In the Green Room

So in the middle of this play, there’s a huge scene that takes place in London, in a neighborhood tavern in Eastcheap. There’s been all kinds of speculation, and some editors have decided that the tavern is The Boar’s Head, but nowhere in the text does Shakespeare name it as such, so the scene is generally called the “tavern scene” or, as we call it: “Eastcheap.”

Steve is fond of saying that as much happens in this scene as in the rest of the play put together. And one can see why — in it, we see the play’s two principals, Falstaff and Hal, face off. It’s a tour de force for both actors, wherein all kinds of emotional twists and turns are taken, virtuosic monologues and set-pieces are performed, against a backdrop of intense local color. Many of the actors in the play are in this scene (among them, me, as the Sheriff.) It’s a huge scene — some 400+ lines of text are spoken — and it’s taken 13 hours of rehearsal, so far, to attack it.

So the scene is really a little play within itself. It follows a pretty classic four act structure, and there are a lot of people on stage pretty much the whole time. I am not one of those people. My character enters at the top of the scene’s fourth and final act, after the bulk of the action has occurred. But, even though the scene really has four distinct parts, it’s pretty hard to play act three without having gone through act one. And that means that most of the time when the scene is scheduled to be rehearsed, I’ve got to be there.* And, most of the time, they don’t come to my part of the scene before it’s time to move on in the rehearsal or break for the night. So, I get a little extra time in the green room.

The green room is the space in the theater or the rehearsal hall where the actors can grab a cup of tea, sit on the couch and read the paper, or just shoot the breeze. And I have become, by virtue of the rehearsal schedule, intimately familiar with our rehearsal space’s green room. I can tell you, for instance that we have plenty of schedules for the #51 bus (Oklahoma Ave.) in the little literature basket, but no #11 (Howell) schedules. There is a pretty cool neighborhood map for Bay View, though, and a very cool neighborhood it is. There’s also a very well worn copy of the playbill from MacBeth. There are at least three coffee makers going at any one time: regular, decaf, and hot water, but there’s also hot water to be found on the water cooler,** which holds those cool five gallon bottles with the built-in handles. Also on the water cooler are room temperature and cold settings. On the table in the corner, there is almost always a copy of the NY Times, which I believe to have been brought in by Richard Ziman, our Falstaff. I should mention here, that the room is not, in fact, green. Sort of an industrial cream, with an industrial carpet as well. Although, there is a cool green easy chair that has a lateral rocking motion, and a matching lateral rocking footrest. There are two bulletin boards, one with various neighborhood takeout menus, and one with all of the Equity information, and there’s a little analog clock, which is synchronized with a matching clock in the rehearsal space. There is a table with all of our individually labeled coffee cups (mine is a repurposed Maryland Sheriff’s Association mug!). There is a mini-fridge with the obligatory “We throw out everything on Sundays!” message, and a microwave oven for those of us who like to bring our lunches from home. There is also a huge closet like area that seems to house an enormous piece of HVAC equipment, which equipment, I think, doesn’t see much use. Because there are also two or three box fans in there as well.

Today, too, was a cast member’s birthday, so there were cupcakes and Oh Henry! bars.

And there’s plenty of conversation as well. Jokes and war stories and venting and recounting of last night’s exploits. Sometimes someone will be sleeping. Or reading. Or doing the crossword. Or working on lines.***

Or taking bets on whether or not they’re going to get to us tonight.****



* In the TV/Film Industry, there’s a saying: “Hurry up and wait.”  It’s a fact of life, part of the perils of doing business.  I should come clean here and say that there’s another actor in the exact same predicament as me when it comes to this scene.

** This button has been “child-proofed,” by which I mean it takes a B.S. in physics to understand how to operate it.

*** There is, unfortunately, no WiFi in the green room, or there would also be blogging.

**** I believe Todd and I are about 50/50 on this one.


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