…you are backstage, attempting in vain not to hinder those who are scrambling madly, which at the moment appears to be everyone except you. The vague notion begins to set in that while the role of an observer would preferable, you are more connected and drawn into your circumstances than not. An assistant to someone’s assistant then scurries into your corner, spitting questions about costume and fitting and time running out. Glancing down in befuddlement at your own clothes only increases the spitting and scurrying, when suddenly by the arm you’re pulled (though not in an unkind fashion) down a claustrophobic hallway littered with posters and permanent marker graffiti.
The darkness of the hallway is punctuated by searing white light beaming from each open door, through each of which is a small pocket of two to three people, hovering and fussing over each other. The level of activity creates a droning buzz in your head, which you then realize is more of a reaction to your general disorientation and steadily increasing pulse. Despite all of the confusion, and the endless jostling of such a confined space, you sense the clear urge to light up a cigarette.
Into your own white hot closet you’re respectfully shoved, where a crowd of two then sets reflexively into motion in attention to you. Remarks fly about body type and physical attributes, metal hangers scrape against an impossibly packed rack of clothing, and your pulse continues to climb. The flurry then stops – your adornment is presented to you, not so much for approval but for the hope of stirring your evidently slow memory.
The production? A misguided, avant-garde interpretation of Equus, with you as Strang. Only not the full Strang, but only one facet of a fractured psyche, one that requires inspired moments of insanity as well as nudity. The required costume? A hideously grey and exaggerated empire-wasted atrocity adapted for a man’s body that also requires a thick gold amulet. White and red makeup jars on the counter await your face and to-be-exposed upper chest. To you, it’s beginning to add up to one ghastly mistake.
It is then that your pulse finally wanes, and your thoughts slow their circling and fall back to earth. The comprehension that you’ve been utterly lacking up to this point is just as suddenly taking over your movement. Pushing past the production assistants with a firm but disassociated "no," you dig into the clothing rack until you find a plain grey men’s suit, quickly stripping out of your own clothes and putting it on, barefoot and with no shirt underneath. Then pushing your way out of the room, you stop and turn back to the silenced assistants, demanding "Cigarette!" as you reach for the red jar of make up.
Jabbing your finger into it, you smear one line down the center of your forehead like finger paint, as assistant # 2 places the cigarette in your mouth and lights it. Under the scrutiny of the lighting in the room, you feel a thin layer of sweat coming between you and the suit, which triggers a flood of cognitive association. Muffled lines of particularly emphasized dialogue can be heard from the stage. Your first cue is coming in roughly twenty seconds – it’s only then that you realize that you remember the lines, but in jumbled, out-of-order fashion. No matter.