Ahh, the work-life balance.
I find myself at home on the morning of opening night of Hamlet at Georgia Shakespeare. Mom is at the ironing board, pressing her blouses, just the way her grandmother taught her to iron in the 1930s: collars and cuffs first, then shoulders and sleeves, then around the body of the shirt. Back then they didn’t have steam irons, so everything was sprinkled with water and starch. When I was a child in the 60s, I remember Mom still sprinkling Dad’s shirts with an old green glass Sprite bottle and a special perforated cork.
Now Mom sprays her shirts with Magic Size and irons them with a steam iron till they’re crisp and neat. “It takes a while, but I love the way they look when I finish,” she says. Ironing is a way for her to transform chaos into order; she is literally smoothing out the wrinkles in a part of her life. I understand that impulse; I feel it every time I wipe down the kitchen counter or make up the bed. There’s something satisfying about a smooth, clear surface.
For the past month, the cast and crew of Hamlet have worked to smooth out the wrinkles in our production, applying metaphorical heat and steam and pressure to the various scenes until they emerged as seamless parts of one complete work. The incomparable Joe Knezevich, who plays Hamlet, has spent much of the last year preparing for this process, and it shows.
Everything has come together beautifully. The result is as crisp and striking as a neatly pressed shirt – a tailored one that fits perfectly. To paraphrase my mother, great productions take a while to prepare, but I love the way they look when we open
I’ll drop the metaphor now lest I get even more carried away. The point is simply that domestic metaphors seem to fit my work life, and vice versa. Home is about relationships and tasks; so is the theater. By putting out an effort and attending to the details, we create lives filled with meaning, purpose, and beauty.