Erich von Straussheim’s Thespian Hour

Under the masked student’s list of Reunion Activities, one catches your eye: Erich von Straussheim’s Thespian Hour.

‘I was a thespian, once,’ you say, surprising yourself with the use of the word ‘thespian’, which you had never employed in the past. The undergrad is equally alarmed by your word choice, yet you allow yourself to continue, wistfully: ‘I once played Banquo in Macbeth, back in the day… In fact, I wonder if any of my old cast mates will be there…’

You trail off, overwhelmed by a Proustian flood of memories – the anxious pre-performance warmups, the painful faux-beards that refused to peel off after a week of performing, and the disembodied ecstasy attained in fleeting mid-performance moments – and smile nostalgically. Yikes, you’re old.

The student looks on, unimpressed. ‘Beats me, thespian,’ she observes, then adds before she leaves, ‘One way to find out – go check out the theatre.’

You are left alone again on the windswept quad, which – aided by a well-timed murder of crows exploding from above some skeletal trees – attains a startlingly menacing quality. Afraid, but trying not to think about it, you begin a determined stride down the college’s beer can-littered hill and towards the old theatre building. Along the way, you pass a man whom you mistake for your old sociology professor, Dr. Felix Neanderfellow, but it’s just an ancient alum, who scowls as you walk by.

And so it is with a lurking sense of dread that you finally turn around the corner of a lamentable 1960’s-era academic office building to regard your old haunt, the George Gordon O’Hoohalan ’59 Memorial Theatre. It is an old, venerable building, with a long, sloping Parisian roof and an imposing pair of impossibly high wooden doors at the front, one of which is parted open just barely, allowing a red light to spill out into the crisp evening air. Strangely, no noise comes from inside – until just before you enter, when you hear a scream come from a 2nd-story window.

You pause. You could turn to run, continue through the front door, or climb a vine of bougainvillea up to the window, to investigate the source of the scream. Which will it be?

A) Run.

B) Climb up to the window.

C) Continue through the front door.

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