This past summer my friend Greta asked me to be her wingwoman to an event that weekend. A coworker friend had encouraged her to come see him act in a free production of Shakespeare’s King Lear with his small theater group. Cool. I’m game! Free?!? Even better. The theater outfit is thusly described on the internet,
“… a creative gym for emerging artists and a unique home theater experience for invited guests.”
To get tickets we emailed an anonymous inbox, requested two seats and then waited to see if we got in. Twenty-four hours later we received a response with an address, a start time, a message about what to bring – a dessert and our own alcohol – and a polite but pointed request not to share the address with anyone. A super secretive locale? And potluck!?!? This was not going to be a normal night.
That Friday we made our way to what looked like an old, loft-like warehouse apartment building with our store-bought cookies and two bottles of Proseco, one to share and one to down. We hit the buzzer number from our instructions and made our way up a back stairway alongside other mumbling folks.
“Is this right?”
“The email SAID this address.”
“Is this someone’s home?!?”
“Guess we should just follow the party sounds.”
On the top floor we did, in fact, walk in to someone’s apartment and it was packed with all shades, sizes and sexualities of people excited for a night of unconventional theater. We dropped off our cookies and donated bottle of booze at the dessert table, still clinging tightly to our other bottle like it was protection. We were escorted through a maze of hanging black sheets that eventually opened up into a larger space with a shiny runway down the middle. On either side of the runway there were more very low plywood platforms covered with dark sheets and pillows. We wandered around until we saw our names printed out on computer paper and placed on two of the pillows. Our “seats.”
What followed was the longest, weirdest, boldest production of Shakespeare I’ve ever seen. A mostly all black, all gay cast performed King Lear… in drag. After a lengthy but very entertaining two-hour first act there was intermission. The cast served us a dinner of udon noodles and homemade zucchini bread. We chatted up our platform chaise lounge neighbors and surveyed the crowd – mostly male, mostly gay, a few random females and, in true NYC style – “Wait! Who is that? It’s that chick from Law and Order!” – famous people!
Then a second hour-long act and a second intermission (the program boasted an unabridged version of King Lear would be performed and, well, that Shakespeare can get wordy). Then the guy to my right took a call on his cell phone and from overhearing the one side it sounded pretty important. When he got off he looked at me with wide, shocked eyes and said,
“I’m sorry, but I have to go… New York JUST passed the law to legalize gay marriage!”
And with that he scurried giddily out of the room. The third and final act began with the entire cast on stage, cheering, hugging, tearing, publicly announcing the milestone to all of us. I toasted up my last drops of Proseco, speechless at my surroundings. Of course I would be in an apartment-turned-theater in the middle of Manhattan watching drag queens perform Shakespeare alongside celebrities at the precise hour the state decides to green light same-sex marriage. Seriously?!?!