Post By Carl Lindberg, Theatre Department Program Chair
A Play is Ephemeral
Ah, ephemeral, a fancy word, meaning "lasting for a very short time." Synonyms include fleeting, passing, short-lived, momentary, brief, short...
Productions of plays are all of these things. We work hard on them for months in advance and perform them a certain number of times, only for that particular production to live on in one's memory alone.
Whether a performance is memorable or not will obviously vary from person to person, and is dependent upon a lot of factors. Too many factors to list here.
That being said, we had a performance of Comedy of Errors this summer that I would bet will stick around in a lot of memory banks for a while to come...
The Set Up...
If you've made it to this blog, you likely have a sense of what we do at DMACC Ankeny Theatre (we are a professionally-oriented theatre program) and what Summer Short Shakespeare is (a 75-minute adaptation of one of Shakespeare's plays in a non-traditional performance space). There's the extra info... sue me (not really), it's our first blog post...
So this summer (2018) we had 6 performances of Comedy of Errors in an outdoor venue with various weather:
- Show Number 1 and Show Number 2 had marvelous weather, I mean ideal for an outdoor performance in late June in Iowa.
- Show Number 3 looked to eascape any inclement weather... then, about an hour-and-a-half before curtain we had downpour. The cast and crew hussled through the rain to set up our backup venue. We got soaked, but the audience didn't. And this is not the most memorable performance.
- Show Number 4 gave us extreme heat--we started the show in the 90's with humidity. The audience (our biggest) had a great time, and the cast drank a tone of water.
- Show Number 5 was pretty nice.
- Then we came to Show Number 6, our final performance. This is where things got interesting...
The Memorable Performance
There was definitely rain in the area and in the forecast. I decided, in my supreme wisdom and meteorological expertise (neither of which I possess), that the weather would just miss us and we should perform outside in our usual performance space.
You see where this is heading...
During scene 2 the wind picked up and there were a couple sprinkles. I paused the show between scenes 2 and 3. That's memorable.
We stepped into the hallways of Building 2 and checked the radar. Uh-oh. A storm was coming.
The sprinkle let up and we moved the set, props, and sound equipment into the Black Box Theatre in Building 5 across the way. Also memorable.
After our 15-minute rearrangement I gave a quick before-scene-3, in-a-new-venue curtain speech, mostly to stall, and we picked up where we had left off. Right then the deluge began.
The Cons of a Memorable Performance
What makes something a pro versus a con is subjective, like much in life. So take the following cons with a grain of salt.
We got a lot of rain from 7:30 pm the night of Saturday, June 30th, the moment Comedy of Errors re-started and the faucet-in-the-sky opened up. I wasn't using the term deluge as a means of exaggerative storytelling. In the next 2 hours Ankeny would get 10" of rain and it didn't stop at 9:30.
The majority of the cast stayed the night with the play's Courtezan (interesting coincidence) because many roads farther from campus were impassable.
Much of the audience got drenched getting to their cars and had scary drives home in heavy rain, that made it hard to see, and flooded roads.
It was a one-of-a-kind weather occurrence and it hit right in the middle of our play.
The Pros of a Memorable Performance
From all accounts, up until the time of this posting, everyone who came to the show in any capacity was safe and eventually got to where they needed to get okay.
No one really got wet while sitting outside watching the show, despite getting soaked on the way to their cars. Some audience members even helped to carry some scenery and props into the Black Box!
The show itself went great.
This was truly a unique set of circumstances to deal with for the actors, audience, and crew. While that wasn't the kind of memorable we had planned for, it's the kind of memorable we got.
And lasting memories made at the theatre are one thing we hope to create.