I actually wrote this a year ago. It was supposed to be part of another post I was writing, but when that post ended up too long, I split it up. And what remains, is a story. Theatre Story No. 1.
The theatre is a wonderful place. We go to escape, to have fun, to enjoy, to learn, to blow off steam – and I believe all of those are applicable either side of the curtain. Seeing a performance can be a magical experience; it can take you away from the rain outside, or your crappy day at work, from sad times or stressful times.
Though, as I’ve pointed out previously, things don’t always go perfectly, which is why I always find it so enjoyable when someone tells me a story of something going wrong. Not to sneer at the misfortune of others *cue MT lovers singing Avenue Q’s ‘Schadenfraude’*, but rather because things technically SHOULDN’T go wrong (because of the amount of rehearsal). So when they do, it’s rare. It’s funny. And I’ve been involved in so many myself, it’s also good to know you’re not alone! I’ll give you an example:
Throwback to 13 months ago, and HSAP’s Legally Blonde, at Harrogate Theatre. It’s opening night and the start of Act 2.
Now, in this production, we had a gauze (a mesh curtain, which usually has some kind of logo/artwork on it). When the stage is lit, it’s transparent, you can see set/actors behind it. When it’s not lit, it’s more translucent – you can’t see through it clearly, but shapes of people are still visible. The opening of Act 2 in Legally Blonde is ‘Whipped Into Shape’, and we were pre-set behind the gauze. Now, because of it’s transparent/translucent nature, as soon as you’re pre-set behind it, there’s no going back. No moving.
On opening night, some wires got crossed somewhere – we got told to pre-set, then AFTER this call, it turned out that there were still some audience members in the bathroom.
So picture this. The 10 of us stood in our pre-set positions. And bearing in mind the beginning of the song is a workout video, we weren’t just ‘stood’. Oh no. We were in various hench work out positions (lunges, squats etc), and, as I’m sure you have either experienced or can imagine, not the most enjoyable thing to hold for an extended amount of time.
But of course, we had to hold it. No going back seeing as it was a gauze rather than a curtain! How long did we hold it for? More than a couple of minutes, I can tell you that. I could see the other girls out of the corner of my eye, shaking, from holding the position for so long, slowly (so as not to be seen by the audience) trying to stretch their legs or bend their arms because of cramp.
The following night, a member of the stage crew confirmed that we were stood there for 7 minutes. 7. MINUTES. I’ve never held a lunge for so long in my life. And don’t plan on doing it ever again.
Moral of that story? Always triple check with the person on the book (the superstar that calls the whole show, sits with headphone on and tells everyone what to do), that you can pre-set on stage. Which I did for the rest of the run. And probably became quite annoying. Sorry Liz. But as much as I love a good lunge or squat, I wasn’t prepared to hold it for 5 minutes in front if hundreds of people every night that week. Mind you, it’d have probably been quite good for me 🍑
Theatre Stories, Volume 1 – done.