Christmas play, glockenspiel, lighting design, Shakespeare in Words, technical rehearsals, theatre
One cold afternoon upon a time, we entered – the Squirrels, and Gemma, and I – a theatre in a small town around here, to settle in for a performance that night.
It was ten minutes to four, and I had arranged to meet the electrician to fix the lights, and we had a few pieces of scenery to mount. After which…
“We’re doing the lights first thing – but look, I want a tech rehearsal afterwards,” I warned. “If I can’t have one, there will be murder.”
Of course, they all said in round-eyed innocence. Of course I was going to have my rehearsal. Who did I take them for? And, after all these years, how naïve must I be? Gentle Reader, I believed them. There was plenty of time, I blithely thought – and cheerfully set to work with the electrician, while the men mounted our rostra.
The electrician had had my detailed lighting design for a couple of weeks – why, he’d even complimented me on it, so I assumed he’d read through it, and seen what was needed. I laboured under this pleasing illusion for about an hour, as we ran up and down ladders, and cut gels, and blew on our hands in the freezing cold. Because the theatre was chilly, and turning up the heat actually resulted in great but even chillier gusts of air – so we kept warm by trotting around, and with the thought of the tech rehearsal to come…
That is, until the electrician discovered that someone else had messed with his lights for a concert, and he had to readjust everything… Why hadn’t he checked it earlier, I have no idea – but still, this was no great worry, except that it was taking a lot of time. Gemma and a few others had been sent to have coffee twice, and by the time they came back (“Are we ready yet?”), we were just finishing with the stage’s one batten and its eight lights.
Not a lot of them, admittedly, but I had known, and modified the lights to suit – of which I felt moderately proud.
“Are we ready, yet?” asked Gemma again.
“As soon as we rise this. Let me make sure this red light points right to the rostra…”
And so it did – but together with it a blue light went on stage right.
“No,” I called to the unseen electrician. “Just the one, please.”
Which is when the electrician informed me that the bloody things could only be used in pairs.
“In pairs?” I wailed. “What do you mean, in pairs?”
“That they go two by two,” he explained helpfully. “One left, one right. Together.”
In pairs. I stood there, staring at the man in a way that made Gemma send the actors for coffee again. “And bring back a cup of tea for Clara, will you?”
In pairs. Hadn’t the blockhead even skimmed through my notes? What did he think I was going to do with pairs of lights? “Can’t it be fixed?” I asked through gritted teeth – only to find that it could – in theory – but it would take hours… This was a little past six, and for the next hour or so Gemma, and I, and the electrician worked hard at redoing the whole design with pairs – and setting everything again… You see, this was complicated by the fact that, after Shakespeare in Words, we were doing The Glass Baubles – a miniature Christmas play of mine – and the new state of things meant that the same lights should be made suitable for both the murder of Julius Caesar and a sweet little tale of Christmas trees…
It was well past seven by the time we had something that was remotely doable, and the musicians arrived – and…
“And now, as soon as we have the microphones checked, we do my tech rehearsal,” I announced, all belligerent. By then, they had all ceased believing my talk of murder was an empty threat, so the whole company trooped meekly to the stage, and we began, and…
And the microphones weren’t working. “I can’t think why,” the electrician grumbled. They did last month, when those people from Milan came down…”
And hadn’t he checked them again? Apparently not. If they worked last month, why shouldn’t they work now? Just so that I wouldn’t strangle him, I went to retrieve the memory stick with the one music file we needed – a small Christmas tune played on a music-box. The fellow tried, and everything worked, except he opened the wrong file, and we found ourselves with the Dies Irae bit in Verdi’s Requiem Mass…
“No, no,” I called hurrying down from the stage. “The one labeled Music Box.”
“Ah, right. Here goes…” And right at that moment the laptop died – and we were without music for the Baubles. Had there been a grandfather clock, it would have chimed eight just then.
“Had I known,” one of the musicians murmured, “I could have brought a glockenspiel.”
“Had I known,” I retorted bitterly, “I would have stayed home.”
Which was heartfelt, but premature, because the man teaches at the school music of just that small town, and the glockenspiel was to be had for the asking. In twenty minutes it stood glittering on the stage – and the musicians were quickly copying the melody by ear from my cellphone. And glory be.
I drew a big breath. What’s not to love in the theatre? What can happen that hard work, a little magic and quick thinking can’t mend? I love theatre. I took a half turn and “And now…”
“And now you get changed – and quick.” Gemma snatched me away to the green-room, where everyone was changing in the freezing cold.
“But my tech rehearsal…”
What rehearsal? It was half past eight, and in a quarter of an hour they’d begin to let in people… Which everyone else had noticed, and they were all watching me between sheepish and amused. Oh, pittikins! More because I didn’t want to catch pneumonia than in a real huff, I grabbed my things and went to change in the wings.
Once more, no tech rehearsal – and with a completely reworked lighting… What was it going to look like was anyone’s guess, and it’s the same bloody story every bloody time, and how we manage to never quite disgrace ourselves is more than I can tell.
Oh well. It’s theatre, right?