The winds had changed their direction earlier than expected. The air carried with it an underlying feeling of icy wetness, characteristic of the coming of winter as soon as the autumn calendar was reintroduced.
The building was fitting for the weather. Or was it the other way around? The weather was fitting for the building. It looked haunted from the outside. Old, brown, the edifice stood with pride and stories to fill the books that Shakespeare himself left. Except the building’s stories would capture the essence of the stage, the green rooms, the seats, the spectators and the actors. Stories that would humiliate, honor, sadden and rectify arguments about what exactly happened on those nights while the stage was lit or when rehearsals went awry.
Henry stood with his hands in his pockets, staring at the building, shoulders shrugging to keep the cold from getting into his ears. He had forgotten his hat, yet again. Henry was 30 years old and an aspiring actor; more aspiring at the moment than doing any kind of acting. He was a graduate of the Acting Conservatory near the small town in Georgia, where he grew up.
He burrowed himself in the corner of the building. He had come here to see this exact monument, hoping it would give him some kind of inspiration for what he wanted to do. However, at the moment, winds were giving him a headache and he wondered if he should just come back another day to stare and reflect on where his life was going.
No, said a voice in his head. Suck it up. The time is now.
He took about 20 steps out again, standing and staring at the front door to this theater that, according to books and stories, had housed the work of Shakespeare before anyone knew how great he would eventually be. He also thought that the fact that his name was given to him by his father via a dream meant something in relationship to the astounding playwright. After all, the tales of King Henry made their way into Shakespeare’s mind. Henry was a proud name.
He walked to the door and pulled the handle. To his surprise, the door was open. The musty smell of old wood and mildew infiltrated his nostrils. Surprisingly, the smell reminded him of old books. Once, his collection of Grecian plays had fallen into sewer water during a flood. He dried them out, since they didn’t submerge in the water, but the pages forever carried the scent in which he had just been enveloped.
The lobby of the theater was bare. Arches surrounding the doorways were carved, delicately, with vines, flowers and earthy fixtures. Chandeliers carried cobwebs and it looked as though they hadn’t been touched, turned on or cleaned in centuries. Apparently, they were in the process of restoring the structure, but there didn’t seem to be any movement going on outside or inside as he stood there looking around.
If everything he read was true, the most impressive actors of the time period performed on the stage of this theater. The mere thought took his breath away. To be known across the European continent for something you performed once, taking your name to new heights and allowing fame to come by word-of-mouth and not something terrible that you did over the weekend partying. That was real. That was true.
He had been in all of his high school plays, had hit it big with one or two professional plays back home, but to be on the stage every night, performing, reciting and pretending to be someone else for a living was what he wanted.
The desire to be on the old stage shook him even more. Henry walked over to the stage and touched it. A rush of energy spread through his fingertips and into his stomach making him feel the past in the pit of his stomach. He considered stepping on the stage. No, he thought. He couldn’t. But he did anyway.
His shoes glided over the broken wood and splinters. He looked up, over the empty space before him, imagining people from the 1600s listening to him recite the opening sonnet from Romeo and Juliet.
The anxiety built up in him as he enunciated and projected the prologue. And as he said the final lines, his voice shook, his eyes welted and he silenced himself in pride.
“…The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.”