Do you ever watch ice skating? I do. If I’m flipping channels on the tele, which happens less and less these days now that there are a quadrillion channels, if I happen upon ice skating I freeze in my boots and let it pull me in.
Because ice skating is dangerous.
And because it’s dangerous, there is an allure to it. And the allure is that it makes me so nervous watching it. Here are these beautiful, fit people in sparkly uniforms hurling themselves across an ice field. I shouldn’t have to tell them this, but ice is hard. And cold. I personally do everything I can to not fall on ice. And if Snowmaggedon 2019 has taught me anything, it’s to stay off the ice. I seriously think I pulled a groin muscle in a parking lot. Anyway, that’s another story.
What makes ice skating doubly frightful is Scott Hamilton’s voice giving the play by play. He’s a great commentator because the excitement he feels comes right through his voice and settles into your central nervous system. If he’s anxious, I’m a wreck. And he’s anxious a lot. “Oksana Baiul has missed this triple lutz every practice…” “Elvis Stojko has a serious ankle injury. Will he make it through the routine or will his tibia snap like a rice cracker… ?”
These people voluntarily put themselves in high risk situations for the opportunity to perform. And that ups our excitement.
So let me tell you a little story about last night’s performance. Act I was all well and good. It was a smaller house but they were very receptive. The actors were strong with no huge line snafus. We’d had two days off and there’s always a little voice in the back of my head thinking, “You had two days off. Are you going to forget your lines?” But no, I remembered them.
Cut to Act II. Intermission is ending, the lights go dark, and the 5 actors make their way back to the stage. Two go one way down the left side, 3 go to the right.
As Amy and I (we are the 2 on the left) make our way behind the flats the music does a hard cutout. Amy whispers, “Wow, that was a bit harsh.” We stand and wait for the lights to come up.
Terry, Devika, and Carolynne are onstage. Prepped and ready.
Loud footsteps. ‘Is someone running?’ The footsteps are going across the width of the theater, then they make a turn, and they are looming toward us. Our Stage Manager rushes behind the flat. “There’s no power.”
Yup. No power. Much like an errant rose thrown at an ice skater’s feet can present the skater the challenge of avoiding said flower, an errant chair centered in an aisle can present the actor the challenge of avoiding said chair, forcing the actor to the side and inadvertently knocking out the power cable.
So the question arises, do the show with the Stage Manager using the slider on the house lights (a couple of huge chandeliers) or take the chance to reload the entire show – sound, lights, and projections – and hope it works.
The actors are still frozen in place onstage. They may be freaking out on the inside but they are cool as cucumbers on the outside. I love them.
“Re-load the show.”
Sarah walks out to the audience and lets them know that we’re having technical difficulties and that it may take a moment. “This is the excitement of live theatre, folks!” The audience, gracious and kind, laughs and waits patiently.
The actors wait longer. Motionless. I love them more.
Finally the sound and lights come on. The music starts and the actors get going. It felt like an eternity but probably wasn’t more than 5 minutes. The projections were a mess and were non-existent in the first few scenes and then “worked on” for a few more scenes. We got through the rest of the show mostly unscathed. And the audience was kind with their applause.
There are so many stories of actors crashing into set pieces and getting bloodied (been there, done that), forgetting integral lines that are needed for the continuation of the plot (how do you finagle the plot back into the scene without a flow chart?), set pieces breaking (yup, I sat down and the legs fell off the couch. yup, I took it personally.), lights failing, sound failing, zippers open, actors barfing, stagehands, after falling early in Act I, stoically waiting for the show to end so that the paramedics could rush in and take them to the hospital (thinking of you, Bob). You name it, it’s probably happened. And for the most part, the show goes on.
What’s going to happen tonight? It’s really anyone’s guess. That truly is the excitement of live theatre. It’s a full contact sport.
All we need now is Scott Hamilton’s voice dubbing over the opening music. “Well, folks, they lost all power yesterday. Will it happen again…?”
I don’t know if it will. I don’t know if something else will happen. But if it does, I’m confident that we’ll stick the landing.
Final note: I do not suggest Googling images of “skater fall”. Trust me.