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TIME TRAVEL IN THE WEE HOURS
December 2, 2003
 
I spring awake at 4am. "Did people flock back to the theaters after the Glorious Revolution?" I ask Q. "Or was there a period of time before they felt it was okay?"

Waking slightly, Q betrays no surprise at the non sequitur. "They flocked back. They were ready." Then he thinks a bit. "There might have been a period of waiting for theaters to be built."

"But no more Globe-type theaters were built, huh?" I persist. "No more open air theaters -- theatre came inside after that?"

"Right. Auditoriums. Then theaters more like we know them today."

"Proscenium."

"Right." His breathing becomes soft and regular.

Why I thought it important, at four in the morning, to know more about the first few months of Restoration theatre is lost to me now. I must have been thinking of an eMo I might write. If so, I've forgotten what it was. Research is very easy for me: I just ask Q. He tells me what I want to know and then goes right back to sleep.

I lie in the dark. It is cold this morning, and I am loath to emerge from under the quilt. I think of theatre lights in the 18th century, in a row on the floor at the very edge of the stage, lined with mirrors to multiply the light. They could get a lot of light out of a lantern lined with mirrors. I think of their makeup -- garish in the bright light of day, perfect by that dimmer light. Even their street makeup, the same. People looked like vampires, with all their paint and rouge. Until the night came and the lights went up.

Men wore makeup then. Rich men, anyway. Young ones, for the most part. And wigs, of course. And they padded their calves with horsehair to make them round and muscled-looking. I'm not sure just how well that worked. And we know, of course, about the codpieces of an earlier age. No? They wore a stiff form, called a codpiece, over their private parts and under their tight trousers, so that they would look larger.

Good grief.

Women became prominent as actresses in the Restoration. The Elizabethan theatre used adolescent boys in women's roles, but the return of the monarchy after several dreary decades of Puritanism set many things free, and one of them was women. Women in theatre. Women writers. Smart and not-so smart mistresses of the king -- dozens of them, you can see their portraits at Hampton Court Palace to this very day-- and of other prominent men. We would not recognize it as liberation today. But it was a beginning.

I think of history often in the wee hours. When it is cold outside, the presence of all those people in the room makes me feel warmer. I think of them while I lie in bed -- we are so different from them, yet there are some things we do in just the same way. Sleep, for one thing. Huddle against the cold, for another. Dream of things that are not yet here, and of things that are gone forever.

More than many things, I wish I could see them in the flesh, just once. But, in the wee hours, when time recedes in importance and we know just a taste of the timelessness of God, they come a little closer.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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