Letters to Holly

Monday, February 5

Day Thirty-Six: Curtain Call

It's snowing like mad when I drive into town, and my first concern is a possible postponement of the last performance. Will I have to delay the much-needed haircut? Will we do that show this week? But no, the show goes on.

A teacher buddy of my wife asks to use one of our complimentary passes, and when I try to explain this to the lobby volunteer, it's like a Groucho Marx skit. She's old and ornery. She thinks I'm scamming her. When I tell her the guy's last name, she asks me to spell it and then gives me shit for pronouncing it wrong. I tell her that's how he pronounces it. She gives me the eye. This is the face of the theatre for the community? Granny McAsshole? No wonder we can't sell out the show. Then when I tell her I'm in the play, oh, how her tenor changes. So now she's politely condescending. I mentally debate whether I'm willing to perform with blood dripping from my hands as I head backstage.

The stage manager points out the Spider-Gooper sketch on the wall and shows me her Spidey t-shirt. It's exactly like one I have. A hundred cool points to her. After warm-ups she asks us to sign cards to the stage, lighting, and costume designers. She also gives the cast personal notes and birthday candles to commemorate each day. It's a nice gesture, and her words are humbling. To fill out my obligation to the art board, I draw the Incredible Hulk as Big Daddy. It goes over well. There's a sad note of ending to everything. As we apply our make-up, we pack the items away. As soon as we're onstage, the assistant costumer takes away our extra hangers. We're closing up shop as the show moves along. Daddy calls this the "evaporation show," meaning the lines vanish as we say them. I don't know. I remember bits from my previous plays, and if I had to re-learn a character, I think I could do it within a week. Maybe not, though.

Backstage, the littlest girl mentions my weird eyes and I do the lazy-eye trick for her (I can switch which eye I'm looking through, and the other rolls off to the side.). She thinks it's cool and demands I show it to the other Gooper daughter. That one's trying to act like a teenager and pretends to be disinterested. The reverend and the doctor almost miss their cue for Act I offstage lines and practically run to the wings. It's a sizable and responsive crowd for a Sunday. Not a dominance of bluehairs. I wonder how many of them tried to reach through the box-office window and slay the ticket lady.

In Act II, Daddy repeats a bit of dialogue, and it sounds like he jumped the gun. Maybe he's feeling a little loose because it's the last show. It doesn't feel like the last one, personally. Except for the cleaning business backstage, there's no sign that this is a grand finale. I'm used to doing 12 performances in a run, not 9, and I only possess a notion of relief that I'll have my weekends free again. I know I'll miss working with this cast. We didn't get close personally, but we were a tight corps onstage.

Act III swims along, and we get a partial standing ovation. Mae and Daddy gesture to the light booth to acknowledge their efforts for making the show work. The curtain closes, and we say our mutual congrats. The cast presents Brick with a joke book backstage. During his big Act II monologue, he admits to the closeness of his friendship with Skipper. He mentions how they used to hug, how they would reach across the space between hotel beds to shake hands goodnight, and he says "maybe one or two times, we --" before Daddy cuts him off. Mama and Maggie started a notebook of what he may have been about to say, and cast filled it with filthy innuendo. Thats our gift to him.

In our dressing rooms, we start to disassemble the roles, and trade notes on new projects. Brick is working in Waiting for Godot. Mama will direct 'Night, Mother. I never learn if Mae got a part in Fourth Grade Nothing. Me, I 'm gonna make mini-comics, go back to the gym, and make that painting to fill the living room wall. I've cleared out space in the garage to paint, and my wife bought me a swank easel last year to get me started.

But before we leave, we have to strike the set. It doesn't take long at all. Maybe 90 minutes, and the majority of that is taking apart the set walls. The crew hand out drills with screwdriver attachments, size up the abilities of the cast volunteers, and point us to appropriate jobs. I move 12-foot styrofoam columns, which I learn came from a movie set. I help to take apart doorways and remove brick facades, separate the columns from their bracings, take apart wall molding, and move pipe weights out of the canvas drop behind the stage.

I've got the Super Bowl on TiFaux, and some pals are coming over tonight to watch. They won't start the game til I get home, and when I see that it's 7 p.m., I have to go. Luckily, we're essentially through. The next play stage construction will start soon. I thank the designers for letting me help, and they thank me for staying. That's when I notice I'm the only actor left. The set designer tells me about the season-ending comedy play coming up; his friend wrote it and it sounds good. The stage manager asks me to come back for more shows, and I tell her the comedy sound like my next best bet. We hug goodbye, I run backstage to get my stuff, and run out the door to get to my car, drive the hour home, and start the game with Your Sis and pals. I got beer, snacks galore, last-performance notes to share, and a a full evening of TV. It's a good ending to the day, a good ending to the play.

And to this journal, I suppose.

Previous entires
Day One: Reading It Through
Day Two: Act Two
Day Three: Reading Act Two
Day Four: Talking It Through
Day Five: Blocking Act Two
Day Six: Act Two Redux
Day Seven: Reading Act Three
Day Eight: The Da Gooper Code
Day Nine: The Laying On of Hands
Day Ten: Pictures and Pages
Day Eleven: Onstage
Day Twelve: Memory
Day Thirteen: The Quickie
Day Fourteen: The Lines
Day Fifteen: Act III Anxiety
Day Sixteen: Let's Just Get It Right
Day Seventeen: Molding the Gooper
Day Eighteen: Goopercalypse
Day Nineteen: There Is Not A Doctor In The House
Day Twenty: Back to Words
Day Twenty-One: Getting Technical
Day Twenty-Two: We're Ready When You Are
Day Twenty-Three: Socks
Day Twenty-Four: Our First Audience
Day Twenty-Five: Calamity
Day Twenty-Six: Opening Night
Day Twenty-Seven: Second Night
Day Twenty-Eight: The Show You Saw
Day Twenty-Nine: Brush-Up
Day Thirty: Back to Work
Day Thirty-One: A Spreading Plague
Day Thirty-Two: Cast Party
Day Thirty-Three: The Cast Gift
Day Thirty-Four: Slapstick
Day Thirty-Five: Dinner and A Show

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