I’m sure that for all performers there are literal moments in performance that are trapped in amber. For my tribe, the non-institutional vagabonds for whom show runs are so short, I think there are likely a higher percentage of those freeze-frames that haven’t been swamped by the firehose of 8-to-10 shows a week. There are two versions of this for me, the first is a moment in a show that happens every night that become cemented in memory as emblematic of a production and the second a moment of a SPECIFIC performance, whether it’s sublime or just a future war story.
The first type are things like:
- The moment every night in Richard II when I got to look up at the audience at the Curtain and say, “this happy breed of men, this little world.”
- Or, pushing off of the post with the last of John of Gaunt’s waning fury and roaring at Kevin or Aaron’s Richard, “O SPARE ME NOT MY BROTHER EDWARD’S SON”
- The three stutter steps that were the first visible moments for the audience with Bergetto in Tis Pity She’s Whore.
The second type are moments like:
- The second Saturday of 7 Tower’s The Pillowman when the audience stopped mid-laugh near the top of “The Little Jesus Girl” on “They stared at her for a little while… then it started,” as they realized en masse where we were headed.
- The night during Trouble Puppet’s The Head when while assuming foot duty on The Mechanic Elyce Lahay (the first shift foot puppeteer) leaned into me and said, “He has no left foot, good luck”.
For my first crack at Falstaff in 1 Henry IV with Something for Nothing the “click” moment after a third of the run is when I spill the first of many drinks down my beard right at the top of 1.2.
But a moment on Thursday night in 5.4 tickled me. Just after Falstaff has demonstrated his killer finishing move against the Douglas (DISCRETION!), a small knot of children sitting maybe 6 feet from the stage where I was lying immediately held a very distressed conference as to whether or not I was really dead.
[concerned whisper] “maybe? I don’t know – he might be breathing – he can’t be REALLY dead? I think he is – the prince is sad…” Megan was in the audience and thought they were going to reach out touch me to confirm…
Then an audible gasp when I slapped my palms on the concrete and roared: EMBOWELLED?!.
Having even one audience member that in it is the game. Getting to hear a clatch of them made my week.
I hope this week yields another such moment.
We’re back at it tonight.
I can’t wait.