”All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” Jaques says in William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”
With all due respect to the dearly deceased Bill, no. Some of us are not players. Some of us are merely the stage crew, dressed in all black and running in and out of the scenes to move things where they ought to be.
Lately, it’s felt like we’re running stage direction in an absurdist’s marathon production, “Life in a House Full of Busy Girls.” We’re in Act 140 today.
A few days ago, we were in Act 137. In that scene, the characters all needed to be in different places at the same time.
The stage crew meets in a fast food parking lot, trying to shuttle home a pair of girls while waiting for the 9-year-old to finish up with her role in a kindergarten graduation.The male stagehand drove the 4-year-old cast member to pick up the 10-year-old thespian from her practice for a real play. That same practice had ended the 9-year-old’s softball practice 15 minutes early in order to get each girl where she needed to be next.
The two stagehands already ate at that same restaurant with the youngest actress during an intermission (during the play practice and graduation). Then they parted ways, so the female stagehand could pick up some necessities from ye olde grocery store. She finished early and offered to pick up the remaining two to bring them home for their nightly rituals.
Thus, she pulled into a spot at McDonald’s, waiting as the male crew member pulled through the drive-thru to get food for the 9-year-old and 10-year-old to eat.
Yes, the plot of this scene rivals “Inception” in terms of confusion. Yet it’s just one act in this frightfully long play. Making it happen nightly rivals the air traffic control at a busy airport.
Not so long ago, in the 128th act, that 9-year-old was scheduled for three scenes at the same time. She should’ve been in three villages at once: one for dance class, one for play practice, one for softball practice, all simultaneously. Spoiler alert, in case you watch the DVD version: She didn’t do all three things at the same time. In fact, she did merely one, a disappointment to her but a reality to anyone living in the real world.
May can be the most difficult time of year for the offstage assistants in this production. They’ve learned the ebbs and flows of year-long commitments, but then there are rewrites added for the summer season. This overlap, of the annual and the summer events, challenges the stagehands to keep up.
We all understand why the actresses do what they do. They love to perform. But why does the stage crew keep running so hard for so little recognition and appreciation, especially from those divas?
Take Monday (Act 134) or Friday (Act 138) as examples. On Monday, we saw our 16-, 10- and 9-year-olds all get a chance to perform, two in a school play and one in a school concert (albeit in two venues, with their performances overlapping just to challenge us). On Friday, the 16-, 9- and 4-year-olds were on the same stage for a dance recital.
Watching the joy on their faces, and feeling the pride swell in your heart, you realize the humble stagehand will do nearly anything to help those starlets succeed. So while Shakespeake’s metaphor might be slightly off, the play’s title is perfect: This is, indeed, how we like it.