of sorts, so therefore no one is a freak. The Comedy of Errors is a play about finding your other half, your soul's mate. It's an absurd tale about becoming whole again. That's not so silly after all.

Photo: Will Marsh

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