Monday, November 12, 2007

Later This Somewhere, Part Three

Here we are with Part Three at last. Part Two is three entries down, and Part One just below that. As promised, I've enlisted a collaborator for this project. Please welcome Sarah Kishler, a hoopy frood from way back, whom I've met in person exactly once. She has at least a hundred times more theater experience than I have (I was in one of my mom's shows in 1965), so she's definitely the go-to person for this story. Knowing how defensive I can get about my fiction, I was more than a little nervous about collaborating -- but so far, so good. Thanks, Sarah!- KFB

The Jace Letters 2: Later This Somewhere

by Karen Funk Blocher and Sarah Kishler
© 2007 by KFB & SK

Part Three

Subject: Re: That Impossible Theatre
Date: 7/6/2013, 4:23:573122 AM
From: NotaBeach
To: JaceFace

Dear Jace,

Well, of course I went back, at night this time. The box office for the theatre – it’s called the Jubilee Palace – is hidden away in a close, sort of a cross between a courtyard and a cul-de-sac. I only noticed it the first time because I saw a couple in evening clothes walking in that direction. This time I walked past it twice before I found my way in. Even then, they didn’t want to sell me a ticket!

“I'm sorry, but the play is sold out,” the man in the booth said.

I looked around. The theatre looked pretty much deserted. “How about tomorrow night?” I asked.

“Different play, and that's sold out, too,” he said. “We're sold out all this week.”

“Look, is there a reason you don't want to sell me a ticket?”

A woman entered the box office through a back door. “Let her buy a ticket,” she said, and flashed me a brief smile. “She's all right. We sold her one last week.”

“But why, Carly? What makes you think she's all right?”

“She's got the Look,” Carly said. “She's one of us.”

The guy at the counter didn't answer directly. He turned to me and gave me a long, searching look. “One for tonight, then?” he asked. “It's Brigadoon.”

“That will be fine,” I said. “What’s on tomorrow night?”

Man of La Mancha.”

“Great. I’ll take one for tonight, one for tomorrow night, if that’s okay.”

The man glanced back at Carly, who nodded. The tickets were forty pounds each, and I’m not rich, but I handed over the money without regret. How could I not?

And it was worth it.

To answer your question, the theater was packed to standing room only capacity. The usher showed me to my seat in the second row of mezzanine. I actually had a great view! Don't ask me how I lucked into that when I bought my ticket at the last minute.

As far as the audience went, I didn't notice anything unusual about how they were dressed. They seemed to have more expensive clothes than I do, but that's no shock. I do remember reading somewhere that people don't really dress up for the London theater, though, so maybe that is a little odd. I guess I haven't been to enough “normal” performances in the West End to know.

Do you know who played the leads in Brigadoon? Of course you don’t, but you may recognize the names when I tell you. You may have even seen Robert Goulet on television when you were younger. He played Tommy, and he looked about thirty years old.. He’s not my favorite actor, but it’s remarkable that he was there at all, considering he’s been dead for six years. I scanned the program for any other names I might have recognized, but I only knew his, so I figured he was the only “big name” brought in for this one.

I couldn't have been more wrong. You should have heard the collective gasp of the audience on Fiona's first appearance– and then the applause that followed lasted for minutes. Goulet had gotten applause too, but this dwarfed his, in volume and duration. Everyone in the audience seem to be so surprised and delighted to see this actress that they had a difficult time settling back down so the show could go on. Of course, I was sure I was the only one there who hadn't a clue who she was. I looked in my program again and only saw the initials “SB,” which didn't mean a thing to me. I supposed she could have been someone very famous in the UK but not in the States.

It was only after the applause for “The Heather of the Hill” subsided that I worked up the courage to turn the woman next to me and ask who it was. She looked at me as if I had horns coming out of my head. “You need an introduction to the Divine Sarah?”

“Thank you,” I said, afraid that saying anything more would cause me to get kicked out of the theater or something equally terrible. But that was enough for me to puzzle it out. That was Sarah Bernhardt! I don’t know much about her career myself, but I understand she was the most famous actress of the 19th century. Her singing as Fiona wasn’t the best, but she gave the part real depth and feeling. And it gave me a clue into the nature of the audience, too – to instantly recognize a stage star who's been dead for almost a century? Clearly, these people are serious about this stuff.

I’ve been thinking today about having “the Look,” as Carly put it. I think it must be something to do with my having been in the time bubble. She can detect it somehow. Have you any thoughts on what there might be about me that a time traveler could actually see, and how they might see it? Whatever it is, I’m grateful. They’re obviously very secretive and security conscious about what they’re doing, trying to serve a very select clientele without the general public finding out about this strange theatre troupe and its anachronistic casts.

Tonight is Man of La Mancha, which I’ve loved ever since seeing the Quantum Leap episode about it. I didn’t much care for the film, though. I’m looking forward to seeing who they get for the lead roles in that one.

Beyond that, I really want to get to know more about this whole setup. Who is doing all this, and how and why? Do the actors know they’re working in 2013, with other players similarly out of their time? Are they living in 2013 for the duration, or going home after each performance? How do people get back and forth? I know we’re not supposed to discuss how you got me out of the time bubble alive in my past, your future, but knowing what these people do might help you with your research. Or am I wrong about that? In any case it must be a logistical and financial nightmare, organizing all these people from different eras, mounting full productions and still keeping the rest of London from noticing anything unusual. But I’ve noticed. I’m really glad about that! And as for David's autograph – I don't know if actors come back for repeat performances, but if he does – it's a plan!