Shakespeare Incarcerated - It had to happen

We had only planned to be gone 2 hours, 7-9am, plus the time it would take to drive from Santa Monica to downtown L.A. and back.  I hadn’t even walked the dog yet, or fed her.
We each had a large, posterboard sign-----my son Will and I.  His was green and said, “I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.” “Why as men do a-land:  The great ones eat up the little ones.” (Pericles)  And mine, strewn with forest growth and flowers said, “What is the City but the people?” (Coriolanus)

Occupy_SignsWe held them proudly at this early morning 99% protest.  They were different, among the more standard Union signs: “Banks Get Bailed Out; We Get Sold Out”.  But a forest of them.  Ours were different----but then so is Salty Shakespeare.

We yelled with the crowd, showed our posters to the cameras, and marched with the 1000 or so protesters the 4 blocks to the dilapidated bridge at 4th and Hope.  This is what we wanted the Super Committee to see:  Our sagging infrastructure.  PASS THE JOBS BILL, we were saying.  Or at least enough of it to hire people to fix America’s crumbling roads and bridges.

The clock was ticking toward 9am, the outside limit of our City permit to gather legally and protest.  But some had planned to stay on, like Cindarella defying the Fairy Godmother.  12 or 15 union members and folks from a group called GOOD JOBS: L.A.  The LAPD in scary riot gear was gathering.  We were being warned that if we didn’t vacate the street, we’d be arrested.

That always brings out the worst in me.  I turn into a 3-year-old:  YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!!!  Will and I looked at each other.  Wha’d’ya wanta do? I asked.  Let’s stay, he said emphatically.  Apparently, the apple doesn’t fall far….
So we sat down in the circle of union members.  And sang and shouted, as policemen (looking a bit like StarWars space militia) began surrounding us.  My mind raced.  I knew they would divest you of your belongings so I quickly texted 4 people on my iPhone:  my other son Charlie (a District Attorney, of all things); my ex-husband, Will’s dad; my neighbors, Kathy and Phil, asking for dog-tending that day; Linda Wickens, producer of Salty Shakespeare, and Ryan Martin, a Salty Shakespeare company member.  I said, “Um… started out as a regular old day but……now, Will and I are being arrested”

Occupy_Carried_AwayMy texting was never so fast.  Time was not on my side.  Charlie wrote back, “Mom, can’t you engage in these things without breaking the law?????”  I don’t think so, I said.  Then the cops were on us.  Very civil and unemotional.  Good.  Will refused to get up, so they lifted him bodily towards the waiting vans.  They stood me up, pulled my arms behind my back and cuffed me, with those horrific plastic things.  But I discovered, as they put me in the paddy wagon that my small hands and wrists were able to squeeze out of the cuffs.  So I could scratch my nose.  And OTHERS’ noses, as it turned out.  I reluctantly squeezed them back in as we pulled into the garage of the downtown jail.

The booking process took FOREVER, but if I thought THAT was tedious, I had 13 hours of nothing ahead.  Mind-numbing.  The meals were 2 slices of wheat bread---no frilly condiments (they don’t want you to LIKE it there!)----1 slice of American cheese, 1 thin slice of ham, a carton of milk, and a banana.   EVERY MEAL.

There was a toilet in the holding pen with a wall on one side, shielding the user from the cops walking by outside the steel door.  And above the toilet, a sink and a water fountain.  Um.  No thank you.

Everyone chatted for a couple of hours and then silence.  Then some singing and dancing and chanting.  Then more silence.  And that’s when I announced that Salty Shakespeare was present and that I was going to perform for them.  They looked stunned-----Shakespeare being the last thing you’d expect in a jail cell.  But isn’t that the point of Salty Shakespeare?  Like the black lab in the tree.

I did Emilia in OTHELLO to wild applause and a standing ovation.  (I had to remind myself they were bored senseless and might have stood for the yellow pages.  Still…..)  Later I asked them to think of me as 50-years younger and did Helena from MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.  That one brought on lots of stories about their experiences with Shakespeare in highschool.  It was a lovely communal feeling we had over the Bard.

After 8 hours, everyone was getting snarky.  I suggested we all sit and meditate, picturing a cop finishing our paper work, signing the last page, putting on his uniform jacket, walking toward our cell.  We all got quiet.  The pulse in the room seemed to slow.  As God is my witness, 6 or 7 minutes went by and there was a banging on the door.  Our deliverance was at hand.  Well…..everyone but me and one other woman, Erin.  For no reason that they ever could give us, Erin’s and my release was delayed another 4 hours.

When we were finally free-----and that word holds visceral meaning for me now----I flung open the last iron door to the waiting arms of my son, his dad (my ex), the union’s lawyer and the bailbondsman.  They might as well have been angels.  With cell phones back, Will and I realized how many people had seen the events on TV, and become concerned for us.  There were texts and voice messages enough to last us several days.  Family and friends seem waaaaay more special than they appeared to be on Wednesday.  Funny thing about that.

I’m proud to have marched, proud to have been arrested (I tried to be in the 60s but no dice!) and mostly proud to have taken Mr. Will Shakespeare into yet another unexpected venue.

I think he’d be bored stiff now on a real stage.  Honestly!