Sunday afternoon I was sitting in a former church with the pews taken out and the sunlight bright in the stained glass windows, with a dozen actors around me. Most of them had driven or flown in — probably less than 24 hours before — for the Berkshire Fringe Festival’s opening gala. They were punchy and jet-lagged, with the rush of the first day of vacation. They live spread out, they told me, and this time together really was time off in many ways.
Maybe I was punchy too. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. They riffed off each other. They’re actors, they’re old friends, they’re familiar with their bodies and several are professional clowns, and they traded energy with an easy familiarity I remember from late spring in college quads and late nights in exam weekends when the college radio station ran its semi-annual trivia contest.
Josh Matthews of the Under the Table Ensemble Theatre put his finger on it when he told me that play is an important tool for his group.
As I walked home down North Street, and stopped in at Brits R’ Us for a Cadbury bar, I thought — it’s important for us, too.
The way we look at the world has a lot of playfulness in it. When I look down North and South streets and see them through the magazine’s eyes, I see the stories in it — I see the Eagle float in the 1909 July 4 Parade, the old livery stable, the original Wood Bros. truck delivering pianos a century ago, the dumplings simmering two weeks ago, the butterflies at the Berkshire Museum.
People I have talked to, rehearsals I’ve sat in on, flavors and sounds come back to me. I remember the nasi gorang I tasted on my first visit to Flavours, the poetry at Y Bar, Autumn Doyle telling me the Byzantine origin of the phraise “in the van guard” and the young man who taught me the right way to say the name of one of my favorite writers, the Polish poet Wislawa Zymborska. I remember Jeff Winslow at Wild Sage telling me how he got to talk with Stephen J. Gould at a Dowmel lecture, and draft horses standing in the downtown circle to commemorate the state’s first agricultural fair, and live music at Mission Tapas, and Incan-Jazz fusion at Third Thursday.
It makes the place three- and four-dimensional. I think of what’s there and what was there and what could be there. Mohican families camping in the fall share the road with Shaker sisters and the actors rehearsing today at Barrington Stage Company.
It’s the same kind of playfulness that I want to bring into this blog. I want magic in the city and fairy mischief in the park, like the Charles De Lint novel I found at the Eagle book sale last week — where buildings can have souls, and doors open between worlds at folk music open mics, where a city street remembers the moose and manitous who lived there and a biker paints watercolors and speaks Navajo sign language, where walking out the door can make you a friend for life — and anything is possible.