Posts Tagged ‘butter-flavoured heart attack’

Blacksburg, Virginia, November 14:

We performed another Taming of the Shrew at the Lyric Theatre, a venue that both shows movies and hosts musical and theatrical acts, such as ourselves. Consequently, the marquee read ‘INTO THE WILD’ and below it, ‘THE TAMING OF THE SHREW;’ it was delightful to feel that the two art forms were living side by side, peaceably, and in brotherly love, without theatre getting uppity about the magic of community created by shared space, or film getting uppity about the fact that it makes a bajillion dollars whilst theatre is required, in 99% of cases, to hold out a hat just to survive. Also, it made us feel, if even falsely, famous.

Other movie theatre attributes of the Lyric included the vending of popcorn, thus making everything smell tantalisingly of butter-flavoured heart attack. Evan obtained a bag of popcorn in the lobby before he came in as the Lord in the Induction, and was chomping on it with such gaiety, that the normally urbane Lord was strongly reminiscent of a six-year-old. Ha HA! Let’s see Vince Vaughn, or maybe that gigantic bear, jump out of the movie and eat your own popcorn, film suckers! Ahem. Brotherly love. I forgot.

I did not take any popcorn, because it seemed improper for Bianca to eat popcorn. But I cannot wait until we do Henry V in the Blackfriars. The Boy is going to solicit candy from audience members like it’s his job.

The other telling movie-theatre feature was the fact that the backstage was clearly designed for people who are flat. The actual backstage was a hallway wide enough for about two people to stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, or one person, if that person is wearing a turquoise petticoat of such volume that it almost stands out perpendicularly from said person’s waist. (You have three guesses as to who this theoretical person is; the first two do not count. A considerable hint if not definite answer can be found in the troupe picture taken in Canton. Process of elimination may work for you, if naught else.)

We set up the pipe-and-drape system along the back wall, which created an auxiliary backstage. This system worked quite well until the final scene, when Alisa, Ginna, and I go backstage because Bianca has decided it’s time for the men to drink port and smoke cigars and ostensibly talk about politics but probably talk about women (which they clearly do; they even bet on them). Normally, the three of us stay right behind the entrance; I get lazy because it’s such an effort to walk in those high heels. But today, I needed to go the bathroom, and Alisa needed to do some costume thing in the backstage area, and all three of us walked, like lemmings, into the backstage hallway.

The door connecting the backstage hallway to the pipe-and-drape entrances had been propped open for the entire performance with one of our signature black boxes, but all boxes are called to the stage in the final scene, so the door was shut. As it is the property of doors to close, it did not alarm us, nor did alarm us when we went through and the door closed behind us. It chiefly became a problem when Ginna realised that the door to the stage had not only closed, but LOCKED. The three of us then shared a moment in which the palpitations of our hearts meant that everything in the world seemed to travel in slow-motion. We were unable to get back on stage at arguably the worst possible time in the show: the action, after all, is focused on the re-entrance of Kate at Petruchio’s bidding, and if Kate does not enter, we have a slightly different story on our hands.

Of course, we realised within a couple of seconds that the situation was not quite that dire; Ginna went around to a side-entrance that opened into the auditorium in front of the first row and right next to the stairs to the stage, and Alisa and I started rapping on the locked door quietly enough that it would not be audible to the audience, but hopefully noticeable to Evan, who, as Biondello, comes to fetch us. It was not audible to Evan, because the first we heard from him was a panicked “WHERE’S GINNA?” as he tore open the locked door to see Alisa and I with our knuckles still poised upon the air at the very instant that Ginna was entering into the audience.

The experience backstage was certainly a comical one, if for different reasons than the experience onstage. Apparently, Chris/Baptista said, “By my holidam, here comes Katherina!” looking expectantly at the upstage-left entrance through which Kate usually appears. Chris/Hortensio, who is seated facing the entrance through which Kate ACTUALLY appeared, saw her and apparently signalled to the rest of the company that Katherina was, in fact, offstage-right, and everyone slowly turned to see her in a thoroughly new location.

Ginna, in re-telling the story, said that she tried very hard to clomp her gigantic boots as she entered, in the hopes of being audible. Though her plan did not work, everyone adjusted fairly well, without the need of explanatory interjections such as, “Why, daughter Katherine! How come you ‘round that entrance of the house?” Improvising is not easy in Shakespeare, especially not in verse.

N.B. This is sometimes a good thing, as I notoriously add text in order to justify mistakes, like in the famous matinee of A Doll’s House in which the Christmas tree caught on the doorframe within five seconds of the play starting, and I laughed, “Dear me! It looks as if I’ve picked a Christmas tree too large for my house!” and then, thirty seconds later, the unwieldy Christmas tree smashed the water glasses on the side table, and I called after the disappearing form of the maid, “Get a broom and dust pan, would you, Helene? I’d hate to think of the children stepping on the broken glass.” These were merely two of five such episodes during the course of the performance.

I am a mild-mannered actor, to all appearances, working on my blog much in the way that Clark Kent and Peter Parker work for their respective newspapers, but all the while harbouring the alter ego of the RUTHLESS IMPROVISER! Granted, the Ruthless Improviser really only comes out when there has been some kind of disaster on-stage which the R.I. (Ruthless Improviser, not Rhode Island) deems it necessary to smooth over. This is the bat-signal to which she responds, not to the ‘make the audience laugh some more’ bat-signal. She realises she has mixed her superhero metaphors, and thus departs.


However, the mild-mannered actor in whom the qualities of the R.I. lie obscured, singled out a nice boy sitting on the stage right to flirt with during the “special…face” line in the Kate/Bianca Bound scene. As Jim originally suggested I pick out someone from the center audience, which I have faithfully done in every single show, this created a slight departure from blocking, which I discussed with Ginna beforehand.

The reason I thought it might be a worthwhile departure was because said gentleman and I had a slight discourse during the pre-show, unhampered by the fact that I am singing most of the time. I knew he must be kind because he complimented me on my singing, and, as my singing is really nothing special, one would have to be a generous human being to find merit in it. I complimented him on his shoes, not simply because I wished to be generous in return, but because they were really great Chuck Taylors. He elaborated that he had specialised Hokie-coloured ones, and I was confused for a minute, as I am not a student at Virginia Tech, and had been in the town for about five hours.

But when the moment in the Kate/Bianca scene came, let me say: BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE. Or at the very least, BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE AS BIANCA. This kind boy not only waved back, but leaned forward in his seat, placing his chin in his hand, and nodding eagerly. He may even have been batting his eyelashes. The audience cracked up, because they could not only see my flirtation, but they could also see the person for whom it was intended and his subsequent response. On the whole, I thought it was one of my best shows; I remember having a lot of fun with Raffi and Chris in the Latin/Music Lesson Scene.

We were staying in a beautiful hotel, a welcome anodyne from our previous two experiences; it was comparably beautiful to the Hyatt in Sterling, VA, only without the confusion with the staff, both of which are still tied for second in my mind after the Belmont Inn. As Aaron and I were discussing the Touring Heaven that is a microwave, a refrigerator, and a gigantic flat-screen TV, I wondered aloud, “Why is it that we only stay in the really nice hotels for one day?” “Because if we were here for more than one day, we’d be staying somewhere else,” Aaron replied. Ah, the wisdom of Master Hochhalter. Young Nerd has much to learn.


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