Monday, July 30, 2007

Only in live performances

There are many things that can happen only in a live performance that do not occur in pre-recorded art forms. This weekend, I was able to witness two of them.

I've been spending my weekends at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, reveling in the opportunity to watch not only both of my guys, but the wealth of talented actors performing Macbeth and Henry V. This past weekend, there were two particular events of note.

"Do I hear chimes?"

The first involved my husband and was one of those moments that actors talk about, but rarely have the opportunity to do.

Richard is playing the porter in Macbeth. His porter wanders through the audience before opening the door, delivering his jokes through a series of insults to the audience and some improv. He'd delivered most his lines and worked his way through a row of patrons and was about to head for the stage.

Then someone's cell phone went off with one of those long, musical ring tones. Richard raised his head and cried out, "Chimes? Do I hear chimes?" He then turned around and made a beeline for the person with the cell phone. "The porter will answer the door for knocking, but NOT for chimes!!"

As he drew nearer to her, he saw that she was highly embarrassed and uncomfortable and decided to not get in her face or identify her further to the rest of the audience and instead turned around (despite the other audience members pointing at the owner of the offending phone) and said, "Must have been my imagination."

He is of the opinion that the woman probably won't bring her cell phone into the theater for at least the next six months. Meanwhile the audience showered him with appreciative hoots and applause.

The show must go on

It's happened to every group. An actor is suddenly not available for any of a number of reasons and the show must go on.

This weekend, the actress playing Lady Macbeth awoke at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday with a violent bout of food poisoning. Within hours it was obvious she was not going to be able to perform at 2 p.m. because it showed no signs of abating.

Fortunately, there was a solution at hand. The actor playing Macbeth, David Blixt, is married to a fine actress that he originally met at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival many years ago. The two of them had performed as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in repertory for several years until she became pregnant. While it had been a few years since she had performed it, she still had the lines memorized.

So Jan Blixt took the stage without a script, filling in with less than three hours notice to get to the theater (thankfully she was in Ann Arbor and not her home in Chicago), learn the blocking, and rework some of the scenes. She had memorized a different cut, but the actors were able to work around her and she did an absolutely beautiful job. It was truly impressive work on her part.

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