Letters to Holly

Saturday, December 20

Fourth Show

Everyone has heard the saying "the show must go on." It's a necessary credo, especially on the volunteer level. No small hiccup can derail the production. And in order to cancel one of this production's shows, you need the president, artistic director and publicity director's agreement. Our director discovered this just 15 minutes before show time.

Our Scrooge is sick. In one of those rare times when we could also yell the other theatre cliche "is there a doctor in the house" -- we instead look to our judge, a retired general practitioner. He diagnoses Scrooge with food poisoning, and it's apparently bad. He's sick at both ends, and the director calls a huddle to ask if we should cancel. Scrooge won't have it, and we prepare for a possible show. We set up a trash can and water bottle on his side of the stage wings, in case he needs them. We check the actors' bathroom and discover it's, of course, locked. If Scrooge has to go to the bathroom during the show, he'll have to run past the entire audience. Our tech person is told to prepare an extra intermission if Scrooge needs it. I suggest we grab the visiting college student who did a show with me in the spring; he can read Cratchit, and I can do Scrooge. That gets no traction.

Scrooge arrives from make-up, shaky and quiet. He won't cancel. And it becomes his strongest show. Because he's concentrating on staying upright, and not on the words, they come to him naturally. Act One zips by a full ten minutes shorter than normal. Doc has trouble again, and Marley says a big line three pages too early. It's a good audience in size and response; they're really enjoying it, and the entire cast is giddy at what we expect will be a Future Ghost scene that will kill them.

It comes very close. They go crazy for the ghost and translator, and we're in that rare groove where the slightest gesture will knock them over. But right before we get to the heart of the scene, Doc kills it. He jumps ahead a full page, and the audience knows something is wrong. We lose them. We never get them back. Scrooge again falls apart when he confronts the Future Ghost, and the audience is now silenced. It's heartbreaking. We never hit this high before, and we scuttle it within a minute. Even Brick is mad; he lost a few good lines. I'm typing this almost 18 hours later, and my stomach is still sunk over it. It's crushing. But Brick and I get a good response on the curtain call. That helps. The show must go on and all that.

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