Real Bees In An Imaginary Garden

In front of me a woman and her husband face one another on their porch. They’ve just reunited after a long separation. The rows of worn floorboards between them and their halting, hesitant way of speaking tell me there’s a lot no one is saying. Despite the wife’s smiles and efforts to set her husband at ease, this isn’t a happy reunion.

To my left, barely within my peripheral vision, bees buzz angrily inside a beehive.

I hope none of them gets out.

The thought, or really more of a feeling, comes from my gut before my rational mind kicks in. I’m not afraid of a single bee, but a whole hive could pose danger. So it’s normal to have that fear.

Except that there’s no beehive and no bees, only a well-made prop and sound effects. The people on the porch are actors. Their daughters, whose struggles over the next hour to come to terms with their father’s return from prison, break my heart, and they are actors, too.

But for that moment–for a lot of moments–I forgot.

I lived in an imaginary world where everything became real. It reminded me of reading books as a kid. When I focused all my concentration and the world outside fell away.

When someone speaking to me or touching my arm in the real world could barely reach me, and when it did I blinked as if coming out of a dream.

It’s the effect every writer, actor, director, and artist strives for.

It’s why I read books and watch movies and see plays. To live other lives as if they were real.

Especially now when so much of my life is writing, it’s rare that I can turn off my writer brain. It keeps asking things like How did the writer do that? Did that work for me? Do I believe that character would say that line that way?

So I’m grateful to director Jess Hutchinson, playwright Emily Dendinger, and the entire cast and crew of No Home For Bees, as well as to 20% Theatre Company, for that evening when I lived other lives in another place.

What amazes me further is No Home For Bees was a workshop production. It was produced to get feedback from audience members and give the creators a chance to present the work in a space beyond a reading but before a more formal run.

And it was magic. If I hadn’t seen it on its last weekend, I would have returned at least once if not twice so I could try to figure out how they did it.

As it was, I simply enjoyed the real bees.