Every now and then the theater will give you one of those moments that alters your perspective on life. If you are luck enough to realize it, there can be nuggets of wisdom to be gained. And while I would never wish my last 72 hours on any director, I am grateful for the "Geoffrey Tennant" moments I have had this past weekend.
I had to go on for an actor who had landed in the hospital with pneumonia. Thankfully this didn't turn into a Charles Kingman moment, but was simply Geoffrey going on for Terry. And it's fun to go on as an understudy or impromptu understudy - you get to play the part without all the tediousness of rehearsals or the pressure to do well. Your job is to fill in to keep the play going. In this instance, however, it was hard because of the circumstances under which I went on. You never want to go on because of someone else's misfortune - especially in such a serious case as this was. No play is worth your health as I told this actor and another actor earlier this year who also caught pneumonia. The going on stage and doing the role was the easy part - the stuff around the edges was hard.
We went to visit the actor in the hospital last night after the show. He looked much better and was in good spirits. Hopefully he will be released as scheduled today and we'll all be able to live happily ever after.
The second Geoffrey moment came a day after I had to go on for our sick friend as another actor called me and said that she was "too sick" to perform at the closing performance. This was more of a "Clare, Clare, Clare with the hair" thank goodness she fell off the stage moment. I didn't even try to find out what "too sick" meant. I just said ok and moved on. And what a response it was. The actress who went on in her place, script in hand, was terrified but did a bang up job. The cast was there to support here through and I got to play Geoffrey supporting Terry through the Scottish play or Jack Crew through Hamlet. I tell you there is nothing more thrilling as a director. It's seldom that we have to be put on the spot like that - that's usually the performer's job. But when it happens, it feels good to be needed.
But in the end, the whole thing was made easier by the fact that this one wasn't life and death. It really makes you stop and think about the reasons we do this and really anything when someone's life hangs in the balance. And yet the bond that forms when you go through something like this with a group of people is really special.