If you’ve been following me for more than a few days or weeks you’ll know that I’m currently involved with an amateur performance of The Comedy of Errors (LaSalle Productions’ 2nd annual Shakespeare in the Park show). I’ve been balancing that with the full-time schedule of work and home, plus the end-of-year marking madness. Tonight went even further with the craziness: not only was there a show to do, but my son also had his grade 8 graduation ceremony, which I was NOT about to miss. Ergo, I needed to clone myself or be quick about shifting both body and clothing quickly from one situation to another.
It went down almost exactly as I’d imagined it. Not necessarily a good thing, though.
Originally, I’d thought to be able to leave as soon as the ceremonies were completed, but it was not to be: even though the cast was amazing and tried to slow things down, I got a text from my stage manager that they’d hit Act III when we were only halfway through the awards, and then another that they were starting Act IV just as the awards were ending. There was still the slideshow and the final speech, but I only had 20 minutes until the beginning of Act V, where I make my entrance about six lines in.
So with ten minutes to go (I figured), I took off my heels, handed the boy’s graduation gifts to his dad, and quickly
slipped scrambled down the aisle as the slideshow was playing, my purse and camera bag in hand. A bit embarrassing to hurry out of the auditorium in front of everyone (I had to walk under the screen), but I was on a mission. Once I got through the doors, I was running. Ran in my stocking feet all the way to the parking lot, tossed my heels into the front seat and drove home shoeless (shhh, don’t tell the po-po!). Sent a quick text to my SM as I was starting the car, too, to let her know I was on the move.
Got home, ran in the door, yanked off my dress in the middle of the living room (thankfully a stretchy jersey with no buttons or zippers), struggled into the nun costume, stuck my feet into my flats, and ran back out.
First error: I didn’t stop to take out my earrings or remove my lipstick.
Jumped into the car. Texted the SM again. Drove off, this time with shoes!
Now, here’s where I kind of wish I could go back in time. In my head, I was worried about creeping up along the edge of the park, in the audience’s sightlines. So I had developed a back-up plan in the event that I didn’t have time to go the back way in: I’d simply make my big entrance from behind the audience, do the scene, and then leave as rehearsed. My error here (second one) was in not communicating that to either the director or the SM. I arrived with about five minutes to spare, probably giving me enough time to go around, but the scene in performance was rocking and I didn’t want to be a distraction to the 80-plus crowd of outdoor theatre-goers. So, I texted the SM again, telling her that I’d arrived and I was going to enter from the back, by the parking lot.
Error No. 3: there are TWO places to park multiple cars for the park. The main parking lot is in front of the Legion, and it was full, so I’d parked on the street. I didn’t choose to park in the other place, because again — sightlines — and it’s meant for wheelchair parking. Others had parked there, but I figured, with my luck, right?
Okay, so I’m crouching on the stairs behind the Cenotaph, trying to catch my breath and get focused. The scene ends and the final act begins. I approach the Cenotaph, see the director’s eyes sweeping the crowd and the edges of the park, and I’m fairly sure he sees me. But then he turns and goes quietly behind the scenes. Comes back out.
He doesn’t see me.
He doesn’t know I’m here.
The SM doesn’t know I’m here.
He’s got the script in hand. He’s going to say something.
There’s my cue!
I stepped forward (purse still in hand) and started my lines.
You know, if it had been a movie or something where suspense was intended, it would have been a terrific moment. And it worked, I got the audience’s focus and the attention of the actors, and I was told afterward about the collective sigh of relief backstage. But my legs were shaking by the time I got to the stage, and I flubbed a few lines near the end of that bit. Later, the director told me that he could tell I hadn’t had time to get settled.
And that’s where I’m mad at myself.
I think I let myself get carried away with the romantic, dramatic idea of the grand surprise entrance, when my responsibility was to get my ass backstage as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. I caused needless stress and worry among my fellow thespians, and even though it all worked out, the director was rightfully miffed that I hadn’t gotten there ten minutes ahead of my scene, which was what he’d expected to happen. And I still had my lipstick on — the brightest red he’d ever seen on a nun, he said — as well as my earrings.
I have apologized repeatedly to my fellow cast members, the stage manager (who said she’d gotten my text but misinterpreted it, and told me not to worry about it), and to the director. After the show, when I zipped home to fetch my dress again before I could change back out of my nun’s robes and wimple at the costumer’s house, I also grabbed what I thought was a full and fresh bottle of wine to give the director by way of apology, a gesture of mea culpa and penance. Sadly, in my hurry, I didn’t notice that in fact I had opened it at some point in recent weeks (or months) and had a glass.
So ends my tale of attempting to be in two places at once, meeting all needs and commitments. Lessons learned about communication and responsibility in theatre, the dangers of vanity overriding other concerns, etc. I’ve been told not to worry about it, it all worked out, but I feel that I’ve now lost something in my director’s eyes. Perhaps I’ve reinforced the perception of the ineptitude of amateurs. I’m now yet another cautionary tale as to why he needs to stick with professionals. I’m trying to think of some better way that I can make amends, but I can’t.
Dear readers, what do you think? I put myself in a pretty impossible situation, didn’t I? Crisis ended up being averted, but there was a cost, I think.