It’s raining in Bushwick an hour before I have to leave for rehearsal. I am never sure about the weather, but from the outset, this looks to be the worst day of weather for our play since previews started last week. I don my Kentucky Colonel rain jacket and head for the train, forgetting for ½ a block to check if my backpack is open. It is unzipped, proud rain drops chilling in the firewire ports of my laptop.
So far we have had two nights when our performance has been delayed for rain. The first rain delay occurred on the night of our second show, moments after Andrew Aguecheek’s arrival in Act 1 scene 3. As he and Toby Belch spilled their drink following Maria’s exit, the voice of Stage Manager Steve Kaus came over the "God mic" to interrupt the scene.
"We are going to pause for precipitation," Kaus says, asking the audience to bear with us.
The announcement of the delay is met with discernable laughter from the audience. On my way back to our dressing rooms, a woman walking behind me says, “Pause for precipitation! That’s the funniest thing I ever heard!” I can’t tell if she is leaving or going to the wine vendor.
Once the ensemble is backstage and dry, Kaus comes over our in-house speaker, this time asking us to bear with stage management. “Once the weather clears and we clean the stage, we will return and pick up from Cup of Canary, Cup of Canary.” The protocol for returning from a rain delay is to pick up at the previous beat or from the top of the scene, whichever makes the most sense.
The rain stops. Johanna, Brian, Maggie and Buzz hit the stage with squeegees and wring the set as dry as they can while the sky continues to spit. Backstage Kaus asks us to take our places to reenter for “Cup of Canary, Cup of Canary”.
Waiting on the wheelchair ramp for our cue from Buzz, we hear Kaus over the God mic once more requesting that the people in the audience close their umbrellas. Down go the beaten colorful things to reveal faces that pucker in anticipation of the raindrops that quickly hit them.
Buzz says “Standing by” and leans into her earpiece for the message that comes over her headset. Then she nods a pleased co-conspirators smile and says, “Ah, you may go.”
The band return to the stage to deep and gracious applause befitting a baseball game or rock concert. I want to applaud back. Hell yes - we are doing this. Then Hamish and Jay come back out to even greater applause. Andrew and Toby drink their second cup of canary and things roll proudly forward.
Steve “Tally” Curtis leans over his guitar and says, “The audience looks bigger.” I look around and take a deep breath. During the delay, people moved down to take the empty seats closer to the stage, heating the area around us. I am awed feeling the will of the audience, cast, and crew to make the night happen. It cuts through any and all bullshit. This is it. The collaboration. Make the space for it to happen, and with nature's mercy it may be so.