I have never wished for my camera more than I did tonight, at Shakespeare in the Park‘s production of Hamlet. Not because Lauren Ambrose’s carrot-red hair was cascading down half her back in luscious curls. Not because of Andre Braugher, who I’ve known since his days on Homicide (and the general lust my old roommate had for him). Not Sam Waterson rockin’ Polonius’s bumbling pomposity. Or B’s mom, playing Hamlet’s mom. No, it was because of the storm.
A lot of you on the East Coast can join me in lamenting the heat wave lately—high 90s (heat index even higher) and gross humidity for the past 4 days, and we’ve suffered every last minute. But intense storms, featuring hail, lightning, thunder, and winds were predicted for tonight. Pshaw, I said! I’m going to see Hamlet!
Things started out just “fine”—albeit with oppressive heat, little to no breeze, the works. I felt so badly for the performers, pretending it was chilly and laden with wool coats. And then? Suddenly, while the Players were orating, the wind started stirring the trees in a way that can only be described as ominous. It as all too fitting with the action on the stage, and it all came to a head when Hamlet was speaking alone. Leaves started pelting the audience and the stage, the eternal flame at center stage went out, and I felt the pain of being without my camera. Imagine a solitary man at the center of a swirling mass of dirt and leaves and rain, carrying on his speech and even working the mood into his delivery. It was masterful! I know I’ll remember it forever; I just wish I could share it with you.
The next scene had four actors up on a scaffold, and a gust of wind so violent made them all just stop, and I think I saw Andre Braugher laugh. They were interrupted—show had to be canceled for safety. The audience had already started clearing out en masse, and I was eyeing the swaying, hanging lights and going over all my Worst-Case knowledge.
We joined the crowds in dashing out of Central Park. Halves of trees were laying around; these weren’t some stray branches down, this was like the cleaving of the arbor. They blocked the paths. Intense. Awesome. Lightning bolts streaked across the sky, lighting everything blue. I think I shouted twenty times “ARGH! I wish I had my camera!” If I had brought it with me (they’d been so strident that there was absolutely no picture taking that I decided to not carry it all around), I probably wouldn’t have risked taking it out anyway, with the wind and rain, but I so wish I could share it in pictures as well as words. I should remember it’s fun to write sometimes, too.