So there I was. My latest short play, Basic Cable Method Acting, had enjoyed a successful opening performance. I’d just posted the blog post from last week announcing that fact. I was on my way to the staged reading of a pilot written by a friend of mine, produced as part of the First Mondays reading series by the Naked Angels theatre company – a program designed to showcase pieces workshopped in the Tuesdays at Nine series which I co-curate. So I was feeling pretty good that evening – until I made a fatal mistake.
I checked my emails.
There, I saw a fateful message from one of my actors, saying that he wasn’t feeling well – he’d come down with a sore throat, was spending the day resting, and planned to get tested for covid the next day. I said a few imprecations under my breath, and spent the rest of the evening mapping out contingency plans while only partially paying attention to the reading. Nothing was certain, after all, and I’m of the school of thought which maintains that the more comprehensively you prepare for disaster, the less likely that particular disaster will actually happen.
Well, not this time. The confirmation came the next day – four days before our next scheduled performance. Four days to figure out how to put up the show with one of the cast members missing. Fortunately, I’d figured out a choice for an understudy – somebody who’d already had a chance to see the script – and he’d agreed to do it by that evening. But that now left us three days to put him into the show.
So we did the whole rehearsal process all over again.
We coordinated schedules with the rest of the cast – again.
We gathered at the director’s apartment for blocking and lunch – again.
The actors huddled together for line-thrus – again.
And this past weekend, I sat in the theatre, again, sweating it out to see if we’d actually pull this off. Which we did, it was a fine show, the understudy did a magnificent job. I was happy and relieved – again.
But it still feels pretty damn weird.
Because by this time in the process, the show should be set, the actors have time to get the piece in their bones, in their muscle memory, so they can just start kicking back and playing. A show is supposed to grow over the course of its run, each performance building on what came before.
You’re not supposed to relive the beginning, over and over again.
But then again, we’re all reliving all of this, over and over again. This all happened because of a virus that sparked a pandemic three years ago. It’s still a disruption. It’s still the same disruption, regardless of how we change our policies, regardless of who’s implementing those policies. We keep promising ourselves that we’re moving forward and getting free of this predicament even as we find ourselves still in the exact same place. Something has to give, because this state of permanent crisis is unsustainable.
Of course, that won’t stop us from putting up the show again next weekend!