I was sitting in the Crafted Kup one Saturday, enjoying my usual dark roast and reading Sister Carrie, when suddenly my concentration was broken by the chatter of two British men. I turned to look and gasped, for standing at the counter were Michael Palmer and Charles Armstrong, two of the Actors from the London Stage, who performed in Macbeth at the Martel Theater in February. My friends asked me who they were, but I had difficulty explaining; for not only did they represent Macbeth and Duncan, but also an English Doctor, MacDuff, Angus, a Witch, and two Murderers.
Actors From The London Stage (AFTLS) is a traveling theater company that specializes in Shakespeare productions. Though they are housed in England, their academic tours are planned by the University of Notre Dame. Their performances tend to be simple, at least in terms of the spectacle elements of each production. They rely very little on material aspects of a show, using very little props and no set. The company consists of five actors only, thus each actor plays multiple characters. I was absolutely amazed not only by the passion put into each individual character, but also the actors’ abilities to transition within seconds from one character to another, simply with the change of a hat or scarf. As someone who is not involved with theater, the concept of memorizing hours of lines is unfathomable to me, let alone being able to juggle the lines of different characters and switching back and forth between them.
Ushering the Thursday and Friday night performances made the experience of viewing the play even more special for me. Although I did not talk to the performers beforehand, I felt that, by having a role in the behind-the-scenes work, I had a different relationship to the actors than other people in the audience. Helping people to their seats and ensuring their enjoyment of the production made me feel as though I were part of the event, and knowing how amazing the actors were, I wanted to make sure I did my very best work possible.
I felt so many emotions when Palmer and Armstrong walked into the Crafted Kup. First, I felt as though I personally knew these men through my affiliation with CAAD. My work with CAAD is a really important part of my life at Vassar, and is a large part of the reason why I even recognize people like Palmer and Armstrong. Second, the Crafted Kup is a place that I go to frequently, either to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or to really focus and be productive. I have written some of my best poems and stories at the Kup, and so it is a place that is very much tied to creativity for me. Seeing Palmer and Armstrong, I felt as though these celebrities were in a place that I call home, and that was very exciting for me.
I sat one table away for about thirty minutes, thinking the entire time about what I should say to them. I battled with the fact that I knew way more about them than they knew about me, and I struggled to determine what would be appropriate to say in the situation. As they got up to leave, I quickly said something simple, like, “Macbeth was amazing! You are both very talented.” They thanked me with big smiles and left, leaving me feeling neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. I recognized in this moment that ushering an being involved with this production taught me a lesson about the power of collaboration, and the ways in which even the smallest contributions to a project can have a great impact on the individual.