I was driving the Library trucks this morning, on the Sunday route from North Portland, across the Eastside, and from thence across the river into Hillsdale. It was a light load this time, only about 50 or 60 crates' worth of books to be distributed along a route of Libraries that typically receive around 80 crates on this day.
Last night's performance was, perhaps, the strongest I've enjoyed of Othello. A crowd of nearly 180 saw the first half, and of those only 20 or 30 departed at intermission, driven away by the unseasonable cold as much as anything. In numbers like these, for an outdoor performance in a public space, I've been quite surprised. I'd only expected audiences of 20 or 30 per night.
I noticed, as I readied for the final scenes by the pool immediately above our playing space, that the pair of ducks who live in this Fountain were gone this night. They sleep with their heads tucked under their wings, a tender pose that always strikes me with its vulnerable, trusting quality, the tumultuous world around them as familiar and comforting to them as the sheets on my bed. In the dark, their low, still forms almost disappear in the shadowy reflections of the pool. I'd looked for them every night of rehearsal here, a kind of reassuring stillness that readies me for the catastrophes of the final act.
This night, I suppose our chill evenings have driven them elsewhere for the time being. I hope they have not left our Fountain because of us.
Act 5 suffered none of the small disasters that plagued our previous night's performance (dropped lines, errant lights, missing stage elements). I'm happy to say that in each performance I succeed in discovering and exploring further nuance, further elements within the rudimentary structures built in rehearsal, enough to enervate and challenge me profitably each night. Always an important sign, at the end of the show I felt especially exhausted by the effort of it. It's a tremendous thing to engage the collective energy of so many in the audience, in addition to the prepared engagements with castmate and text. I forget, sometimes, not to understimate this. Understimating the audience is like underestimating the Power of the Dark Side (or suffer your father's fate, you will).
This morning, driving my truck with my load of books, doing the rounds, listening to the radio and sipping my coffee; a kind of exhausted contentment settled on the knots in my shoulders. A satisfaction at having invested myself as wholly and completely as I've succeeded in doing. My books reach their appointed places. Othello travels his catastrophic journey twice a week now, which is as it should be, as I doubt I could sustain much more in addition to the hours I spend at the Library. The cold clouds and the the grease on my hands and the thrum of the truck's engine and the stacks of books strapped down behind me, the bridges over the dark river and the sleeping Libraries and the balletic flow of traffic, all of this resolved into a hushed satisfaction, a small, tired smile under my growing beard. "If, after every tempest come such calms, may the winds blow till they have wakened death..."
The ducks came back this afternoon. I came by to check on them after finishing up at the Library and with rehearsal for my next project. They stared at me, with their heads cocked at the slightest of angles, a silent, quizzical regard common to small birds, monkeys, scientists and quiet children.