After 25 years toiling in the vineyards of the Shakespeare Theatre, I am regularly stopped around town by generous souls who wish to say a nice thing about my work.

Actors live for moments like these. They are humbling and flattering in about equal measure.

It happens in surprising places — Safeway, the airport, at gas stations, at traffic lights — and in unsurprising places, such as every bar in a five-mile radius of Capitol Hill. We lovers of Shakespeare are fond of a pint or two.

Less flattering, of course, and far more humbling, is to be mistaken for someone else. In ’99, I was hurrying south on Wisconsin Avenue for a dinner date at Martin’s. I was passing that mysterious line of small shops selling watchbands and related trinkets — and which never seem to have any customers. Out of one rushed a small Pakistani gentleman, who said to me in his lovely, lyrical accent: “I know you! I know you! You are Irving Hemingway!”

“Well, actually,” I said, “Irving passed on some years ago. I’m his younger brother, Floyd.”

“I know! I know!” said the man, and he retreated into his shop, still beaming.

I arrived slightly late at Martin’s but surprisingly cheered.

And often in the intervening years I’ve wondered: What ever became of Irving and Floyd Hemingway?

David Sabin,


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