The quarantimes have been going on for five months now, and as bizarre as it seems I feel like we’ve all begun to settle into a routine. For myself, I have two (generally) weekly opportunities to do something that resembles performing – reading groups (one of which I’m co-creative director for) on Tuesday evenings ad Sunday afternoons. In each case, I sit down at my desk to Zoom, as I do with all my Zooming (Lord how we’re all Zooming). My desk is at one end of the living room in my Brooklyn one-bedroom, with my bookcases at the other end, so when I sit down to Zoom – when I sit down to give any sort of performance, however informal -it’s with a wall of bookshelves as my background.
Yes, I’m one of those people. It seems like half of the talking heads we see nowadays, whether they’re appearing in a news conference or a talk show, are Zooming in from in front of their home bookcase. (The other half often seem to be appearing in makeshift Better Homes and Gardens photo spreads.). It’s almost a cliché at this point, but one in which I take some comfort – in these ever more barbaric times it’s nice to know that there’s still a sizable percentage of us who a) still read, and b) want the rest of the world to know that as some part of their identity.
My routine was disrupted this past week; friends of mine asked me to perform in a benefit for their production company. Part of an evening of musical performances, inspirational monologues (Rep. John Lewis’ final letter was read), and the like; I was asked to perform in a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird. I even received a small stipend – yes, Constant Reader, in these bleak and lean times I managed to get paid (a whopping two figures!) to perform. However, the gig came with a caveat – all of us participating with a live performance had to give said performance against a plain backdrop.
I was thrown for a loop. I’ve been performing in my office chair for the past five months, and that was no longer an option.
I scoured my domicile for other options, but there’s not a whole heck of a lot to work with in a Brooklyn one-bedroom. Ultimately, I settled on sitting at my “dining room” table, with my laptop perched on a stool straddling the line between my living room’s breakfast nook and my tiny kitchen. As I sat down for the performance, in costume as Atticus Finch with vest and tie, I found myself staring at my oven and kitchen sink.
It was jarring. Well, obviously, all of this is jarring – we’re living through about half a dozen apocalypses at once. (Seriously, when did we ever have to pluralize the word “apocalypse?”). But this was even more jarring than usual – I’d already gotten used to sitting down at my desk, with my lumbar support pillow in the crook of my back and my bookshelves behind me, in order to pretend to be somebody else. I’d already adapted. We’re a resilient species, and can adapt to just about anything. And I wonder – is that always a good thing? Or does it help to normalize a ghastly state of affairs to which we have no business becoming acclimated?
I don’t know. But apparently I make a good Atticus Finch, so I’ve got that going for me.