By Jonathan Dryden Taylor
Any week where they give you free ice cream is a good week, right?
Ice cream is a big thing in Burlington, Vermont and attention was duly paid with a trip to the factory of – well, let’s not advertise. The factory of that ice cream company named after the two founders. The one that rhymes with men and cherries. They gave us free sample of their S’mores flavor and all was right with the world.
Vermont also, of course, means maple syrup, and our hosts at the Flynn Center kindly showered us with as many mapley items as we could have dreamed of in a very generous parting gift.
The schedule this week was a challenge. As well as our evening shows and classes, there were also a couple of morning matinees for schools. Performing King Lear at 10am is quite a surreal experience, matched only by the experience of sitting down to lunch having already performed King Lear!
The audiences more than made up for it, though. Before we had even left Virginia we had received an email from Flynn asking if it would be possible to add extra seating at the side of the stage, because our evening performances had sold out.
This meant a return to Kansas-style blocking- playing the diagonals- with a touch of South Bend thrown in, as the front-on seating was very wide. Practically speaking, it meant we had to be very conscious of sightlines in two dimensions, because there were more ways of obscuring each other from view than anywhere else we’d been! Add into the mix the fact that the forestage also included a couple of load-bearing pillars, and we had to be very conscious of our surroundings this week!
And not just on stage, either. Consciousness of surroundings is richly rewarded in Burlington, a beautiful town in a beautiful setting. Our company has three water-babies in it, since Fred is from Brighton, Tricia from Liverpool and Richard from Blackpool, so the view over the water of Lake Champlain certainly made them feel at home.
The city is set among stunning forests and mountains, too, so wherever you look there’s something gorgeous to meet the eye. Burlington itself felt more similar to towns back home, too- New England living up to its name?- so there were many reasons why we felt at home.
And we were privileged to be given another reminder of why our job has value in the shape of an audience member who stayed behind to talk to us after one of the shows. Without intruding too much on the private nature of what he told us, we were honoured and touched to learn that our tragedy had helped him to process another. Art isn’t just there to entertain or to challenge or to excite: sometimes it’s there to soothe, or to remind us that we’re not alone.
So- after ten short, long weeks- we embark tomorrow on our final journey as a company, before we all go our separate ways next week. Fred, who has handled the labrythine responsibility of being travel monitor with supreme grace, has crunched the numbers of our epic journey with this play. Seventeen flights, fourteen hire cars, four limo rides, and fifteen thousand three hundred and three miles. Enough to travel half way round the world, and a quarter of the way back.
We’re going to touch down in Wyoming with a lot of miles behind us- and three more attempts at cracking Shakespeare’s hugest tragedy.