Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Much Ado About Something

Dress rehearsal is over. It went well – very well, I think. We had quite a large audience, and everyone I spoke to enjoyed it very much. That being said, we did have a little, well, let’s call it an incident. Actually, a BIG incident. It was a first for me, and I’ve done a fair amount of theater.

Most of you know that my good friend Andy from A Long Patience, is the director of this show. He thought it might be fun for us to coordinate our blog posts today to give you all the whole story about what happened, so go read about what things looked like from the audience’s perspective here. Then come back, and I’ll tell you what things were like backstage. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

During the show, I am backstage, with too-little room and too many props, costumes and actors. I have a headset (actually two – one on each side of the stage) that connect me with the sound and lighting guys, which, unfortunately, is not wireless. It is impossible to undress and redress an actress in the 48 seconds we’re allotted, so I often put the headset down in order to do some of my duties. It is five thousand degrees Celsius back there, and any sound we make is catapulted out to the audience, so about 50% of my job is to keep everybody quiet. I have patented the scowl, accompanied by the shake of the head and the international pursed-lips expression which signifies SHUT UP!

Anyway, when “THE INCIDENT” happened, I was standing at my script-stand (which I equipped with a handy-dandy clip-on light from the dollar store) making sure everybody was where they were supposed to be. I heard the crash, and looked up to find everyone standing back stage looking at me. Like I would know what was going on and what to do. What, did these people think I was the stage manager or something?

I rushed to the stage’s kitchen entrance – the only place I can see the stage during the show, and saw what had happened. I thought, “Oh, crap,” and then “I wonder how they’re going to handle that.” Two of the actors who were backstage with me also came to see what was going on, and one of them whispered to me, “he’s bleeding.” Oh My God. Let it not be that bad, let it not be that bad, I prayed silently. I knew that, in just a short time, he would be exiting the stage for just the briefest moment, as his character rushes out the front door, and then back in again. I sent somebody to meet him at the door with a napkin, and I started trying to remember where I had last seen the first aid kit.

Of course, I had no idea where it was. Maybe we wouldn’t need it, I mean, maybe it wasn’t that bad. I peeked out again. He is clutching the napkin in his fist, and the part of it that I can see? Is soaked in blood. At one point, he waved his arm a bit, and I saw blood drops fly. Oh, Crap, Crap, Crap.

At this point, I turned to see an angel holding a first aid kit. Actually, it wasn’t an angel, but rather a guy who belongs to the theater group. He isn’t in this production, but he’s a veteran of many, many shows, and he must have seen what happened from the audience, ran downstairs to the building’s kitchen (which we use as the make-up area) grabbed the first aid kit and ran up the back stairs to where I was. I put on my headset to make sure the tech guys were paying attention to what might be something we had to work around, grabbed one of my other flashlights, held it in my teeth, and rummaged in the kit for supplies while I talked to the sound and light guys.

At this point, I remembered that the injured actor was eventually going to exit on the other side, so I sent one of the crew over there with gauze pads and wrap. While he went, I told the tech guys to be ready to dim the stage lights and cover with some of our ‘transition’ music if we needed to.

I rushed across to the other side, and got there before the actor exited, so I had time to reconnect with the tech crew via the other head set. The angel I spoke of earlier somehow had found a nurse in the audience, and brought her up to take a quick look at his hand. When he came off, I knew we had a few minutes to spare while another actor was doing some things on stage, and I was completely confident that we could buy some time with music and lights if we had to, so I was calm. The other people back there? Not so much. If you could have seen it, it probably looked like I was crazy, because everyone else was going nuts, and I’m calmly telling everybody what we were going to do, like this was all part of the plan all along.

Anyway, the nurse wrapped his hand tightly with the gauze, and there was this massive effort to get him into his costume change. It was actually pretty funny, now that I think back on it, because he’s standing up on this platform, about 2 and a half feet higher than most of the people who were helping him out of his clothes and into pajamas, all while the nurse, who’s also on the lower level, is wrapping his wound, and I’m standing there with my headset’s cords stretched to the limit, trying to see what’s going on and decide whether we can continue or we have to stop.

At some point, Andy showed up backstage. He’s trying to find out how the actor is doing, and telling me we could stop the show. I had a moment of – Look, buddy, I have it all under control – but I couldn’t blame him. If this were my show, I’d have been back there, too. And it was only dress rehearsal. By this time, I was pretty sure we were going to make it, so I told the tech guys we were going on. After things were underway on stage again, I headed back to my normal side of the stage.

I didn’t even have time to stop and think about what had happened until after the show was over. I guess it’s part of the charm of the whole backstage experience that you’re so incredibly busy. When I finally got home last night, I was so wound up I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking of things: Where are we going to get another toilet? I wonder if Dennis needed stitches? Did somebody sweep up the shards so nobody gets hurt? How are we going to rearrange the action if Dennis can’t do some of the stuff he’s supposed to do?

Luckily for me, I think those problems? Are Andy’s.

20 comments:

Corrine said...

You handled back stage GREAT!

I wil start calling you "hot lips".

Evansmom said...

Great story! I felt like I was there.
Break a leg for the actual show. Ju

c3 said...

Wow! You have an awesome story to tell, there. I hope the actor is okay, that he can still do the role as he's rehearsed it, and that his hand will completely heal with no problems.

I'm very impressed with your stage managing. I'd want you backstage at my show!

Alice said...

Oh. my. god. Only you guys...but I'm glad the show went on!

Scriptor Senex said...

Well, I've heard of having people who learned the lines and waited backstage in the hope that the actor was taken poorly and they could go on and make a name for themselves. I didn't know that toilets did it as well! Whatever toilet number 2 does it will never be remembered for its part the way toilet no 1 will be! May it rest in peace.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I love a good theatre story!! And now you've got an instant classic!!

Becca said...

wow, cool! not that he got hurt, but to hear how it all went down. you are a cucumber baby!!!

Becca said...

so now can we say Slice a hand instead of break a leg?

Odette said...

Wow that's an incredible story! Who knew a toilet could be so dangerous! lol Sounds like you did an AMAZING job! I am always so happy when the biggest "OH CRAP" moment comes at the dress rehearsal it is a good omen for the rest of the show! :)

jojo said...

wow. that was amazing...you tell a great story. I wish I had been there to see how everything turned out. Good thing you were there ME...;p

Abby said...

GOOOOOOOD LICK AT THE ACTUAL SHOW! Can't wait to read allll about it!

Sue said...

I guess "Slice a hand on a toilet" is the new catch phrase in theater!!! Between you and Andy, I felt like I was there watching! You'll be laughing at this when he is all healed and the play is over!

So "slice a hand" on opening night tomorrow!!!!

claudia said...

Way to go! You are the calm in the middle of the storm! It sounds as if the actors pulled it off pretty smoothly too.
Kudos to you all!

Jocelyn said...

I can't believe I missed it! I hope when I see it for real it is as funny as your story!

TattingChic said...

Wow! What a wild and crazy night. Glad it all worked out okay. Hope the actor is able heal up okay.

Elenka said...

Holy Crap!

Lori Skoog said...

I read both accounts of what happened. You guys are all cool cucumbers! Sounds like a great cast and a great show. Break a leg tonight!

gin said...

the saying goes "break a leg", doesn't it? Sounds like you were right on top of everything!!

Mrs4444 said...

Well, you're much cooler than I would have been, I'm sure. Well done! I so wish I could see the show; I read Andy's post, to, and it really seems GREAT!

Vegas Princess said...

In all my theatre experience something horrible always go wrong during the dress and then the show runs smooth. But I have never heard of a toilet taking out one of the actors. Well done for keeping your head and doing a beautiful job of being the calm within the storm and rocking in your role of stage manager! Andy is lucky to have you. :)