Just remembered a story I’ve often told about a show I did. If you type ‘am dram hell’ into the search engine on this page, you’ll get the full three parts, but this is the best bit. This is taking you back to 2011, and I’ve been true to my word since then. Oh, I love this, by the way!
So it’s the interval, and all the talk is of near-death set catastrophes, but true to form, the band disappear back to their smelly little dressing room and start whinging. After we’d had our gentlemanly cup of tea, we decided to have a stab at the age-old band room staple, “Kick The Coke Bottle Into The Bin Then Cheer Hysterically If Anyone Gets It In”, which has served us well for a number of years.
This was a particularly disappointing version of the game with only one freak member of the band able to get anywhere near a consistent level of success. Still, we persevered. After an inordinately long amount of time, it was pointed out that things had gone rather quiet. Quiet outside in the corridor, especially quiet on the relay speaker in the dressing room. I wasn’t bothered about this. I was waiting for my poorly delivered call to start and that was that.
A few more minutes passed and we decided to have a look out into what it became clear was an empty corridor, normally full of giddy am dram people being giddy. A solitary member of the crew came bounding down the corridor saying, “Where’s the band, where’s the band?” We’re here, we helpfully suggested, waiting for our call. “We’ve started! You need to go to the pit!” Well, no my dear, we hadn’t started. I was the MD, and I was the one who started the Entr’acte, so of course we hadn’t started if I wasn’t in the pit.
Except that somehow they had started. From what I can gather from my Coke bottle based fun, was that in the drama of re-setting the over ambitious arch piece of set (read the previous entry) someone had forgotten to tell people that we’d started. Except all the cast were floating about being giddy/concerned, depending on how much they’d seen of the incident, so they were all ready. We’d been forgotten about (after all, it’s only the band, in a musical, no big deal). Front of house clearance had happened. As I’ve mentioned, there were no comms in the pit, so nobody could communicate in a normal theatrical way to ascertain that the band were in place. All the people sat down, the house lights went down, and no music happened. After an amount of time that I’m not aware of, rather than try and find out where the band were and perhaps get them into position, they decided to put the house lights up and the first few people in the first scene came on stage.
This is an interesting approach, but one which ultimately would fail, no matter what happened. At some point, there would be a song, and the music for that song wouldn’t start. Were they planning to do the second half as a play?
I’m not sure, but it didn’t come to that. The next person with a line, one of the ‘leads’, only left her dressing room when she heard the Entr’acte, which of course she didn’t hear. Therefore, with house lights down and stage lights on, three people with no lines came on and started doing some background acting. Then carried on. Nothing happened. Then they did it a bit more. To be honest, I don’t know how long they were there. It may have only been a few seconds.
When it became clear that we ought to go into the pit, we left the dressing room. Unfortunately, for reasons I won’t bore you with, two of the band had to walk into the pit through the auditorium. In silence. And darkness. Then there were various checks we needed to do, switch things on, put on headphones etc., all of which was done in complete silence and pitch black. The background actors on stage were still background acting, as they had been when they walked on to silence.
I then thought that we would be short changing the audience if they didn’t get to hear the Entr’acte, so we played it in full. Rather than take the stage lights down and give the actors a break, they stayed on, and throughout the two minute opening, they stayed and carried on doing their background acting. At the end of that, the scene started up and the lead came on as if nothing had happened. The audience were bewildered, didn’t react to the Entr’acte at all, and I suspect some thought it was all part of the ‘comedy’. It wasn’t.
Still, they all clapped at the end, and nobody was blamed. I suppose I could have not played the Entr’acte, but there was nobody to tell that to (have I mentioned there were no comms in the pit?) so I don’t think I had any choice. It could have been an interesting stalemate though, I wonder what would have happened?
Still, as somebody said pertinently afterwards, “it’s all good fodder for the blog”. Yes, indeed it is.
The week as a whole had quite a profound effect on me, and I shall no longer be involving myself in something of this nature. I don’t think I quite worded it in that way at the end of the run, but that’s essentially it. For the foreseeable future, I’m afraid I won’t be able to regale you with storied of Am Dram hell.
It’s better for the integrity of my skull. And the pit wall.