Photo by Corbett.
As a result of all the work I put in on The Late Night Show during the winter months, something had to give, and what gave was my commitment to directing the annual spring play that my friends at the Eldredge Singers put on, which this year is 42nd Street . I was sad about the whole matter, because it's a great group of people and I always feel good about the show we spend six months laboring over.
Fortunately, when the big guy closes a door, he opens a window somewhere...although sometimes, that window's located in the outhouse! Not in this case, though, as I was asked to call the show they're doing. Calling, for those who don't know, means that I sit on my ass in a lighting booth and bark out instructions to folks who really know what they're doing and when to do it, and don't need me to nagging them to get it done. Plus, I get to hear all the conversations in the headset, which keeps me endlessly amused.
My favorite conversations involve Tony, the musical director for the show. Tony, who's been a best friend for years, loves the moment at the start of the show where he enters dramatically from stage right, dressed in his tuxedo, and receives a spotlight and thundrous applause. To deflate his ego, the headset conversations usually go like this:
ME: "Is the penguin waddling around backstage?"
JAY: "Yep. Should I bring him on?"
JAY: "He wants to know if the orchestra is tuned."
ME: "They are."
JAY: "He wants to know if the house lights are down."
ME: (Deep sigh) "What does he want, a formal invitation? The penguin needs to fly!"
My involvement is basically limited to about a week until the show goes up, and then the first week-end of performances. I have to travel to New Jersey that second week-end. It does mean a bit of scrambling in the family situation...Corb picks up a lot of the slack, thank God.
Not a bad gig, really. I get to see the show come into being and hang around with a lot of people I like for a few days. Plus, having not directed, I don't have to yell at anyone! This I can totally live with...I feel like the favorite uncle who comes to hang around for a few days. The one that hands you five dollar bills and pats your back every now and then.
Last night was opening night, and, as usual, things all managed to work out, despite the insanity of the past week. Sets to be completed, lighting cues to be sorted through, drops and curtains to be raised and lowered...it all came together, thankfully. Which left one thing to do...celebrate.
To make sure that Corb and me get some "us" time, I have deliberately been avoiding going out after rehearsal too much. However, last night was opening night, after all, so I made it a point to be there.
Glad I did, too. I met up with my friend Kim, a marvelous writer who reviewed the play last night, and brought with her a friend that I haven't seen in years, Bev, who I used to work on community theater with almost two decades ago (when I was but a child). It was great to catch up and talk over old times, tell old theater stories, update each other on who's doing what. Although we live in the same town, we now travel in different theater circles, and that makes all the difference.
I love catching up with old friends, and conversations like this:
TED: Is so-and-so still a pain the ass?
BEV: What do you think?
TED: Is so-and-so off the wagon, again?
BEV: What do you think?
Gossip, laughter, singing. And, of course, beer. I sat next to my pal, Sue, and we talked about our trip to New York a few months ago, to Myra, one of the chorus ladies.
MYRA: You go to New York City together, just the two of you?
ME: That's right! I leave Corb home, all alone. It's great! I get to be a heterosexual for the week-end.
MYRA: (Amused) Oh really?
ME: Look, I played a heterosexual for thirty years of my life...you can't expect me to give it up cold turkey, just like that!
At the end of the night, as things were winding down, I was talking to the director of this show, Greg, who's a terrific nice guy and has worked hard to make the show perfect.
Earlier that evening, he said to me that "his job was now done" (although oddly enough, the backstage staff received a slew of notes this morning).
However, as I was talking to him, I started to realize that he was starting to feel the way that I get at this point in the production: the happiness of seeing it come to life, and the sadness of knowing that the show had taken on a life of its own.
"You know the end of 42nd Street, in the movie?" Greg remarked. "The show is a big hit, and everyone's planning the parties they're going to go to, and busy congratulating each other? And there's the director, watching everyone walk away, feeling a bit on the sidelines? That's sort of how I feel, right now."
Yeah, I know that feeling. Directors need their time in the spotlight, too. Then again, there's always the final cast party, and if I know this group, there will be very nice parting gifts, for a job well done.
That helps to kills the pain.