Three nights ago, the guy playing Lysander in our production of A Midsummer Night's Dream walked out in the middle of rehearsal, with no intention of coming back.
Wednesday night, after a day of calling everyone age and talent appropriate we could think of to take over the part, the rest of the cast began to arrive for rehearsal.
Mom and I had discussed our options. We had been down a list of possibilities to replace the actor . . . none of them panned out. We went down a list of possible changes in the actual play . . . but had no firm decision made. Wednesday was set to be a "Makeup and Hair" night. Three out of twenty-two people came prepared to do that.
And then, to top it off, the costumers came in with fully made butterfly wings for the fairies to wear.
Mom broke. Before my very eyes, she crumbled in a state of anger, frustration, hurt, fear and worry. She took me by the hand and led me into an adjoining room where she cried, she swore. She downright panicked. And seeing her in that state, I was speechless until she said, "I should have quit years ago! What am I even doing?!"
Something clicked inside my head. I put my hands on her shoulders and said, "Not even. Everything is going to be great. I have a plan." And quite suddenly it was true. The plan was solid and fluid like chain mail.
"Let's do Much Ado. We can cast it. It's simple to costume, simple to stage, easily memorised and understood."
Her eyes remained vacant and broken, even as they spilled over with tears. "I just don't have the heart," she answered. "I can't go in there and tell them . . ." She trailed off with a look of dread and horror, playing the possibly scene out in her mind.
Now I was wearing the chain mail. A feeling not far from adrenaline kicked in. "Then let me do it. I'll take the helm. I'll take the crap or whatever comes." The feeling must have rolled off me and at least pushed against her void of reason.
She looked up to meet my eyes and nodded, "Okay?" She sounded unsure but trusting.
"You wanna come with me?"
She nodded again; so I took her by the hand and we went back to face the cast.
I told them the basic story, leaving out hurt feelings or gory details. I was all business; formality of the Now void of emotion. Silence was complete in the room.
I expressed the true problem: we could not find a new Lysander and have him learn such a difficult and physical part in the amount of rehearsal time left to us. Midsummer was not even fully blocked; and without a Lysander we could not finish blocking, let alone teach it to someone when they did step in. Our two options were cancel the show, or change it to Much Ado About Nothing.
Much Ado is a simpler Shakespeare for many reasons, I explained. Simpler costumes, almost no set, no wigs needed, no special makeup. The lines are conversational and easily understood. We would need to fill two parts, but they were both small and could be filled even the week before we opened with no great stress on the cast as a whole. I let them know that Mom has directed Much Ado twice, and I have directed it once before in High School. They were in confident and safe hands; we were in no way entering this play blind or ignorant.
Then I said, "If anyone is not on board, now is the time to make it known. I completely understand the emotional connection we all have to Midsummer. We are all invested. That is why I believe changing the show is a better option than canceling altogether. But if there are any dissenters, speak now to our face. I will brook no backbiting later. I want it clear that we aren't forcing anyone into this action." (And I'll admit, I really enjoyed being able to use the word "brook" in every day conversation. Though I paid only small attention to it at the time.)
If I had thought the room was silent before, it was nothing compared to this. Each member of the cast looked like I had punched them first in the head and then in the gut: muddled and wounded.
Finally the man who would have played Peter Quince, and who has been in just about every Shakespeare my mother has directed over the past ten years said, "I have walked out on you once, Carrie. I won't do it again."
A soft and emotional moment passed between him and my mother.
He continued, "I'm on board." And as I met the individual gaze of each person around the room, I heard and saw that they too were with us, come what may.
We discussed only a few more minute items, some people expressing quiet outrage at the selfish and irresponsible behavior of the departed actor. But from the moment the cast was with us, Mom began crying in relief and went into the adjoining room again. And I flew into a flurry, taking charge even to the point of announcing the cast right there.
Thursday, when everyone came to rehearsal I believe they were a little surprised. We set immediatley to work. We had it cast, we had scripts and rehearsal schedules ready and by 10pm we had Act 1 Scene 1 completely blocked.
The way the schedule is set up, we will often be blocking two scenes at once: Mom in charge of one, and I in charge of another. We will block for two weeks, run through the show for one week and then open July 10th.
Some people had their hearts completely broken, having had in Midsummer their dream role, and being "reduced" to a minor role in Much Ado. Others of us were taken from a compact role and expanded into something monumentally larger and in some cases creatively scarier. My mothers tears were not the only tears shed over this development.
The majority of the planned and built costumes will have to be revamped for the difference in era, need and casting.
When I say that the members of our cast and crew are being "troopers," it is a gross understatement . . . but how else can I say it?
Long story short: I will now be playing Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Muad'Dib is not involved at all; no longer performing in this endeavor, not even for a night (because he was the understudy of the departed actor). He is instead being the best husband and father in the world EVER. Supportive and loving. I leave my junk at the door and he doesn't ask me "How was rehearsal?" When we are together, we ARE, without all the other stuff. It's what is working for us and I like it. The kids, also are doing incredibly well!
And now comes the big thing. (I know, "That wasn't the big thing?") The big thing is that these current happenings have opened my perspective in a most wonderful way.
A month or so ago, I was aching. Three months before that, I was downright suffering through a cleanse and detox so emotionally vigorous that I was little more than a tree waiting out a storm: still and mindless. I knew it would go away. And it felt like it would never go away.
One of those days, early on, I had written out my feelings while sitting in church. And the Spirit spoke to me saying, "Consider this a time to rest. Take it in. Rest. Be." I learned during that hellish experience that it was possible for me to simply turn off some emotions, for a time. I didn't have to tap it out or validate them or sift through them and understand them. If the need was great enough I could just switch it off, function, and come back to it later.
And boy did that come in handy the past few days. When so many others around me were still just reacting, I had a plan. I used my adrenaline as a tool and set to work, completely armored by my plan, armed with my tool and my mind clear and open as a cloudless sky!
And then, after rehearsal last night, after I had driven home, after I had brought my bags inside and set them down. After I had kicked off my shoes and gone to find my hunny, I ran my fingers through his hair . . . then my body said, "Crisis mode ended. Return to normal function."
I was suddenly so tired. So last night I slept. And this morning, I opted to share this incredible experience, and startling turn of events with my bloggy friends.
I hope that despite the change of play, and Muad'Dib no longer being in it even for a night, you will all still come and see Much Ado About Nothing. Because when we open, after only three weeks of rehearsal, you will enjoy the feeling of your jaws dropping in surprise. Because in spite of all the above hullabaloo, we are going to ROCK!!!