Thursday, October 25, 2007

Well, I Never!

Last night's show, as it turned out, was not at Don't Tell Mama, but the Wings Theater on Christopher Street. And it's a shame that I didn't badger my nearest and dearest into coming to see it, because (you will hardly credit this, but I give you my solemn word), upon arriving at 6:00 p.m. for an 8:00 p.m. show, I was dragooned into running the Booth. I, who have never dared to touch a strange button in my life--at least, not mechanical ones. I spent the two hours before the show as nervous as two virgins, and for the two hours after that, I was as nervous as three.

Now, let's not make too much of this: since no one for this down-and-dirty show actually did any lighting (nor could we have done; the theatre was doing another show on other nights, and all the equipment was set to its specs), there was little to do but bring the lights up for the whole stage at the beginning of the scene, then black 'em out at the end of the scene. The cast, thank God, were very conscientious about remembering their exit lines and the lines leading up to them. Not a one did they miss.

But the computer was not as sensitive to my touch as an old-fashioned light switch would have been, and it wasn't easy to get into the rhythm of the thing--to have the lights fully up before the first line was spoken (but not before the scenery and players were settled), and to black 'em out after the last line ASAP, to prevent tableaux vivants. I shudder to think what the videotape shows.

The one stage-light catastrophe occurred near the beginning. After the opening number, which went reasonably well, I prepared to bring the lights back up when the characters for the first scene on my cue sheet had taken their places. At this point, a body, quite obviously not that of any of the scheduled actors, appeared onstage. I assumed this body was setting up chairs and props, and watched intently, my finger hovering over the button. Suddenly, the body began to deliver, loudly and rapidly, a speech I'd never heard before, and the videotaper was gesturing wildly at me. I cued the lights. Our Fearless Leader was delivering a Manifesto before the sketches began, in praise of the Baby Boomer Generation (I wouldn't have thought it possible to find anything to praise in the BBG, but that's neither here nor there). She had noted it in the schedule she'd e-mailed to us all the day before, but what had that schedule meant to me then, un-dragooned as I then was? And how could it have sunk in to my aging brain, anyway, when we'd never heard the speech in rehearsal, nor ever actually done a full run-through, in any form? Well, next time, I'll know better!

I did have to cue a track for a comic song and six sound effects; well, four, actually, because my dragooner came back and cued nos. 3 and 4 for me. Out of those four, I screwed one up: in the darkness of the Booth, I mistook the "6" on the monitor, telling me how many tracks were on the CD, for the "6," which would have told me that I was about to play that track. I pressed the button, the CD began to play track 1, I realized my mistake at once and pressed "stop," but too late: a doorbell went off in lieu of a mobile. This provoked merriment in the audience, but not of the type desired. At least, not of the type desired by me.

Everyone was very, very kind afterwards. Well, next time, they'll know better!

Another thing: someone referred to me in passing as the musical director. Where did they ever get the idea that I know sweet FA about theatre?

And the show? Better than I expected. The material was good--I've always thought so; but the cast, with a prop here and a shawl there and a good shot of energy, were better than they ever were in rehearsal. No doubt this stuff will be re-enacted elsewhere.


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