Astonishing Feat

Today was supposed to be a free morning but I had to call an extra rehearsal last night in order to finish things up. I kept it very light as we walked through the light cues and adjusted a few scenes.

A long day awaited the cast and crew with two shows still. The afternoon show was a preview so I told the cast to save their energies. Even so, it was a fun crowd with a surprising number of foreigners (read: white people). That led to an astonishing feat that I never thought I would see with this production of Pippin in China…

There is one portion of the show at the end where the “players” ask the audience to come on stage to attempt the finale since Pippin has chickened out. Most audience members either don’t get it or are too afraid themselves to get up on stage. But sure enough, two “foreign” gentlemen volunteered. I just about flipped out since I didn’t ever remember preparing the cast for this. But as it turns out, I had told the cast of this distinct possibility over five months ago when we first put on Pippin in Shantou. The Leading Player, Avy, did just what I had told him to do then should such an event occur: lead the gentlemen backstage and make up an excuse for why they were not adequate to complete the finale. I was particularly proud of my cast for handling this so well because not a single actor on stage broke character nor flip out. They just went with it and that is all I could have hoped for.

The evening performance was for alumni and VIPs. I gave a stern warning prior to the show that this performance could easily slip and turn for the worst. And it did. The sound system went on the fritz just before opening the house. One of the two supertitle screens didn’t work so I scrapped that and put away the projector. I had to delay opening the house by fifteen minutes with the audience waiting out in the rain! Two of my leading actresses didn’t show up for call and didn’t answer their cell phones. I was about to go to my contingency plans by bringing in backups (I don’t do understudies) when the two girls showed up. They had napped a little too long. Within the show itself, little things went awry: the wagon almost took down a leg (a drapery hiding the backstage), grapes for one scene all fell off the vine and rolled all over the stage, a spotlight didn’t work for about ten minutes, missed lines, missed band cues, bad tempo, etc.

But what I was most impressed with through it all was the actors’ resilience. They just pushed on through the show as if nothing had happened. That is what mattered to me seeing as I don’t think the cast was comfortable enough with the show back in December to have made it through such mishaps on stage. But with time came a better understanding of the show and it showed through tonight.

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