“Come see my play,” I said. “You never see my plays anymore.”
My mom sighed the sigh of one who’d seen too many mediocre productions of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. As a triple non-threat (I couldn’t sing, dance, or act), I’d scored my few parts only by being really, really loud, and having the ability to memorize large amounts of lines. Until now, my theater highlights had consisted of “Onstage Chorus” in Seussical: The Musical, and “Underage Stripper” in Guys and Dolls.
But this play was different. I’d earned the role of Marc Antony in Julius Caesar at my high school’s Shakespeare Festival (no one else wanted the part). I had lines! Lots of ’em! And I was going to be wearing a toga! My parents had to come.
After I’d run my “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” speech for the umpteenth time, my parents finally agreed to attend.
The part of Julius Caesar was to be played by my classmate Paul Brecker, who was super-excited that Caesar was already dead, so there were no lines to memorize. Brutus was to be played by Kenny Logatti, an outgoing dreamboat who would pack the house with crushing girls and boys alike.
The big night arrived. I practiced my speech on a loop while pacing in my white tablecloth. I’d originally chosen to wear sparkly clogs with it, but my mom suggested that the Romans probably would have worn sandals. A stickler for details, I changed into flip-flops, and we headed to school.
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Paul was wearing a fitted Star Wars sheet, with giant Nikes sticking out the bottom. Where was his sense of authenticity? Suddenly I understood why Caesar had been stabbed. Kenny, on the other hand, was wearing a champagne-colored silk sheet, tied a little too expertly. We giggled nervously about the full auditorium and waited for our cue.
The curtain rose. Instead of lying on the floor, Paul/Caesar stood next to me, until I kicked him and he flopped down dead (eliciting the first unintentional laugh). I was about to speak when I noticed he was in the wrong spot. Gesturing to Kenny/Brutus, the two of us grabbed him under the arms and pulled him forward, his stupid Nikes squeaking across the floor.
That’s okay, I thought, trying not to step on his bedsheet. I’d win the audience over with my impassioned, lengthy monologue. Playing to the back of the crowd, I boomed:
“FRIENDS, ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN, LEND ME YOUR EARS. I COME TO BURY CAESAR, NOT TO PRAISE HIM.” Paul started to fall asleep, while Kenny preened for the front row.
“BUT BRUTUS IS AN HONORABLE MAN…” Could my parents hear me? Were they noticing how many lines I had?
“BEAR WITH ME, FOR MY HEART IS IN THE COFFIN THERE WITH CAESAR.” This was my pivotal moment. In a gesture of passionate mourning, I threw my head down and began to sob on Paul’s chest. Only Paul had managed to fidget his way further upstage, so my head did not land on his chest.
“Gaaaaah!” The dead Caesar bolted upright as I continued to bob my head mournfully in his lap. The audience went nuts. Kenny put his hand on my back. “Um, Marc Antony?” He snapped his fingers in my face. “Marc Antony?!!!”
I suddenly snapped out of my dramatic reverie and screamed. The scene continued, but no one could hear anything over the audience’s hysterical cackling. Numb, I stared down at Paul’s stupid, stupid Nikes. Kenny was staring at me. Paul was staring at me. And somewhere in Row 6, my parents were staring at me, wondering what exactly our tenth-grade English curriculum was covering this year.
I glanced toward my teacher in the wings.
My parents drove me home in complete silence. Finally, when it became unbearable, my mom said:
“Honey, you sounded great. Very loud. Even people in the back row could hear you.”
My dad cleared his throat. “Well. It, um… it was very true to the time period.”
“Honey!” my mom tsked.
“What? It’s true. In Shakespearean times, that happened all the time. It wasn’t a big deal.”
“I’m just saying, it felt very authentic.”
I may forever be known as the girl who performed a lewd act on a dead emperor, but at least I had a knack for period detail. And a desire to never have my parents come to my plays again.