All the world’s a stage.

The phrase reverberated around the stuffy rehearsal hall, most ears seemingly tuning it out. He had heard the phrase uttered over and over in the past week. An unrelenting mantra meant to inspire. In truth, the words began to irk him after about the fifth rendition.

He was an extra, more accurately, he was a soldier with no lines and a toy gun. From the start, he understood he had little natural talent, no charisma, and desired a role little more than he desired a hole in his head. Without a doubt, a company theater production remained low on his list of priorities.

This failed to curb the enthusiasm his boss—no, his director—had for the play. To him all the world really was a stage, which aroused a certain irony, considering his general distaste toward Shakespeare. Nonetheless, it seemed his career goals nowadays were focused more on the arts and less on running his firm.

The extra, which he had begun to sarcastically dub himself, strayed off to the stairwell. He complained right along with his co-workers about their unfavorable situation before turning to leave. Some last snippets of conversation still reached him.

“This play is such a joke. I should be at home with my wife and kids right now.”

“I thought you hated your wife.”

“Yeah, but I hate having to be here even more.”

Emerging from the stairwell, he came face to face with the director. To his chagrin, it appeared his boss had been neglecting his personal hygiene as much, if not more, than his business.

“I appreciate all your hard work. Thanks for humoring this old man.”

The aged man scurried away in a manner unbecoming of his years. The extra, for his part, figured he could continue to humor him and ignore that the presentation was doomed to fail. What would be the harm?

On the night of the production, a virus must have run rampant, judging by the number of actors calling in sick and the vacant seats in the hall. Nonetheless, the director maintained his composure, mumbling, “They’ll be here, they’ll be here.”

When the light blazed hot on the stage, the diminished crew did their best to uphold the integrity of the play. Each member performed another role to compensate for their absent colleagues, and the extra was an extra no more. Not that it mattered to him.

At the end of the play, they took a bow. A lackluster applause met them; almost all of the audience had gone already. Still, the director’s face was red and rosy.

Mock saluting his boss, the extra climbed into his pickup truck. Had he paid more attention, he may have realized the director’s face was red, not rosy.

The small town never did see the old man again.

And all the world did not care.

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Larry Martin is a student at UW-Milwaukee, aspiring to become a teacher. He can often be found curled up with a good book, playing guitar (badly), or staring blankly at an empty Word document.

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