The shipwreck left a flotsam of empty Mountain Dew bottles, McDonald's containers, candy wrappers, and Diet Coke cans in our fourth-grade classroom dressing room. Every actor has scribbled on the chalkboard during the long pause between call and places, because no kid can resist chalk and an empty blackboard. "A plague upon this bowling" is my favorite rewritten phrase, and then there's the call for "pants off/dance off," a few caricatures of cast members, and a Shakespeare-as-Devil which somehow got labeled as Therese. Fans stationed in the room fart the hot air around more. It is impossible to keep cool in a mask and several layers of polyester weave during August, so we're left with humor. Paul revisits a favorite Caldecott Award winning book from the teacher's desk while he waits for his scene. An excerpt from "Are you there God? It's Me, Margaret" is written on the board behind the desk. Mandy reworks the ace bandage around her sprained calf, and Emily takes a swig of water and sits behind a personal desk fan.
During intermission, we take off our masks, strip down to the least amount of layers allowable, and stand outside in hope of a breeze. We've set out a few chairs too tiny for our butts near the corner of the school building. One by one players spill out of the building like characters from a romance novel - sweaty and desperate. We light up cigarettes, drink water, laugh about gaffes. Last night a heron flew overhead. A few nights ago a bat circled the urban forest just beyond the school. Some of us talked about watching the meteor showers. Nature doesn't pause for theatre. It is the theatre.
As "five minutes to places!" is called for the second act, we put our masks back on to return to our lives as a devious plotter, a spirit, a goddess, a drunken butler, a monster, a misplaced king. We wipe the sweatstaches from our upper lips. The lights go down and we go on to tell a story, while above our heads the scattered and roiling details of two weeks of our lives wait for our return.