According to wikipedia there are 8,274,527 people who call New York City home. According to facebook I know 29 of them. Neither figure is from an exactly sitable source, but I more or less know 0.00003% of the city. Give or take. Math makes me feel like I am a tiny person in a gigantic world. And yet my month of living here has made me feel like the world is undeniably small. I keep running into people I know.
This started my very first day here, my very first day on the job, my very first viewing of the play when everything was new and fresh, before I could recite monologues or pet peeve about actors’ decisions that really don’t make any sense if you think about them. I’m sitting there watching and all I can think of is That guy looks so familiar. Who is he? I’m I just doing that thing like when you go to college for the first time and everyone reminds you of some one from home? Perusing the program after the show does not answer all my questions until BAM. He’s a guy from the theatre program I did last summer. We used to go running together every other day. He had to create a stage name for union reasons. Sure enough, I approach him the next day and it all comes out. I know someone in the show I’m working for? Crazy.
It gets better.
I go through the same thing about the guy who’s doing props for the show. He looks so familiar, I swear I know him from somewhere– holy shit. He’s been in my apartment. Yes he has. See, the lovely luxurious huge apartment that I lived in my senior year of college was pretty much perfect for throwing parties. Among the many fetes held over the course of the year was the cast party for the spring play The Good Woman of Setzuan. The debauchery that went down at that party is another story and a moot point because it all happened after our director and his friends who had come to see the show that night stopped by. In my tipsy-omg-this-may-be-my-last-show-in-college (fortunately it wasn’t) haze I remember talking with them about plans after graduation and how I was probably moving to NYC, and that one of the friends was moving too. Little did we know then we’d be working at the same theater.
It’s always a little risky with these people. You’re 95% sure they are the person you think they are, but the 5% of doubt makes it scary. I approach Props Guy thinking If he is not who I think he is, he will think I’m fucking crazy. Hi, are you Rich Vibrose’s (sudonym, but it captures the gist of the actual) friend? I love watching people’s faces change from Why the fuck are you talking to me to Oh hey! which was exactly the reaction this question received followed by the cast party story in conversation form.
I have yet to embarrass myself. I have successfully identified four people I went to high school with who I haven’t seen in 4+ years, several other people from the theatre summer program, as well as the golden couple of the theatre department my freshman year who are still together 3 years later. Other people have not been so lucky. I’ve been waved at by total strangers (he was clearly an international tourist and perhaps it was a come on, and no it was not to some person in back of me) and been questioned, Are you from Alabama? and been stared in these eyes and told I looked really familiar (and I’m 95% sure she wasn’t hitting on me). But my absolute favorite misidentification happened on a night the show got rained out.
When the show gets rained out that means we ushers get to stand in the rain for probably an hour-roughly the time it takes to decide the storm isn’t just going to blow over. We aren’t allowed umbrellas, only clear ponchos. Thus this is the only place in the city where plastic ponchos do not automatically mark you as TOURIST, MUG ME.I don’t have an umbrella with me, and it’s still storming as I leave the theater and after weighing the options (wear the poncho, don’t get wet, risk getting mugged vs. don’t wear the poncho, get soaked, get raped because I look like a wet t-shirt contestant) I decide to wear the poncho out. I am shrouded in clear plastic as I walk out of the park. There are two paths to exit the theater, and I see two of the actors from the play leaving the path which means I will pass in front of them and they’ll be right in back of me on the main path out of the park. Yay, I bet I’ll get to overhear some of their conversation!
Which was true, but not as exciting as I hoped until my absolute favorite actor in the play who has the best voice ever says to his companion Is that Lauren up there? That looks like Lauren! Hey, Lauren! he yells Lauren! I know there is no one in between me and them, and the only person infront of me is a fat lady HOLY SHIT, HE’S YELLING AT ME! THEY THINK I’M LAUREN AMBROSE! Eeee! What do I do?? Quick! I turn around No I’m not Lauren, but I’ll take the mistake as a complement, and can I pay you a complement? You have the best voice I’ve ever heard and I’m an usher so I loved watching your performance every night. Response? Oh you are so sweet. And just like that, I’m in. For the next 2 blocks I am in. Introductions and brought into the conversation and I even get called adorable. It was awesome. Icing on the cake of looking like Lauren Ambrose…at least from the back and shrouded in plastic!
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