I walked into a modern production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was cast in the role of Oberon, the king of the faeries. I was the consort of Titania. It was my first dramatic role. I fell into it without even trying. Henry, a friend from work who was passionate about all things theatrical, coaxed me into it. He said the small theatre company he belonged to was short on players.
“It’ll be fun,” he said and chucked me on the shoulder. “C’mon. What do you have to lose?”
“How large will the audience be?” I said, genuinely frightened.
“If we’re lucky, slightly larger than the cast,” he laughed.
I reluctantly agreed. “Besides,” he added, “you’ll get to meet all the other players. You might even get laid. Theatre girls are very uninhibited as a rule.”
“Really?” I replied with a tingle of desire.
Henry paused. “No, not really. But I’m still trying. I’ve been trying to nail Angela for months.”
I went with Henry for the first rehearsal. On the way he told me a little about the company. “We’re amateurs. Nobody gets paid, not even the director. We do a lot of Shakespeare but we’ve also done A Doll’s House, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Angels in America and lots more.”
“Do you go on the road?”
“Ha! That’s a good one! No, we’re strictly local here in Youngstown, Ohio.”
The first rehearsal was held in the basement of the local Unitarian Universalist Church. I felt awkward, first for being in the play, and second, for being in the Unitarian Universalist Church. I’d been raised Catholic and though I had given up practicing it long ago being in any church gave me the willies.
The director was an emaciated man with exaggerated feminine splashes of behavior. Darius stuck out his hand in an effeminate way. “So you’re our Oberon?” I took his hand, fearing I would snap his bones if I squeezed too hard. “Yes.” He looked me over. “Well, beggars can’t be choosers. You’ll do, that is, if you always do things my way.
All the cast members met. I could see why Henry was enamored with Angela. She was a blonde beauty with azure eyes. I was taken with her from the start. She was a regular member of the cast. She said hello to me and disappeared among people she knew. But I could’ve sworn she kept looking at me.
We rehearsed three nights a week generally. Once we got bumped because the church was having a social and someone forgot. Darius threw a fit. I saw Angela lingering near the door. I was confused at first, and then I became convinced she was waiting for me. When I got to the door she motioned for me to step aside. She asked if I wanted to have some coffee. Through fumbled words I said, “Sure I would. I mean yeah.” She smiled.
Angela and I started seeing each other after rehearsals, first for coffee, then for drinks, and then for late dinners.
“What do you do for a living?” she asked early on.
“Nothing exciting. My company makes ink. I’m in sales.”
“You mean like a newspaper?”
“No. I mean we make ink…the liquid that goes into pens and other stuff. What about you?”
“I’m a waitress, have been for years.”
“Have you ever gone to New York or someplace where there are more opportunities for actresses. You should. You have talent. I mean I’m no professional critic or anything, but I think you have what it takes.”
“No. I’m studying to be a nurse. That’s what I want. This I do for fun.”
She invited me up after dinner. I spent the night. It was a long drink from Heaven’s cup.
In the morning at work Henry accosted me. “Judas!” he hissed. I looked up from my desk. “What?” “You heard me! You knew I have it bad for Angela and now look at you. Have you fucked her yet?”
I stood suddenly. “That’s none of your business and besides, she approached me.” “You sure put up a big fight.” “Look, Henry. You were only trying to get into Angie’s pants. What we have is much deeper.”
“Well fuck you very much!” He stormed away.
I told Angie about what happened. “Oh. I’m not surprised. Henry has a reputation among the girls. He’s just out to get laid and he’s failing miserably.”
“So he’s hit on you?”
“Sure, until I told him to fuck off.”
Henry didn’t show up at the next rehearsal or the next one. I saw him at work so I knew he wasn’t sick. I dared not approach him given his feelings toward me. He’d been cast in the role of Puck so Darius was in a state. Angie suggested me for the role before I arrived. Darius put up a fight. “Just give him a chance,” she implored.
I walked into the basement.
“Oberon is here!” Angie said and smiled. I smiled back.