Saturday, November 29, 2008

Play On!

As I've mentioned before on here, I spent 30 years in Community Theatre--the Fort Findlay Playhouse, to be exact. That was after 3 years of a drama minor in at Eastern Michigan University. One show I always wanted to do--as in direct, act, work backstage, whatever--was the show Play On! by Rick Abbot. If you have EVER been in theatre, be it community, professional, church, school, college whatever, you can't help but love this play. We went to see the show last night at the local Schoolhouse Theatre.

Synopsis: The local community theater is in its last week of rehearsal for their upcoming production of "Murder Most Foul," (the title of which was an Agatha Christie novel) written by a local playwright. The theatre has gone with the local playwright because they are broke and won't have to pay royalties if they use this playwright. The first act takes place 4 days before opening. The set isn't quite finished, the props haven't all yet been obtained, the actors still don't know their lines, the author is still rewriting the script--well you get the drift. I could relate to this on so many levels having worked practically every area of theatre there is.

The second act takes place during dress rehearsal. They still haven't done a straight run through of the play, costumes don't fit, the playwright still wants to change lines and when she can't she decides to help backstage accidentally erasing all of the sound cues. This is all after she has discovered that Agatha Christie already used the title, Murder Most Foul. During dress rehearsal, the cast cracks up and can't stop laughing. (This happened to me soooo many times--both as an actor and a director). The only thing to do is let them laugh it out.

The third act takes place opening night. EVERYTHING that can go wrong--does. Lines are forgotten or flubbed. Props aren't where they are supposed to be or don't work. Stage fright takes over. Costumes get caught on things. Flies are left open. Sound cues don't work. An actor gets drunk. You name it!

Honestly, I don't remember when I laughed this hard at a play. There were people around me who didn't laugh at all and even looked at me like I was crazy. I guess they had never worked on a play before.

It brought back so many memories. Such as:
1. My best friend in college falling asleep on stage during the Crucible. Hey, she was on her honeymoon!
2. The line in Somethings Afoot was I would much rather--and it came out I would ratch muther. We later named one of our gerbils the Ratchmuther.
3. A sword falling off the wall as someone slammed the door at the end of a scene. The poor prop person was trying to find it in the dark. A disembodied voice from the audience said, "It's behind the shield."
4. The line "I took a tramp through the elements" came out "I took a tramp through the elephants."
5. In college, it took two people to set lights--one on top of the ladder positioning the lights and one at the foot of the ladder moving it so that the person didn't have to keep going up and down. One time the person on the bottom moved the ladder before the person on top was ready and he was left hanging from the light bar. Luckily, the ladder got moved back so he didn't fall.
6. When I directed my first play in community theatre, the actors skipped from the first act to the 3rd act. I was out in front and couldn't do a thing about it. It took a bit of doing but they finally got back on track.
7. During one play I was in, the lead was a real jerk and even though we had a prompter, wouldn't trust the prompter. So, if he forgot a line, he would walk off stage to look at his script leaving whoever was sharing the stage with him to fend for themselves.
8. When I was doing costumes in college, one of the actors came in drunk as a skunk one night and the director told me to hide his costume so he couldn't go on. That took some doing, believe me.
9. When I was directing Lion in Winter, I had cast a father and son as Henry II and King Phillip of France. One night during rehearsal, they got the giggles during their scene and couldn't stop. It really was kind of neat watching a father and son having fun like this.
10. A really neat memory--not a funny one, but my favorite--was when I directed 1776 and my son played the Courier who sings Mama Look Sharp. This is a really moving and poignant song. I would sit up in the balcony and when Dave got to a certain point in the song, he would turn and look at me. It never failed to bring me to tears.

OK, I guess that's enough reminiscing but last night's performance brought back so many wonderful memories of the fun times, the good times, the bad times etc. I had in theatre.


Gayle said...

What a great story. It would be interesting to have notes put into a book about all the plays you've been involved in over the years. I bet there are a lot of funny/sad things to tell.

Queen-Size funny bone said...

You should be writing a theatrical journal to share on a blog.

Tink *~*~* said...

Theater is a Petrie dish for stuff that makes great stories years later. I remember a production of Guys and Dolls - one of the flats fell down, and an actor quipped, "And they call Chicago the windy city....". Great stories, loved 'em!

Tink *~*~*

Shama-Lama Mama said...

We did "Baby with the Bathwater" way back and the two parents were fighting over "Baby" who was supposed to be buried in the laundry basket and had two fake legs with baby shoes on them hanging out one end. The parents were yanking the basket back and forth fighting over who was the worse parent. One parent accidentally let go of the basket and as they made a grab for it, grabbed a leg instead and pulled it right off!

The other parent said, "SEE! I TOLD YOU YOU WERE A LOUSY PARENT!!!" grabbed the leg and stormed off stage.

In act two, "Baby" grows into a man. The actor entered down the aisle with a severe limp which cracked everyone up.