Letters to Holly

Saturday, December 13

First Show

It's a blur of emotion but here are the highlights:

1. This is the grand ribbon-cutting for the new theatre space. Tonight's audience will be treated to a presentation of planned renovation and hit up for donations. Our play is a fundraiser, of sorts. As soon as I'm backstage to dress, a rumor spreads that the playwright is here. Now, Brick is a Facebook friend of his and assures who he can that the guy is in Florida, acting in this very same play. This doesn't help. Marley is apoplectic. The director is thrilled. She was introduced to an audience member, misheard the name, and thought he was the playwright. She learns her mistake and leaves the green room to apologize to the guy.

2. Scrooge is the last to arrive from the makeup session. With half his costume on, our tech lady sneaks in the green room to confess she's lost the sound cues on the computer. Everything is gone. He's kind about it until he learns this actually happened last night, and she's waited til right now -- maybe ten minutes before we start the show -- to tell him this. He has to put on his street clothes, wade into the audience, and reset the tech PC, come back, change into his costume, and psych himself back into character.

3. We stand in the wings to start the show. All the lights are out, and we're waiting for the stage lights to come on so we can take the stage. There's a knock at the backstage door. It's the tech lady. She doesn't know how to turn on the stage lights. Scrooge has to save her again. When she's gone back to her station, he mumbles that this will be her last show with this duty.

4. Despite a strong beginning and a responsive audience, the leads go offscript at the same spots as last night. The audience deflates, and the first act feels like a marathon. The two attorneys are so focused on their lines that they have ignored their stage movements. Doc is locked in a short pattern of crouching and staring away from the witnesses to scrape the dialogue from his brain. Scrooge tries so hard to croak his lines in a Scrooge-like fashion that he doesn't remember where he is. He smothers every punchline that should be powering this show.

5. Mrs. Cratchit decides not to join the other witnesses onstage. As I sit in the gallery, I plan some rewrites to work around her absence. On her cue, however, she appears and does her lines.
6. Cratchit gets some laughs.

8. Act Two begins with both actors standing up to introduce two different witnesses. That's not in the script. The judge salvages the scene.

9. Future Christmas steals the show, but Scrooge leaps offtrack midway through our scene. So does Doc. Within one minute, Brick and I repeat a line three times because Doc has asked us the same question three times. Then it gets bad. Scrooge mangles the grand unveiling of Marley as the fake Scrooge body. He forgets the indignant accusation scene. The judge, despite holding the script in his hands, loses his words for his verdict. The two attorneys utterly and completely botch the ending in such a way that they have removed the exit lines. The characters -- all of us -- now have no way to get offstage. The climactic conversation is shredded and reassembled in a panic, and we lose both the momentous declaration of Christmas, our departures, and the twist revelation. It feels like forever. In short, they fuck up huge in this, our grand opening of the stage and optimistic fundraiser. Now, really, what excuse do we have for not casting younger folk, again? Could they do any worse than these veterans?

The cast finally take our bows to polite applause and walk into the audience to meet and greet. There's some polite congratulations, but the Future ghost and his translator are clearly the stars. We shouldn't be, but we know our lines. We get the humor, and we can surf the script for the most laughs. Also, we have slapstick, and that's hard to compete with. But if the leads had their stuff together, they'd mop the floor with us.

I change, grab some reception food, and drive home cursing at the windshield. If they had sabotaged the show on purpose, this wouldn't hurt any more. I avoided this theatre out of fear of this kind of shambled productions, and now I feel suckered. I showed up, I learned my lines, I gave my other actors consistency with which to hang their cues, and they blow us up. Going back to Asheville's theatre sounds really good right now.

Oh, and the theatre president and the spring director are both vying for my commitment. The president wants me on the board, and the director wants me to starts what I assume is a new company. It's not the best time to woo me when I want to clobber the leads. Death hate bile.


Anonymous said...

death likes bile, actually. i asked. in the anatomy lab. death digs it and the way it sticks to the back of death's throat.

i think i will make the play afterall...that is if there's still a matinee performance on sunday the 21st.

Gregory said...

As of this writing, we will still have shows next weekend. I'll reserve tickets for four.

Bring rotten tomatoes.