Last night just after intermission, the opening performance of "As You Like It" was rained out. It followed an initial pause due to lightning (closer than we'd like), during which the audience filed dutifully into the inner courtyard and lobby. We then resumed performing, but not ten minutes later the clouds opened: sprinkles turned into light rain, then became an actual, honest-to-goodness, can't deny it, plain old rain. I've seen stronger, but the stage manager's report listed it as "pouring rain;' it was enough to call the show for good.
I've often told people that there's no need to wonder at my mood in the summertime---just take a look at the weather. If we get more than light rain between about 8pm and 11pm any Thursday through Sunday evening, I'd tell them, you know I feel terrible.
With so much work going into both our performances and our audiences anticipation, picnic preparations and excitement at coming out to the Festival, it's always disappointing to get rained out.
But then I remember Robert Henry the fifth.
Robert Henry first started coming to the festival at two and a half years old, at a performance of Henry V, (of course) and has been out with his family to see each summer since. A few years back, during a rainout pause, when Robert Henry must have been about 6, he really wanted the show to go on. In Agecroft's inner courtyard, where the rainwater collects a bit toward the drain, he began a barefoot 'anti-rain' dance, chanting at the top of his lungs, "NO MORE RAIN, NO MORE RAIN."
There's an excitement to the crowd all moving together from the Courtyard Theatre, gathering in the lobby and drying off---then there's more coversation and socializing while our dedicated crew attacks the stage and dries it for the actors; we often use a blower to push the majority of rainwater off the seats.
If the weather arrives during pre-show activities, the Festival Young Company typically comes into the lobby to perform excerpts of Shakespeare for the patient guests. The FYC are high school performers, who stroll the grounds nightly between 7 and 8pm performing for picnickers. Their fantastic costumes are designed by the fabulous Julie Wilson.
So it's in that spirit that I approach rainouts---I watch our youngest patrons. They will long remember the time they came out to the Festival and had to come indoors as a blustery storm cell passed over; they'll remember seeing young people, not too much older than themselves, performing in the lobbies and courtyards.
And with a little luck, they'll remember fondly the performances they saw, which resumed after the weather.
"As You Like It" has five more performances: tonight, and Thursday through Sunday of next week. Artistic Director Grant Mudge was the company's original Orlando in the 1997-1998 season, and appears this summer in our season finale, "Henry IV, Part Two."