The craft of theater helps one to think on their feet. At any given moment something can go awry during a performance. A costume could tear. A heel of a shoe could break off or a storm could take out power, and one has to hook up a generator. Such things happen.
The relationship between the audience and performer is a gracious one. Generally the audience accepts these mishaps, files them mentally away and continues to be absorbed in the story the performer is telling.
Recent events at the Players brought this to the forefront of my mind. First, I would like to send a big thank you to the opening night audience of “Sunday in the Park with George” for understanding our late start. As opening curtain time approached our stage manager Rose Packer realized she could not communicate to the crew via headset.
Backstage communication is essential for a fully produced musical with a full scene shift crew that includes two follow spot operators, dressers to help with quick changes, riggers who help fly in scenery pieces from overhead as well as move in scenery from off-stage.
Our deft master electrician Michael Trudeau and sound designer Nick Keenan were quick to respond and trouble shoot the situation while Rose and the crew were given walk-talkies to use should the system not be able to be re-booted.
But it did fire back up and all went smoothly for the rest of the performance.
Sometimes things on stage don’t go the way you have performed them night after night.
During the closing performance of “Once a Ponzi Time” the character named Louie played by Noah Simon tosses flowers with exuberance around the room from about 12-feet from the stage edge. Sunday afternoon one of the flowers broke the “fourth wall” and landed on an audience member in the front row.
The “fourth wall” is the imaginary “wall” at the front of the stage through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play in a traditional three-walled box set in a prosceniumtheater, such as “Once a Ponzi Time” at Peninsula Players.
How did Louie handle the situation of a “disappearing” flower from the room? He followed the flower’s path of trajectory with a look of sheer wonderment on his face. He paused at the stage edge and raised his hand to “knock” on the wall. The audience roared with laughter and Louie continued on with the scene. At curtain call he apologized to the patron the flower landed on.
I believe this is one of the joys of attending live theater. Each performance is unique and will never be repeated or be the same. The audience’s reaction feeds the performance, and the performers react to the audience. It is a symbiotic relationship and a beautiful one.
I love hearing an audience gasp with astonishment, squeal in surprise or laugh heartily. I heard that all opening night at “Sunday in the Park with George.” I hope a live performance at the Players stimulates your imagination and transports you to an artist’s studio in Paris, France in the 1880s, or perhaps to the castle home of William Gillette in the 1930s where he helps solve a murder or to the contemporary Buffalo apartment of the Nowak family where they hilariously take on their family’s heritage.
Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s musical “Sunday in the Park with George” is at the Players through August 11; Ken Ludwig’s comedic mystery “The Game’s Afoot” takes the stage in late August, and in the fall Tom Dudzick’s family comedy “Miracle on South Division Street” will be with us. Each performance is a chance to create new experiences of live theater for audience and performers alike.
If you want to learn more about art join us for our free Saturday Seminar Series August 3 or for a backstage tour Sunday, July 7. Advance registration is suggested for the seminar and tour; please contact the Players Box Office at 920-868-3287.
For more information on our season visit www.peninsulaplayers.com, where you can see preview videos of our plays. I look forward to seeing you by the bay, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine.
Audra Baakari Boyle is the Peninsula Players Business Manager, celebrating her 19th season by the bay.