Break a Leg

When I last wrote, I was traveling home to the US, excited to be be going on tour to Princeton with the Austin theatre company the Rude Mechanicals. Well, on our opening night, I fell off the stage, sprained my ankle, and broke my foot. Specifically, I broke the fifth metatarsal on my left foot—the same bone fellow Mitchell David Gobaud broke on his right foot over these same holidays. What are the odds?

There was a doctor in the house, the show did go on, and I soon learned that although navigating an airport on crutches sounds like a hassle, it’s actually the best way to travel: kind airport employees push you around in a wheelchair or drive you around on a cart, and you get to skip all the lines! I spent my holidays recuperating and trying the patience of my family and friends. On January 9, I returned to Galway, and my mother came along to help me settle in—and to enjoy some trad sessions in the pubs. Thanks, Mom. You’re a treasure!

So far I’ve had three weeks of classes—Reviewing Theatre in Ireland, Screenwriting, Post-Dramatic Theatre, and a series of workshops with members of Galway’s Druid Theatre—and I’m rehearsing for a role in Sarah Ruhl’s play The Clean House. I had some big plans—directing a classmate’s one-act play, New Year’s in Prague, learning surfing and Irish dancing, volunteering at a local school—that I had to cancel or postpone due to my injury. And my free time has been swallowed up by the sheer effort of getting places. And then recovering from the exhaustion of getting places.

But there are compensations. I walk slowly, and I notice more. I try new walking routes, seeking even, dry ground and safe crossings. When I stop and take a break I see herons and old mill wheels, children clutching handmade St. Brigid’s crosses from class and teenage girls hiding in the lee of the church, smoking surreptitious cigarettes. I find new favorite resting spots: the tapas bar on Lower Dominick, the Asian Tea House on Mary, the French bistro open until 4 am, the department store café that overlooks the river.

My visible injury has reversed the direction of the gaze. In the fall I experienced Ireland as something new and unfamiliar to peer at and study and understand. Now I am made strange—and everyone wants to talk about it, trading sympathy and stories of their own horrible accidents. Just today a man stopped his car on a busy street to lean out his window and ask me to settle a bet: skiing or horseback riding? Once a new acquaintance learns my accident occurred onstage, it’s an almost physical effort for him or her to refrain making a “break a leg!” joke. Most succumb to the pressure.

My favorite teasing response, though, was from a cab driver: “Next time, don’t jump off the stage before it rolls to a full stop!” As in stagecoach.

I take a lot of cabs lately (otherwise I’d be late to everything). From these men—and one woman! the first female cab driver I’ve ever met!—I’ve learned about the broadcasting tax, the city’s Congolese community, the danger of re-enacting Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris films, the best traditional music pub I’d never heard of, and the difference between “Galwegians” and “townies” (the former resident in the city, the latter born and bred in the old center). Thanks a million, lads.

–Katie

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