Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Difficult Assignment

I've been writing for The Davis Enterprise for ten years now. I have written theater reviews and feature pieces. I enjoy doing the feature pieces because I've met some wonderful people I never would have spoken to before, like Yvonne Brewster, once given a "Living Legend" award (I told her I'd never met a living legend before...which was not exactly true, since I'd met Judy Garland); Jade McCutcheon the delightful playwright/director from Australia about whom I have written two pieces; and John Iacovelli, my first interview, whose name you will find on most sets for TV and stage. Fascinating guy who intimidated me with his fierce look. There have been a host of other subjects along the way.

Some time ago, I suggested a story possibility to my editor, who loved it. But I didn't follow through on it. Now he has given me 9 days to produce a story, which is definitely not out of the question (even given the fact that I will be gone five of those 9 days!)

The subject is "The Show Must Go On" and the idea was prompted by the death of the father of a family which had been involved with a local theater company the week of the show's opening. The family had been involved backstage and I'm not sure what on stage (I haven't spoken with them yet--and may not at all, since I'm not hearing back from the company with whom the family participated).

But for some reason, I have been avoiding starting this project at all and I know why--it would mean I would have to re-visit David's death and that awful first Lawsuit concert after he died, when the whole band was in tears between sets and cried backstage, but gave it their all on stage. It was the concert where Paul left the stage during an instrumental break in "Funny" (the song for which this blog is named) to hug me and both cry, and then back up on the stage to finish the song as if nothing was the matter.

I neatly shelved the whole idea of the article after Derrick and I first discussed it and my stomach dropped when he gave me a deadline. I was really going to have to write this article.

But like with everything else that puts me in this state, it turned out to be much better than I expected. In fact, so many people were eager to contribute "show must go on" stories that the article is practically writing itself.

There was the woman whose husband died a week before her show opened, but she kept the news to herself and didn't let anybody know until after the run of the show, three weeks later.

There was the guy who was hospitalized with possible H1N1 (turned out to be regular flu) and wasn't released until late afternoon of opening night. I reviewed that performance and if I hadn't been reading his posts to Facebook, I would never have known that he had been sick.

There was the girl who blew her ACL at ski camp the week before a show and how she postponed surgery for a week so she could get through the performance.

There was the guy whose director called, frantic, saying that one of his actors had started a movie and couldn't do the role and could this guy please step in and perform for opening, two nights from then. The guy started memorizing lines frantically, only to get a call from the director later to say that he had been wasn't the actor he had told him it was originally, but instead his twin brother who was playing a different role. The actor says he got very little sleep that night.

There was the actress who got a bad gallbladder attack on stage, finished the show and was rushed to the ER for surgery.

There was the director who got laryngitis but strapped on a portable P.A. system so he could get to the theatre and continue to direct the show.

The director of the teen age theatre had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital for surgery the week before his show opened. His son and another girl took over the directing of the show and on opening night, the whole cast came to his house to give him a report on how the show had gone.

I also told the story of Go-go the Blue Gorilla, a production of the Sunshine Children's Theatre. Paul had the role of Rapper the Parrot, kind of the interlocutor of the show, the character who kept the story moving forward. (This show was memorable for Ned's great musical number, arriving on stage in a faux helicopter)

Paul came down with the stomach flu, but decided he thought he could do the show. We had people waiting backstage in case he needed to make a quick exit. In one scene, he was going to be leaning out a door some 10-15 off the stage (it was supposed to be a tree). The director got one of the dads, who was a doctor, to go up the ladder behind Paul and stand there watching him, ready to grab him if he seemed unsteady.

Paul made it almost to the end of the show, when he finally had to rush off stage (he vomited on the director's foot, as I recall). Jeri, playing a giraffe, ended up delivering Paul's last line ("As Rapper the Parrot would say if he were here.....")

Yes, the show does go on despite all sorts of terrible problems. The audience doesn't care about what's going on in an actor's life. they have paid to be entertained.

W.S. Gilbert knew all about that when he penned the lyrics to "A private buffoon," >100 years ago:

Though your wife ran away with a soldier that day
and took with her your trifle of money;
Bless your heart, they don't mind, they're exceedingly kind,
they don't blame you as long as you're funny!


jon said...

I actually interviewed a living legend. A major league baseball player who won a few world series games.
Actually it wasn't an interview. He had been overserved at a local tavern and I asked him if he needed a ride home.

jon said...

OOPS! *****mingle****