The best moment of my Sunday theater outing, in a way, was the moment it became apparent that at least some of the audience hadn’t been exposed to spoilers.
Every year the Shakespeare Theater Company of Washington — which doesn’t limit itself to Shakespeare; this season they’re doing Wilde’s Salome and The Real Inspector Hound — runs a “Free For All.” People can get into a first come first serve line, or enter an online lottery, and get two free tickets to a reprise of one of the last season’s productions. Back when the Engineer and I were really scraping pennies — and trying to mentor a couple of wayward young people, for all the good it did — we scored just about every summer. Perseverance furthers.
You see a lot of students and relative theater virgins at these things. I remember, in the old outdoor venue they used to use, seeing handbills that gently outlined the basic etiquette of attending a live performance.
Sunday night, we were lost in the woods outside Athens — the fairies from Titania’s train were all played by lively acrobats, accompanied by a nice selection of music — and Robin Goodfellow had just been sent off by Oberon to get the magic flower-juice that makes people fall in love. (Shakespeare would have probably seen beer goggles at work often enough in the Mermaid Tavern, I mused.) Titania was asleep in a grand piano suspended from the flies — don’t worry, it worked — and as the Puck led in Bottom, caparisoned in the specially groteque and cartoonish ass’s head that had frightened away his companions in the previous scene, I heard a scatter of four or five little gasps and squeals from around the house. There was one muffled, giggling “Oh NO!” as someone who actually didn’t know the story realized what was about to happen.
I hope they all remained as delighted at finding out what happened after that, and after that.