I’m in a play. I am Juror Nine in the Center on the Square (Searcy, Arkansas) production of Twelve Angry Women. I’m having a blast. I knew six cast members previously and have made five new friends during this time.
In 2014, the “Archie” committee awarded me a life time achievement award. I sat out the 2015 season, enjoying the theater from the front of the house. But with the call for “Women” I decided the fat lady had not yet sung.
Each cast member has many theater credits. One of the fun conversations we have had during down time centers around gaffs, dropped lines, and accommodations made while hopefully keeping the audience unaware of the hysteria onstage.
You’ve heard the expression “The show must go on,” a phrase linked to show business, meaning that regardless of what happens, the planned entertainment must be staged for the waiting audience. They bought their tickets in good faith, they must not be disappointed.
The phrase originated a couple of hundred years ago in the circus. If an animal got loose or a performer was injured it was the ringmaster’s job to keep the show going so the crowd wouldn’t panic. But I digress.
In my 25-or-so years in community theater, where there are seldom understudies, I have seen the SMGO attitude exhibited often.
About 20 years ago I was in the company of It’s a Grand Night for Singing, a revue of Rodgers and Hammerstein hits. The music is lovely, each song set in a little vignette of its own. But this particular production seemed as plagued as Shakespeare’s Scottish Play (bad luck to say out loud).
During the first weeks of blocking scenes and learning music, the choreographer’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. A week or so later, the soprano’s husband chose that time to end their marriage. An alto lost her job, a tenor lost his father, and when a long-time icon of local theater died suddenly, several in the cast lost a friend and mentor. Yet, for three weekends we sucked it up and gave the audience a show.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, the movie made into a play, main character George Bailey skips through scenes with minor characters, quickly telling the story familiar to most of us. On the first Sunday of our three-week run at the old COTS, we suddenly realized two actors were missing. This was a few years ago before just everyone had a cell phone. When the couple was finally located they were unaware that Sunday was a matinee! They were planning on a 6:30 p.m. call. There was no way they could be there in time for curtain. The director stepped into the tech booth and the sound and lights guy became Harry Bailey. (Suspend disbelief when the WWII hero is sporting a full beard.) One of the moms who had attended every single rehearsal turned into Violet. She would stand in the wings studying lines, then step out and say them. Repeat as needed.
As an actor, I know that being there for the audience is important, yes. But I’m also determined to be there for myself. I have attended hours of rehearsal, I have memorized lines and blocking, I have run lines every day to keep them fresh in my head. I have thought a lot about this character and why she does what she does. Do you think after all that someone else could step into my role? Over my dead body.
Twelve Angry Women has 3 more performances this upcoming weekend. It has been a great run with no major glitches. Come see us if you can. We’ll give you a good show. It’s what we do for love …
For tickets or more information: www.centeronthesquare.org