Sunday, January 1, 2012

So it's January 1, 2012. I plan to blog daily, 366 times this year.

Okay, to quote William Goldman via Dustin Hoffman in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, that's total bullshit, but at least I haven't missed the first day. I don't have a good feeling about writing tomorrow, but you never know.

Anyway, this time of year invariably takes me back to a period in my life which I recall warmly. Well, mostly warmly. There was that horrible five minutes which I've been meaning to discuss for the past 33 years, but the experience was, generally speaking, a pleasant one. I was playing a snowflake in SCROOGE AND MARLEY, which I believe is Israel Horovitz's excellent adaptation of that Christmas show everybody complains about doing but always does. 1979, I think it was. I was a child. The production was being staged at what was called back then Theatre By The Sea in Portsmouth,NH. By "snowflake" I mean I was one of those non-Equity people who played a businessman in scene one, a caroler in scene two, a Fezziwig reveler in scene three, and on and on, costume change by costume change, throughout the show, for probably 45 bucks a week. Wait. That's a little high for a non-Union actor in New Hampshire in 1979. Let's say 40. I was making about five bucks a costume change.

But I had a nice time. I was reacquainted with an old friend from the Garrett Players in Lawrence. We car pooled and it was fun, except on the day he decided to show me how he could get through the Portsmouth toll booth on 95 without paying. That was frightening. But he was a good guy and it was fun to work with him again. I made some new friends among the other snowflakes, and got to sing a little harmony in scene two. Working in theatre at Christmastime, doing Dickens. What's to complain about, really?

Well, there's that five minutes I mentioned above.

So it's dress rehearsal day. A long one. Probably 10 hours out of 12. We had gone through tech the day before, but it was a mammoth show and the dress wasn't running as smoothly as it should the day before opening. But it was nothing out of the ordinary. Anybody who works in theatre knows that dress rehearsals of technically difficult shows have their ups and downs. But you stop and go and fix things and eventually you open and run and get paid and go home. Show biz.

So it's somewhere in the middle of the second act. Probably the scene change into Dick's living room, or whoever the hell owned the living room Scrooge visits in the Present. No, not Dick. The Nephew. Yeah. Dick's from the Fezziwig scene. Snowflake Senility. Anyway, it's a big scene change and a lot of the actors are involved in it. I am not. I had been, during tech the day before, but the stage manager, who had me moving a chair from one spot to another, made a change during the final run of the tech and gave the chair move to one of the Equity actors. No biggie. It was just easier for that guy than it was for me in terms of where we were on the stage.

Well, we get to this change in dress and it's a train wreck. Nothing works. The stage manager, who is a very tall, bearded, unkempt individual who looked like he took tickets at Woodstock, screams HOLD!!!! So we held. He yelled loudly. It was our best option. He started to fix the change.

Well, that's not really true. What he did was he proceeded to tell us how we screwed up the change. "Jack, you were supposed to move the chair from left to right! Come on, for Christ's sake!"

"Uh...Bill (wild guess, could have been Bob. Or Mike. Or Asshole. I'll call him Bill.) changed that yesterday. Peter is moving the chair."

"You are moving the chair."

I was concerned that Peter wouldn't register this conversation, so I wanted to keep things correct and avoid another train wreck." "No, Bill, you changed the move from me to Peter yesterday..."

"I'm looking at my book where is says, 'Jack moves the chair.' Do you have a book? Do you have that written in your book?"

"You told me to..."




In my entire theatre life, before that time or since that time, I have never heard a stage manager talk that way to an actor. It was the most humiliating, embarrassing, and WRONG thing I've ever experienced in a rehearsal. And I've been in a lot of rehearsals. So we ran the scene change again. When it came time for me to move the chair, I went to the chair and reached for it. At the same time, the Equity actor who had been assigned to move the chair after the move had been taken from me, waved me off and moved the chair himself. He also moved it on opening night. And he moved it for every performance of our three-week run. Every performance. All I want to say here is that, if anybody ever runs into Asshole, or Bill, please tell him that I was in place, poised, prepared to move that chair for every performance, but never did, because the actor he had assigned to make the move, did it himself. But I was there. Every time.

I hope, Bill, that you stopped playing a stage manager soon after that show, because you were not then a stage manager, and I doubt seriously you'd ever be a stage manager. Not a real stage manager. Let me put it this way--every time I visit a McDonald's drive-through, I look closely in the window. I am confident that, someday, the person handing me my Big Mac will be you.

Okay. 365 to go.