The theater is in a little town in the mountains, on a hill beside a railroad…one set of tracks. Maybe it’s a siding through the week, but on weekends it’s one way we put butts into the theater’s seats – playgoers can ride the scenic trip through a spectacular gorge and be delivered right to the foot of the short rise to the theater. I work at the theater, but not on any of the productions. Presently, there are two productions: One is a professional touring company presenting a comedy; the other is a local amateur theatrical troupe. The comedy played last night and will be today’s matinee. The amateur production will take place in the early evening.
It’s well before call. I like this time in the theater (and, in reality, I do). All the elements are there, waiting for actors, crew and the audience to create that special magic. Just now, it’s the potential and me. I feel engulfed by something quietly mystical. I could surrender myself to this temple.
In the last scene of the comedy, a man is in bed reading aloud from a book whose cover is flown in on a canvas drop. During the scene, the drop unravels onto the man. I think it’s odd that the canvas is still on the bed. Even if they’re doing the same show again, it’s the usual practice to clean up after the performance. Besides, if the canvas is still on the bed, might it not get wrinkled?
I hear a noise. It’s a young woman from the amateur troupe working on costumes. She’s obviously having a theater fantasy which I don’t want to interrupt, but wind up doing. She’s embarrassed and I try to apologize by telling her I do the same thing. That’s what the place is for, right? Fantasies and make believe. She gets it and she says we’ll probably bump into each other through the day. She gathers some costumes, turns, and exits.
I’m back on the stage. I look around and again wonder why the stage wasn't cleared last night. I pull up a corner of the canvas. The actor is still in bed. I put the canvas carefully back in place, hoping he’s merely passed out.
People are encouraged to bring a picnic basket and some wine with them to enjoy at a little park not far from the theater and almost hiding in the foot of the mountain. The train remains parked in front of the theater because there’s no train traffic on weekends.
Things are not going well at the theater. It’s after call and not all the cast or crew have shown up. I ask one of the crew about readying the stage. He says no one’s said anything about it and no one knows what to do. The audience train should be here by now. Instead, I see a parade of trains whizzing by…an engine and a couple of freight cars, like locals, only locals don’t operate on weekends. And why so many?
I’m stopped on the inside stairs by the young woman from earlier. She is panicked because she’s going to need help and no one’s there. She gives me a number to call. It’s not my problem, but I tell her I’ll try. I’m stopped on the porch for my opinion on a debate over whether small theaters should pay royalties for already published plays or commission originals. I tell them to consider their budget, the possibility of landing grants, or maybe going halvsies with a similar theater in another city. I excuse myself. I walk by a table with an AM radio blaring and mobile phone. No one is there, so I take the phone and punch in the numbers the young woman gave me. No answer, so I leave a message. I head for the park. I’m in need of a breather.
I return from it and see an engine stopped on the tracks in front of the theater. I’m very happy to see that, and then take a few steps and see there are no passenger cars, just a couple of box cars. I walk on and note three automobiles have crashed into the last box car. One is near the top of the box car, one is smashed into the bottom right of the car, and another is smashed into the rear of that car. I look down to the street and see lots of police cars, lights flashing dazzlingly, but no cops anywhere. The young woman stands on the porch, taking it all in. I give her a “what the fuck?” look, which she answers with an “I haven’t a clue” eye roll. I want to ask the engineer or the cops when this train can move to make space for our train, but no one’s around. The flashing lights, however, are impressive.
I go into the lobby and into a small storage room. There’s a table in the center and I crawl up on it. I get kind of fetal and then stretch my legs expecting to hit the wall. I don’t know what my feet touch, but I know it isn't the wall. I look. I have pissed off a snake and it’s looking for a place to sink its fangs. I yell. I kick at it. I wake up. I look to see if I kicked the cat and she gives me her “Hey! Sleeping here!” expression.