A stage, a picnic, a park

This past weekend my family and I went to see Shakespeare in the Park perform As You Like It. At intermission, all the actors dressed in medieval costume walked into the audience, deftly stepping around picnic blankets, hands and fingers, small children still laughing without knowing why, and dogs happy to be out under the stars. “Donations! Donations!” The actors cried out.

I watched them in a sort of time warp. Though I go to Zilker every couple months everything about getting to and being at the park is an ongoing reminder of my ever-changing hometown. A lot of my thoughts while waiting for the show to start were about trying to remember the past. Even while eating our picnic dinner of cold poached salmon with cucumber avocado relish I tried to remember what my mom used to pack for our annual hillside picnics under the stars. Only the cherry chocolate brownies that I’d impatiently wait through the first act to eat came to mind.

Except at intermission, sitting on my parent’s blanket, eating the chocolate chunk brownies I had packed, seeing the actors walk into the audience, hearing them shouting for donations, this moment everything felt exactly the same. I wondered if the actor’s were crunching junebugs that had crawled on the stage seeking their spotlight.

The Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater was the very last stage I ever performed on. It was the last time I walked into the audience dressed in tights, holding an orange bucket vaguely showing glittered decorations and cried for donations. Actually, once in the audience, abandoned by the stage I was more likely to shyly squeak “donation”.

On stage I could speak louder, be funnier, become a livelier me than a shy and awkward little girl. I was extremely fortunate to find myself a part of a ballet company that lets me now wander Austin remembering all the stages I performed on. A love of performing is what dragged me into and kept me in ballet.

All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players

I never knew that quote is from As You Like It. Out of all the required Shakespeare reading this play never made the cut. As an English major I even took a required class that discussed nothing but the Bard (it was either him or Dante). Interestingly, the only paper I did really well on in the Shakespeare class (tenured English professors don’t care for spirited debate) was the one in which I said that the characters were in fact all acting out a part upon a stage — literal or figurative. Yes, that A was such a shock I still remember it.

I realize that I’ve played on both the literal and the figurative stage. A decade of my childhood was spent on the stage. More than a decade of my adulthood has been spent off. Being at the performance I thought about getting back up there — catching the acting bug I shook back in school. I don’t need the stage to be someone else. Still experiencing a successful run on the figurative stage I’ve learned the lines that let me be lively and funny, talk to strangers and make a fool of myself in public. It’s a great role I’ve got because it’s still growing — I’m still digging into this character. It makes me wonder even more what it would be like to be on stage now.


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