Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Scenes from Plays and Letters
Tomorrow's the last show. We came into Chile two weeks ago. There was an overnight stop in Mendoza along the way. We checked into the room at the beginning of my last tour and went out for a drink. Simon and I found a place in a row of bars, nothing special at all but a nice place to talk about what was coming next for a while. Obviously, this has been the running theme throughout the tour: what I'm going to do next. My castmates all have their vague ideas, and I mine, only mine are much closer to becoming reality. On that night, sharing a pitcher of Fernet and Coke with Simon, my castmate I still didn't have any real answers, there's little to plan without actually being back in the states, but as the date of my departure from the company neared I weighed my words a little more. I didn't bound around so carelessly through ideas and dreams. I through seriously, what would I do next. There still didn't seem to be an answer, but it didn't bother me too much. I was happy just to have another moment to think about it. The next morning, we got up early and left for Chile. The border was beautiful. The crossing point was at the top of a mountain pass in the Andes. I was held back for not having my visa up to date and the company had to pay the three-hundred peso fine. It took us a while to work this out, since we were first under-charged and the officer didn't want me to get through without paying the whole fine. Fair enough. When we finally passed through we had to make our way down the pass. There was a switchback road that must've looped around a good twenty times on it's way back to the bottom of the canyon. Everyone leaned to one side of the van and took pictures. The landscape was high desert, a beautiful scene of tall saguaro-like cacti and khaki-colored rocks stacked up to an empty blue sky. The silence was almost complete. After a few more hours of driving the cliffs leveled out as we approached Santiago. We didn't stop, but continued driving south toward Concepcion, a college town about three hours south of the massive capital. Concepcion didn't seem to be anything at ten o'clock on a Sunday night. We got out of the van and stood in the silent street outside the hotel, listening to the beeping crosswalk signal. We commented how annoying such things are and that at night, they had the import of an appliance left on after everyone has left the house, a crackling radio, an endless television soliloquy. In the morning, the city looked totally different. There were people out and the sounds of traffic could be heard outside the hotel. We had nothing to do until the evening set-up at the theater. I stayed on the computer writing e-mails well into the morning. Around ten o'clock, after too much instant coffee and typing, I went out into the city to mail a letter. I meant to put my headphones on, but found myself feeling too comfortable. I walked down the shady sidewalks and thought of little except the peace of smaller cities. I was headed toward the campus, as from a map, it looked like it led out into the deciduous forest that surrounded the town. I was hoping the campus would have some kind of interpretive trail, or just some kind of trail at all. It did, but it was blocked off with a sign saying not to pass due to danger of fire. I tried to ignore the sign, but having no idea what could've been back on the trail--there was a kennel of German Shepards near the trail head--I decided to try to find another. Every trail I found had a similar sign. I found a little one that didn't, but it ended in a cloud of yellow flower bushes. While the profusion of color was incredible, it was also disappointing because it impeded further investigation. After wandering around the campus for a while I found the main library. I had to ask to be let in as a visitor. Going straight up to the fiction section I found one book in English, a two-volume set about a 19th century exploration of Tibet and the surrounding areas. It was obviously someone's life's work replete with sketches and daguarrotypes by the author. I handled it with the reverence it deserved and read about the death of one of his porters, thinking of what it must've been like to be one of the people who devoted their life to charting the world around them and how through the efforts of such people we have Onstar and Google maps today. When I left the library, the sun was shining. I found another trail leading out of one of the northern corners of campus and decided to ignore the prohibito sign. I hadn't gone too far when I came across a backpack lying at the top of a little trail I had followed. I decided just to turn around since there were some things spread out around the backpack. It seemed like someone was trying to make it known that they were there and didn't want to be disturbed. I turned around and followed another trail, within five minutes finding myself in the same place, only now approaching it from a larger trail. This time, I decided that whomever had left this stuff in the middle of the trail had probably just been lazy. I stepped over it and continued down the path. I hadn't taken more than a few steps when a sheepish looking student goes running past me. I said hola to him as he passed. He returned my greeting and I assumed that he was trying to get back to his things, perhaps thinking that I signalled the beginning of a mob of hikers coming down the path or something. I glanced ahead to see where the trail went and saw a girl, also college age hurriedly putting her dress back on over her head. "Ahhh, so that's what it was." I felt slightly sorry to interrupt, but damn, they were right in the middle of the trail. I passed the girl not knowing whether to say hola or not. Since she didn't meet my eyes, I decided that to do so would just be harassing her. I continued on the trail until I came to a slight rise, there, standing slightly behind a pine branch was a groundskeeper for the university. I said hola to him and he returned my greeting, making no attempt to hide that he had been watching the goings on below. I walked on, somewhat put off by the lurid scene, beginning to feel like I had walked into a David Lynch movie set I shrugged it off and kept going, but it wasn't long before I came to a dead end. Dismayed, I found that I had no choice but to turn back. I thought to myself that surely the students had called it off, or at least moved after I had gone by. The groundskeeper hadn't moved at all. I could tell by the way that he was no looking eagerly ahead that the salacious pair had resumed their activities, if not in the same place, at least close enough to provide this pervert with the luxury of not having to change his peeping location. Sure enough, as I glanced up the path, I saw the girl once again hurriedly putting her skirt on over her head. When I reached the couple, they remained where they were the boy had a camera and seemed to be taking a picture of the, now clothed, girl's thigh. It was later suggested to me that perhaps they had been doing some kind of art project, which is entirely possible. Even considering this, I could not quite shake the vaguely sick feeling I had after witnessing the scene. Especially, because I'm pretty sure that the couple must've been able to see the groundskeeper from his lousy hiding place. When I came back down from the trails, I looked at all the other students going about their studies. I was glad that they all had their clothes on and tried to imagine that they were all very religious and celibate. I didn't want to have to think about how many others were going to sneak into the woods later so that janitor could watch. My trip to campus hadn't been completely terrible. I did find one short little trail that had a beautiful waterfall at its end. I took a few pictures of it and told myself that I would bring my castmates to it after we had finished setting up that evening. I never got the chance. After we finished the set up and my castmate and I put our swords together we decided to run the Tybalt/Romeo fight scene to make sure we remembered the whole thing since it had been months since we'd had to perform the play. While we struggled, I discovered that, not only had I forgotten some of the moves; I had forgotten most of my lines as well. With a little coaxing most of them came back, but there were still a few gaps. Instead of going back to the waterfall, I decided to get a few beers and run over the lines a few times so I wouldn't look like a complete idiot the next day. Since then, I was able to do the Shakepeare play about 7 times. They all went well. We had the last show today. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't know that it would be the last show, as I would've liked too try to put a little more energy into it, but, even so, it was a great run and I'm glad I got to do what is surely our most entertaining play at least a few more times with some new gags that I added in, for example leaving the set and coming back on dressed as one of the characters from the play for young children: a seahorse to be specific. A few days later after shows in Rancagua and Vina del Mar we came into Santiago for the last week of the tour. We were all excited to find that instead of the usual hotel we would be staying in an apartment building downtown for the duration of our stay. The apartment is so much nicer than the hotels we usually stay in, mainly because its got cooking facilities. It's the first time that I've been on tour that I've been able to cook myself food, meaning that I'm not going to return to Buenos Aires ten pounds lighter. After we had gotten settled into the apartment we went out for a few drinks as it was Friday and we weren't going to have any work until Monday morning. We stayed in the bar a while. Smoking was permitted so I took full advantage and set myself back quite a ways in terms of the good health that I was already struggling to keep waking up every morning at five, doing shows until 3, taking everything down and getting back on the road again that same evening, only to repeat the process the next morning. It was a great night though, and waking up at 11 the next day with a slight headache, and feeling like an ashtray, I had nothing to regret. Friday and Saturday I visited the largest park in the city which is Cerro San Cristobal. Friday, I went there almost by accident after walking around all day seeing the city and having no idea what to do with myself. Since I didn't get to the park until twilight, I was able to see the sunset from on top of the mountain (cerro means hill, but in the case of Cerro San Cristobal it's more like a small mountain.) The view was incredible. The streets lit up far below me like an inverted night sky, only much brighter. The next evening, I went back again, vowing to see much more this time. I was a little weary of the many dogs that roamed that park since I had been bitten by one, completely unprovoked earlier that day and had been chased by another the night before. In the streets, I never worried about these dogs, but suddenly coming across one on an empty trail through the woods, I was slightly unnerved, especially when he began growling and barring his teeth, all the while advancing on me. I tossed a few rocks in his general direction hoping to scare him away but it didn't to much good. He watched the rocks skid by in the dust of the trail, almost aware that I had no intent to actually hit him. Somehow, I managed to get by without being bit a second time, but I picked up a stick soon after that and spent the rest of the day walking around with it. The stick served me well in the end because I had to use it twice, sort of sweeping it in a fan like motion to keep biting and growling dogs at bay. That night, I ended up walking another lonely trail. I was still slightly worried about suddenly coming face to face with a Doberman or something in the deserted park at night, but I was also slightly unnerved at the prospect that I might also meet a person out alone in the park at night. San Cristobal being nothing like a regular city park. It's so large they can't close it off at night and anyone could get in there. Given what I had seen of Chilean behavior on hiking trails in Concepcion, I was a little nervous. Still, the sight of the city below and the nearly full moon overhead gave me courage and I passed a few hours in the park at night, seeing nothing but some mendicant's fire which I observed after going up the trail toward the summit of the mountain. The fire was a little lower on the same trail, meaning that I had passed this person in the night and had never been aware of it, which, was a little spooky. Tomorrow, we'll have my last three shows with the company. I've had a great time working for them, but I'm happy to be going. It was fun to screw around a little more, but, at some point I realized that working for a travelling theater company in Argentina wasn't getting me any closer to where I wanted to be. I've been fortunate enough to have some pretty great adventures all over the world. And working as I did for the past year, I was able to add quite a few next experiences to the list. When I get back to California, I hope to continue acting, having found here that I really enjoy being on stage. The prospect of not having to repeat the same show over and over again is also very heartening and, as long as nothing happens tomorrow to put me off acting forever, I expect that I'll keep doing it in one capacity or another, as for what else I'm planning on doing, I still have no idea. Perhaps when Gina and I are going through Bolivia and Peru I'll be able to think of something.