Monday, May 9, 2016

As a Stranger, Give It Welcome

Last Friday night at Shotgun Players, as I stood on the front steps drinking champagne and waiting for the house to open, a middle-aged woman walked by, glanced at the building, and asked me if this was a theater. I told her that it was.

"I pass by here all the time but I've never gone in."

She had obviously just come back from a trip to the corner store. She was carrying a big jug of Arizona Iced Tea.

"How much do tickets cost?" she asked.

"I'm a subscriber," I said. "I honestly can't remember what I paid." As I said that, I realized it's a cop-out; I realized I'm embarrassed about theater ticket prices and have a whole lot of complicated feelings about money and class.

Nonetheless, she continued to look intrigued. Tentatively, she went up the front steps. I heard her ask another woman "What do tickets cost?"

"I think they start at thirty-seven fifty, and they're all sold out for the run," said the other woman, who looked exactly like you'd picture a late-middle-aged Berkeley theater-going matron to be. "But I have an extra one that I've been trying to give away. My friend isn't coming."

"For free?"

"For free."

And just like that, the woman with the jug of iced tea got to see an experimental production of Hamlet, for free, on a whim. The whole exchange made me even giddier than the champagne did and restored my faith in humanity. I hope she enjoyed the show. I hope this was a magical Friday night for her and the first of many theater adventures to come. I thought about her a few times as I watched the play, especially during the following exchange:

"This is wondrous strange!" says Horatio, upon seeing the ghost.

Hamlet replies: "And therefore, as a stranger, give it welcome."