Still I love that play. I twisted it into comedy and flew out for two weeks of development with students. Manuscript in my suitcase (I knew as I packed it, but could not stop myself), the plane sat fogbound on the runway for four hours. I rented a car and dropped my wallet at a gas station. This was before 9/11, so I boarded four more planes with a credit card and a search at every gate. My license came back in the mail, the cards were easy to cancel.
It’s the small things. It did not kill me (knock wood!). It has never killed me. That play merely disrupts my life, inconveniences me, ends friendships.
My comedy version was successful. Years later, one of the first-cast students called me out on YouTube for “stealing” it from him and his classmates. The teacher knew it was nonsense, my publisher cleared it up. “It’s obviously your voice!”
Playing Witch #3/Soldier/Gentlewoman at the Nameless-So-I-Can-Be-Mean Shakespeare Festival, the cast first liked and then hated the director. We hated him still more when Banquo left for a wedding and he stepped in. He was the kind of actor who emphasizes all the pronouns. He didn’t know his lines. (Cast consensus, “You’ve been watching the fucking play for how many weeks? We all know your goddamn lines.”) One hot mosquito-ridden night on a late-paycheck week, the director-Banquo stepped forth and pronounced, “To the which!”
There is a second half to that line. Each night he mangled it progressively more. Tonight he stopped as though the Bard had punctuated there, writing an enigma for later scholars, a footnote about the historical significance of a broken exclamation, the Stratfordians claiming it for their side. We waited. It became clear from director-Banquo’s fatuous gaze, that was the end of the line. And Tim, the Scottish King (who shortly after died rapidly of pancreatic cancer) patted him gently on the face and led the exit.
Co-directing at a high school in Michigan, we filled the show with masks and aerial hoops and nine witches and an opening battle scene with a 12-foot blind-landing stunt fall executed by an eager kid.
(That’s why the show is bad luck, 1) It happens mostly in the dark, 2) Directors stage it on canted platforms, 3) Lots of stage combat with men in unfamiliar, awkward skirts, 4) The last/biggest/longest fight is between ‘you-just-killed-my-family,’ Macduff who’s had five scenes to rest, and the guy with most of the lines who is now exhausted but still must win. Small things, adding up. It’s just the odds, there’s nothing spooky, it doesn’t matter that the incantation in the cauldron scene might be the real witchy deal.)
Hanging aerial hoops I scraped my back in the catwalks, sharply, suddenly, on the day I’d lost my purse with that week’s pay. I cursed the Lord in a town where they don’t even take His name in vain, and wrote fifty apology letters to parents. Hanging hoops in the next venue, I dropped a 12-pound steel ring from a deadly height, mercifully missing, but damaging my safety rep. The next day a minor character had enough of crawling in a scene and half-crouched, putting his face in line with a bladed backswing. I examined him in the light, tried to push away something in his eye. It was part of his eyeball. We called the parents, sent him to the doctor. Next night Lennox had a rakish patch. Nothing permanent. Nothing bad.
To this day before a flight, my ex-husband and I text “ting!” the sound of our no-longer-worn wedding rings clinking together while linking pinkies. Aerialists don’t say ‘break a leg’ because we might, instead we link pinkies, kiss twice, “In boca de lupo!”—Into the mouth of the wolf. My company’s aerialists add, “Fuck you!” French aerialists say merde like dancers, Germans toi-toi-toi!
Because theatre people—dance people—circus people—are superstitious.
And so when an offer to direct the Scottish Play again came up and my dates did not work, I was relieved there would be no small, non-permanent annoyances in the next few weeks and wished my colleague Kristin luck. It is so small--so trivializing of her tragedy to mark it to the play--but when she lost the baby I thought, Good thing I have no children and will have no children so one day I can do this play again.
whipchick points out that commenting “you mean M-----h?” will be neither clever nor original.