“It’s started already,” said the actress at the private table read I attended on Friday night. (Yes, that’s how I kicked off the holiday weekend. My life’s exciting like that.) “I got on the subway to get here at Brooklyn Heights, and there was nobody there. Nobody. It took half the time to get to Ripley Greer it usually takes. They’ve all left.”
Brooklyn Heights is in Northwest Brooklyn, right across from the Brooklyn Bridge, and Ripley Greer is a rehearsal studio in midtown Manhattan, in case you’re reading this elsewhere and need quick primer on New York City geography. And the exodus the actress was describing was the departure of a large portion of the city’s population now that the unofficial start of summer is here. Some folks are simply away for a quick weekend vacation, but there’s a significant fraction of the local population who will be gone from now thru Labor Day. The five boroughs will be hot and sticky over the next few months, and the resulting aromas will not be pleasant, and many with the wherewithal to do so simply decide not to be here to deal with it.
For those of us remaining behind, so long as we can stand the occasional smell, the city becomes a far more livable place. Our commutes aren’t quite so cramped, our lines at restaurants and public restrooms are just a bit shorter. Our slightly-cleaner-than-you’d-expect shoreline stretches out for invigorating strolls, our vast park system is open for exploration. And within those parks, free Shakespeare productions spring up like mushrooms; the Public Theatre’s season at Central Park’s Delacorte started previews this past week, and all manner of smaller companies will follow suit in the next few weeks all over the summer. If you’re a theater lover, and you’re willing to brave the heat, a New York City summer promises all manner of delights.
It’s a little trickier if you’re a theater maker, however. Because included in that fraction of the city’s population making a summer exodus are a large number of our industry’s movers and shakers. Agents. Managers. Artistic directors and administrative staff of the larger companies. Having toiled away unceasingly the rest of the year, they head off to the Hamptons and frolic on Fire Island, they take that long-planned and well-earned getaway. And they don’t go to the theater on their summer vacation. Fair enough; it’s their job, and if you’re doing your job over your vacation you’re not vacationing correctly. But when they’re on vacation, it becomes rather difficult for the rest of us to reach them.
As an example; the table read I participated in on Friday was a private workshop held by a friend of mine, preparing a script which is going to have a public reading in July. (It’s being done by a company to which I don’t belong, so I’m not necessarily going to be involved in this beyond Friday’s reading, but it was a lot of fun all the same. But I digress.) The reading is a tremendous feather in his cap, and it’s sure to be a success for the company. But potential agents who might be interested in my friend’s work? Potential managers for the actors? People who could supply grants to the company? Even major reviewers? It’s hard to reach these folks under the best of circumstances, and impossible to reach them when they’re not in town.
These aren’t the only people we make theater for, of course, and stalwarts like me will be picking up the slack all summer long. I’ll be hunkering down and writing, to have projects to try and move forward with once everybody’s back from their long vacation. And when I venture forth to see my friends in their projects, I’ll take comfort in the fact that the lines won’t be quite so long.