Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Long Weekend, Part 1

Sweat beaded on my forehead as the whole room waited. The technicians, the crew, the clients with their assistants, and the other members of my cast, all seemed to be holding their breath but it was hopeless, I had forgotten my line...

The above was not a scene from a movie or novel. It happened to me on Sunday morning just two hours before I was scheduled to perform that scene. The moment was tense and scary but lets look back at the circumstances that led to that unfortunate event.

One Wednesday afternoon in January my phone rang. It was Bill, a producer at SC. He wanted to book me on a couple of gigs. One of these gigs was to take place in Dallas the weekend of Feb 12-13. I contemplated whether to take this job since I was already booked to perform Saturdays at 9 PM with Straight & Nappy in WORDS, Donny's Skybox, 4th floor Piper's Alley (shameless plug). Since WORDS is a showcase performance that doesn't pay, I took this gig thinking of the easy money.

Flash forward to last Friday, the day scheduled to rehearse for the Dallas gig. The producer, the director and the cast met for a short rehearsal (less than an hour). There was only one scene to perform and it was pretty simple. One actor was to pose as a doctor at a convention. She would be introduced as a legit doctor and begin addressing the attendees. Less than a minute into her speech, another phony doctor (played by me) interrupts her. I speak a bunch of nonsense until I am interrupted by a disgruntled patient. The scene ends when a real doctor interrupts and takes the stage for his presentation about the importance of digitizing medical records. We only a day and a half to memorize it but it was only one scene. None of us were worried.

After rehearsal I went for drinks and a quick bite with my cousin Trish. Trish, my first cousin on my Mom's side, is about 13 or 14 years my junior. It doesn't matter because we get along so well. I love her spirit and openness and she loves that treat her like a peer.

Trish and I drank for a couple of hours and then parted ways. She had to meet a friend downtown. The producer of the Dallas gig and I were off to see another actor from this gig in his own production entitled Homecoming at the Improv Olympic. The show was good but I was up for the night. I knew I had an early call so I decided to stay up all night. So the producer and I headed down to Berlin for Bjork night. We didn't stay long but we did stay late.

Bill, the producer, headed home to pack. I did the same but...I was feeling randy. I arranged to meet up with a good looking brother in my neighborhood to "keep me entertained" until I had to meet the others at Second City.

Cortez, the neighborhood fellow, and I had a great time doing things I don't discuss publicly. At 5 am, I left Cortez's place with my bag and headed downtown.

The others were at Second City waiting so we jumped into the limo and headed to O'Hare Airport for our trip to Dallas. I was fortunate to trade my aisle seat for a right side window (I always sleep towards the right) and slept from beginning to end of the flight.

We touched down at DFW on time and our driver took us to the beautiful Adolphus Hotel. We had two and 1/2 hours before our tech rehearsal so I took a nap. I woke up groggy but ready to go to the theatre and knock this rehearsal out.

Most tech rehearsals are for the sake of the crew. They need to see where the actors enter, move to onstage, and exit. We also do microphone checks at this time. A scene as simple as ours should take about 15 minutes to an hour depending on how organized the crew is. Our rehearsal was 3 hours. Why so long? Well, the client didn't want us to just do the technical elements of the show. They wanted us to do the show full out. We were not ready for that yet, especially me. I didn't know all my lines. I was a bit hungover and quite exhausted. The client didn't care. They wanted us to rehearse it over and over. The also committed a huge theatrical sin. They gave us notes. Their notes were not just about technical elements, such as "you are out of the light" or "your mic isn't picking you up." Their notes were the kinds of notes you receive from a director, a horrible director. The notes included such gems as "Why are you holding that script?" and "I need you two to deliver that line together." and "I'm not sure what you said comes off as funny." GASP! This is not good...

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