My Worst Nightmare

Damn damn damn damn DAMN!

For the first time ever, I’ve had to halt a show in medias res, shut it down and send an audience home in the middle of a performance.

It’s a hard thing to do.

I know the phrase “the show must go on” is just that–a phrase, but it accurately reflects some inate drive toward not letting go of the momentum or “arc” of a performance once it’s started. Kind of like a baseball in flight. The law of gravity dictates the graceful arc it travels. It’s was the same tonight.

It doesn’t matter a whit that it was a preview. What matters is that it’s MY company, MY show, and MY audience and these things just don’t happen. After all the times I’ve told the team, “All we have to do is get through till April 25th. Just April 25th. That’s all. Just hang on until then” it was unnatural to just end at the halfway point.

We were going along just fine. Better than fine, the show was really cooking. Then in the last scene of Act I, the lights suddenly blinked from the daytime office look to a deep blue. I knew what it meant the instant it happened. I’ve been seeing in over and over for the past two days. Half the circuits were dead. We kept going. Of course we did. We finished the act, and despite the fact that all three of us were thinking “What happened?” over and over, the acting didn’t really suffer. There was no music either. I figured Bryan was too busy trying to salvage the lights. I could hear Lonnie tinkering away in the electrical room, trying to do what he could.

During the intermission Bryan came backstage and said that the whole complex had lost power, not just the dimmers in the theatre. Since the place had no power except what was left of the lighting system, the Powers That Be wanted us to clear the theatre. If the rest of the lights were to go, we’d be left in pitch blackness.

He said, “It’s up to you, Mr. Producer.” Well, what can you do in that situation? So I went out on stage and told the audience ‘thank you for coming’ but that we would have to shut down. I was so frustrated, angry, sad, hurt, shocked, and disappointed (not just for me, but for an audience that never got to see the best part of a brilliant script) that I was in tears for a while.

I’m so goddamn mad at the Mickey Mouse way this theatre is operated. I pay good money to rent a quality theatre in the heart of Hollywood and the equipment that comes with it. All I want is for that equipment to work. It doesn’t matter that we push it to its limits. That’s what theatre is all about. Who the hell wants to stay within the lines? We are not in third grade anymore.

I’ll tell you why this is so maddening: Steve and I started planning this show years ago. We left plenty of time, planned each step meticulously. It’s been a better organized show that anything I’ve produced in the past, except maybe Into the Woods. We’ve got better quality designers, actors, and staff than before. And for all that work, forethought, and preparation, our first public performance turns out like this?

It was made worse by the fact that we had some people like Tom Hatten from KNX 1070 on hand to preview the show.

Despite tonight’s disaster, there is a silver lining. My friends were all very supportive and understanding. My instinct was to stay at the theatre and work the problem, but Mark and Wendy insisted on taking me to Jerry’s Deli for a late night meal while the crew and designers attacked the electrical gremlins that have been the bane of our existance the past ten days or so.


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