A Frequently Asked Question about my time in the Renaissance is: “Did they feed you?” Did you eat nothing all summer but turkey legs and fried dough? Perhaps the subtext of this question, which I didn’t realize until now, was “Are you going to come back to New York a blimp? (then you can play the Nurse in R+J!)” The answer is no. No, they did not feed us, no I am not a blimp. But they did give us eating guidelines. We could eat Snickers bars “back stage” but were mandated to eat “period food” any where patrons might see us. Yep, we called it “period food” and that didn’t mean chocolate. “Period food” is food that was eaten in 1585. Like parsnips…though I never saw anyone eat one of those. Think carrots. Bread and Cheese. Melons!
I had it in my head that eating an entire melon (cantaloupe) by myself had grand comedic potential. Just sitting, a half in each hand, shoveling the pulp into my mouth and spitting out seeds- that image looked funny (in my head). I imagined swallowing a seed and having a nervous breakdown about a melon tree growing in my stomach. What I neglected to consider was how time consuming eating a whole melon is. I sat down to eat it and would get interrupted after only a few spoon fulls. This was rather inconvenient- I was without the use of both hands, each occupied with melon rind- but looked pretty funny. A pirate running around with melons in her hands? I don’t know what she’s doing, but it looks ridiculous.
I ran into Sir Francis Drake, my character’s huge unrequited love, whilst in this predicament: both hands full of melon. In his presence my character is usually rendered some what speechless; unable to string sentences together, babbling incoherent confessions of love. A patron took pity on me and tried to help me communicate with the man. She decided the melons were only distracting me and that I needed to get them out of my hands. So, unknowingly, she asked Sir Francis to hold them.
Sir. Francis. Drake. Holding. My. Melons. SirFrancisDrakeholdingmymelons!! Oh Lord did my character freak out. And how funny a thing is it to say “SIR FRANCIS DRAKE TOUCHED MY MELONS”? I ran around for quite some time telling EVERYONE. In earnest. Not in a “haha I realize the double entendre I’m pulling here”. No. In “Look at these slices of melon, MY melons, and look where HE touched them!” complete sincerity.
At some point it clicked in my head that I could take it to an extreme level. When such a realization happens, an improv performer can’t say no. I took my head scarf, and begged “Mistress Geraldine, the best hat maker in 12 towns” to make me a hat. A hat out of the melon (which I had carefully scraped clean of pulp for the purpose). Hesitant though she was, I got the melon rind tied onto my head. Babbling about the touch of Sir Francis Drake seeping through the melon, through my head, and through my entire being, I wandered around for the rest of the day with a melon on my head garnering stares, double-takes, bewildered looks, and guffaws. My favorite reactions.
This may have been my most brilliant performance moment of the summer.