Playtime Terror

Loco Viewpoint - Chris McKerracher is a columnist for the Pipestone Flyer

My life, for the past while, has been a heady mixture of hard work, great hilarity and abject horror, all leading up to last weekend. My theatre group, the Calmar Prairie Players, and I were preparing for the world premiere of my latest play, “The Crimson Cap Ladies Catch a Con.” In the space of ten days we had to; set up lights, paint scenery, build the stage addition, erect the set, have a technical rehearsal and a dress rehearsal, perform the show for three consecutive evenings, (including setting up tables, wrapping cutlery, laying fresh linens, and artfully arranging the candles, glassware and centrepieces before each dinner show) then tear it all down again, leaving the legion, by Sunday at noon, like it never happened.

It didn’t help that I was playing a woman in the show. In fact, after our dress rehearsal, I forgot I was wearing makeup and didn’t notice the eyeliner and mascara hadn’t come off in my morning shower. When Cupcake picked me up after work, the first thing she asked is if any of the fellas in the office had commented on my lovely eyes.

Actually, the whole cross-dressing experience was weird. I never expected in my life to use the words “my” and “bra” together. Clear cutting my facial hair left me feeling more exposed than not wearing pants which, of course, I wasn’t, since I had on a lovely frock instead. It was terrible, too, when my wig slid sideways halfway through an act, after a particularly energetic tussle trying to get an unconscious vacuum cleaner salesman up into a love seat (don’t ask).

Despite the embarrassing makeup issue after, our dress rehearsal was a real spirit builder. Still, we knew anything could happen, being live theatre. Despite four long months of twice-weekly rehearsals, we still hadn’t had a flawless run-through. The stupid playwright tended to write disjointed dialogue which is tougher to learn. The old saying, “It’s a different show every night,” may have been coined for us.

Thursday night’s show was almost perfect, however. It was a bigger confidence booster than our pre-performance tequila shot. Friday’s show, too, went off with few hitches; most, if not all, missed by the audience who don’t know what we are supposed to be saying at any given moment (like we actors sometimes.)

Finally came Saturday night’s big performance. After doing the play for four nights out of the previous five, we felt we were ready for anything. And we were, except for one thing; the first act.

I don’t know if it was the huge crowd, complacency in the cast that we knew what we were doing or some sinister force from beyond, but when we came out for the first act, things went seriously sideways amazingly quickly. According to our prompter, we appeared to be picking random sentences to say from various parts of the play rather than reciting them in the order they had been written in.

Somehow we kept the conversation going, thank heavens,  and there were no dead spots with drawn out silences accompanying deer-in-the-headlights expressions. When the act finally came to its cliff-hanger ending, the relief was palpable.

“We didn’t die!” was the joyous refrain from the cast. We had seen the abyss and lived to tell the tale. Surprisingly energized by our faulty first act, we redoubled our efforts and delivered the two subsequent acts practically word perfect.

This was a major accomplishment for me, personally, as I had a private crisis at the time. I’d been fighting the flu for a couple days and just before going on, I had to… well… pass a wee bit of wind. Unfortunately, it felt much damper than a blast of hot gasses ought to. I was terrified there may have been evidence of the incident left on my polka-dot undies which are fully exposed at one point in the play when I am rendered unconscious by a blunt force trauma delivered by a water jug-wielding septuagenarian. I couldn’t go onstage with bacon strips on my Stanfield’s!

Unfortunately, there are no bathrooms in our dressing rooms and a hall full of people between me and the public facilities. Luckily, a panicked check of my underpants revealed I had just been the victim of my over-active imagination.

In the end we were wildly applauded and aptly lauded. The cast had taken a play which was amusing to read and made it, by all accounts, hysterically funny to watch.

I couldn’t be prouder.

 

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