I was asked to help direct a funny series of skits on the naming of various town and communities in our county (Haywood, NC) to be performed at the historic Herren House this Saturday night. And I was thrilled at the invitation. Watching actors strut their stuff never tires me. As a writer, I’m also fascinated by the process of the written word being slipped on like a new skin and coming to life for the duration of a performance. And finally, these actors, many of whom have a long history with HART (Haywood Arts Regional Theater), are simply fantastic. For example, Hugh and Dot Burford could captivate a crowd by reading aloud from a phone book.
Hugh: “Alexander. Bob, Brenda, David—“
Dot: “Frank, Mrs. Janet—“
Me (in audience): “Good Lord. I’ve got to meet these Alexanders! They sound fascinating!”
But here’s a confession: Whenever I direct, part of me secretly hopes something goes amiss. Not horribly wrong. No injuries. No burning humiliations. But a little hiccup during the show, dealt with, smoothed over, decidedly ignored . . . I admit it excites me and makes me cheer all the harder when the curtain closes.
Allow me to illustrate.
A few years back I directed a skit about the story of Job for our church’s Wednesday night supper. Our actor playing Job did a wonderful job. He was experienced enough not to be bothered by the clip-on microphone and scratchy costume. He moved convincingly without turning from the audience. And, for purposes of this gig, he could wail and prostrate himself like nobody’s business.
On the night of the performance, the voice of God (likely played by Hugh, our county’s caucasian grandpa James Earl Jones) boomed from offstage, “Sure, Job, you’ve suffered through a bunch of calamities. But I’m God. Who the heck are you to question me? Art thou a whinypants?” (I paraphrase here.)
Job threw himself into Prostrate Position 3 (grovel with a half-wince) and drew in a breath to confess his whinypantsness to the Almighty when his cell phone, nestled unfortunately close to the lapel mic and now activated during the prostrate maneuver, called out in a soothing femalebot voice, “State voice command!”
From my position in the audience just right of the stage, I saw a few eyebrows raise. A child snickered and was shushed. But our Job missed nary a beat.
“Oh, Lord, Thou art right! How could I complain just because my family’s dead and I’m homeless and have a totally gross skin condition?” (paraphrase)
Once Job was given his upgraded family and home and some celestial Leprousy-B-Gone, the audience went wild. It wasn’t just for the performance, I knew. It was especially for our Job, who shouldered technological adversity with aplomb. Here was his reward, and it remains my favorite memory of the night.
So during this October 1 performance by the HISTORYonics (not paraphrased) , will someone flub a line? Miss a cue? Injure another via petticoat? I’m not worried at all. At the curtain’s close, I’ll be clapping all the louder.
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Angela Dove is an award-winning columnist and author of the true crime memoir, No Room for Doubt: A True Story of the Reverberations of Murder (Penguin Group). Find out about author events at www.AngelaDove.com.