The pouring rain started less than an hour before curtain.
“We should cancel,” Stage Manager said to Director. “It’s going to be all mud out there, and no one’ll come to see this tonight anyway if they’re drowning.”
“Out of the question!” Director replied. “The Outdoor Stage is our best venue and the flyers state ‘Rain or Shine,’ so ‘Rain or Shine’ it shall be!”
“Yeah, I’d said back then that that was a bad idea, and this is why.”
“I don’t know what you mean; rain like this doesn’t last that long, and look! There’s someone in the audience already!”
“That’s just our regular – she comes to every performance and no one knows why.”
“Who cares if it’s one or a hundred: the show must go on because all the world is one giant stage and the play is the very thing!”
“I don’t know if anyone’s brought this to your attention before, but you really aren’t suited to direct Shakespeare.”
The shower knob turned up a notch as a trumpeter blasted rusty notes announcing the start of the show. The Regular, sitting on a beach chair front and center on the lawn, was wearing an umbrella hat and holding a pennant that read “TEAM LYSANDER” as she clapped enthusiastically. The trumpeter sputtered to an end and exited while the first actors entered stage left.
The sandals of “Theseus” and “Hippolyta” squished so as to overpower their lines, so The Regular scooched her chair right up to the “stage” – after all, whose view would she be blocking? The actors adjusted their marks and proceeded to ignore her.
There was a close call when a barefoot “Puck” slid through the mud to the other side of the scene, but she recovered nicely with a flourish.
“Woo-hoo!” The Regular cheered, waving her “TEAM TITANIA” pennant.
“I’m cancelling the rest of the show at intermission!” Stage Manager shouted over the sounds of the crew constructing makeshift shelters over the props backstage. “It’s getting dark and I won’t be able to turn on the stage lights later and then what’ll be the point?!”
Director was watching the underwater play raptly. “Who needs them? Our audience can see everything perfectly, can’t you?” He waved back at The Regular who had spotted him peeking through the backdrop.
“The fairy bower is so waterlogged that the fake flowers have all rotted off! Do you even know how much those things cost?!”
“It’s in the budget; just pick some real ones off the campus grounds, I’m sure no one’ll notice when they’re gone.”
“Excuse me,” “Nick Bottom” tapped Director’s shoulder. “I don’t think I can do the last scene with the donkey’s head on: it acts like a sponge, so earlier I almost suffocated.”
“Nonsense.” Director did not even look at him. “Just find a snorkel and stick it out through the back until the head comes off – improvising has never been your strong suit, you know; we really need to work on that this summer.”
“Nick Bottom” left to figure out this conundrum as Stage Manager signaled for intermission. “At least let me give the actors those rain coats from last year’s show – ”
“Never! They’re not period.”
“These plays never were period!”
During intermission, The Regular supported the Drama Club that season by buying almost all the snacks they sold, and posted on her updates: “Attending Outdoor Shakespeare Performance – BEST SHOW I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!! Really Makes You Think :-).”
After intermission, the actors chattered their teeth through lovers’ quarrels, tomfoolery, reunions, and fairy magic. The show almost stopped when the awning became so waterlogged that gallons cascaded on top of the “Rude Mechanicals” during their Romeo and Juliet rip-off, but The Regular applauded wildly while waving her “TEAM BOTTOM” pennant and the show went on.
Once “Puck” closed out the night’s shenanigans and the actors took their bows in the calf-high pool, The Regular blew her air horn in appreciation and Director emerged to thank her for attending.
“Not at all!” She packed up her gear in about five seconds. “I loved the inclusion of the rain in the performance – really emphasized the depression of thwarted love and the control Nature has over mortals’ lives.”
“Thank you,” Director said; behind the backdrop, Stage Manager ground her teeth. “I thought these were the perfect conditions for this work, and I wish it could be like this every night – what The Bard would have wanted, I dare say.”
“We’re all crazy nerds for going through with this, though, amIright? But I guess the play’s the thing!”
“That’s what I said!”
Crashes sounded backstage – Director excused himself to see what was being destroyed.
“Thanks again, you all were great!” The Regular waved on her way to the parking lot. “I’ll see you tomorrow night – forecast says there’ll be hail, I can’t wait!”