This place. This place, lemme tell you. Steve, the guy in charge, took my co-actress Madeleine and me all around, showing us things like whale vertebra and books of sea-chanteys from the eighteenth century.
He showed us a chair from a ship called the Resolute, which froze in the waters on its way to find the Northwest Passage. The chair was
salvaged looted rescued appropriated when the ship later came free. The US government returned it to England. Queen Victoria, in her turn, broke the ship up for pieces and made desks out of it. One of those desks sits in the Oval Office. There is a table George Washington sat at for dinner, and a mirror he shaved himself in. There is another table apprised at 4 million. So anyway. This is our theatre.
This is our THEATRE, people, for “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” And there we are, in silk and pearls and panniers, and the boys are wearing wigs and lace jabots, and all of us are in heels. And I hear our director say, “Places. Curtain in five.”
This is a theatre without curtains, but we know what he means because it is ritual. We are surrounded by priceless historical artifacts, and portraits of the dead who used to own this house. We are in the port city that Benedict Arnold burned to the ground, the city that burns him in effigy in September. We are doing an English play based on a French novel of letters. And our director says words that actors have heard for hundreds of years, and it is dress rehearsal, and we are there. We are there.
And mostly I find this kind of stuff commonplace. But last night I found it extraordinary.
And I wonder what happened in the early days of Greek theatre when the actors were about ready to put on their masks and step out into the amphitheatre. What words were spoken. There were no curtains then either, but actors are actors are actors, and I am sure something was said.
Something was invoked.