One Day More (Blogisode Four)

Hi everyone!  Thank you for swinging by as you are probably on your way to Cyber Monday.  I sell nothing here at My Own Space although I did write a book a few years back that makes an excellent stocking stuffer for the memoir lover on your list.  How was your break?  Mine was great, I managed to get off the couch and close my computer for five days.  It was a beautiful thing, and a quick shout out to my mother and father-in-law who hosted fifteen people in their house for the entire long weekend.  And, oh yeah, we all slept in one house.  And, oh yeah, of the fifteen, eight of them were kids, the oldest being thirteen, youngest three months. And….we all had fun.  Miraculous, really.  A round of applause for my in-law’s, please.  Thank you.

Sometimes the 14-year-old me blogs because that girl had a lot to say about her future.

Sometimes the 14-year-old me blogs because that girl had a lot to say about weight and her future in theater.

So let’s talk for just a minute about that post on Tuesday.  It was–hands down–the hardest thing I’ve ever blogged about and I just about got an ulcer doing it, but as you hopefully know, it paid off in spades.  Many thanks to everyone who showed up and read it, and shared it, and special thanks to my student for his bravery and the school for stepping up and taking down the antiquated language.  Respect is due all around.  Another round of applause, please.  As a friend of mine just said while we were on the phone, “Sharon, I know you don’t want to be defined by the weight issue but….” and I cut her off and said, “I know, I know, I write about it really well.”  Look.  I don’t want to spend the rest of my days ranting about fattism in the world, but I will step up when necessary, and when I do, I will let it fly.  I often dream about starting a theater company where we cast against type–or not even against type–but just cast whoever was the absolute best person for the role no matter what they look like.  Can you imagine?  Crazy talk.  What would that look like?  Oh, wait.  It would look like REAL LIFE.

There I go again.

M-O-V-I-N-G ON !

Back to the story!  Here’s where we left off.  I was at Dan and Betsy Brown’s house in Pasadena, California and we were roasting a turkey (and by “we” I mean “Betsy”) post Northridge earthquake.  I was waiting to hear that the performance of Les Miz was cancelled, because LA was on a dusk to dawn curfew.  This wasn’t that long after the Los Angeles riots and the city was still nervous about looting, but in addition, major infrastructures (like highways) were severely damaged and there were power outages.  Also, can we please take a moment and talk about post traumatic stress, which I had never heard of, but I (along with everyone in the LA area) had it.  No one wanted to drive, or be inside a building with a large open ceiling (like a theater).  Betsy and her Mom (who was staying with her and played one of my favorite card games with me called Spite and Malice) and myself spent all our time in the kitchen, which was cozy, had lots of supporting walls and had a TV constantly tuned to the news.  Dan, her husband, was a little more calm, talked about his “earthquake kit” at work, which included a pair of gym shoes in case he had to hoof it down the many stairs of the highrise where he worked. This seemed like old hat to him.

If you swing a lot of roles, you have a lot of costumes (these aren't all mine, but it gives you an idea).

If you swing a lot of roles, you have a lot of costumes (these aren't all mine, but it gives you an idea).

Long story short (the poll from Monday told me you guys prefer fewer blogisodes per story, so I’m moving along), I got a call, and guess what?  We had a show.  Pasadena is not LA, and we were not under curfew.  Cameron Mackintosh thought it was a jolly good thing to have a show as he sat in his very unshaky ground in London, so off we all went to perform.  I was a “*swing” in the show, so the odds were, I wouldn’t have to perform.  (*A swing is a performer who stands by for multiple roles in the show.  I waited backstage every night and it was my job to go on if any female was out.  I think I swung 13 roles, including the entire women’s ensemble.)  I didn’t think anyone would call in sick that night, because there does seem to be a general sense of solidarity in times of trouble like this, and seems like bad sportsmanship to call in sick.  But I don’t think everyone felt that way, because a woman did call in sick, and I was on as a bullet boy.  Which, translated for those of you who didn’t do Les Miserables and might be confused, means that I played numerous chracters throughout the show (whore, hag, unemployed worker), but my primary role was to play a boy on the barricade who passed out bullets.  My bullet boy’s name was Max, and although he has a long and fascinating back story, I will move on for brevity’s sake.  Max the Bullet Boy could be his own blog.  He was quite famous and a notorious womanizer.

The interior of The Pasadena Playhouse.

The interior of The Pasadena Playhouse. This is just about how many people showed up that night.

But back to that night, I was scared, and let me tell you what didn’t help.

1) Passing dumpsters that were right by the stage door, full of plaster and debris that had fallen from the theater ceiling, and had to be cleared off the stage.

2)  The stage hands talking about how all the lights had to be refocused and in some cases rehung because of the earthquake.

3) The stage managers telling us we were not to climb up to the top of the barricade or do anything that “felt dangerous” because of the possibility of aftershocks.  (Um.  Everything felt dangerous.)

4) The USA Today the next morning talking about how the only thing that had not been cancelled because of the earthquake was our production of Les Miz.

We played to less than half the house, and I have to wonder why in the world they came.  I wanted to be in Betsy Brown’s kitchen playing cards and eating turkey, which is exactly where I went as soon as the show was over and where I stayed the rest of the week.  No more hotel for me, thank you very much.  And now a round of applause for Dan and Betsy Brown who took care of the crazy Ohio actress in the earthquake.  Thank you to them.

Have I mentioned that Rob and I are looking for jobs in Southern California? (We really are….which seems bat-ass-crazy as I type this story, but anyhoo, if you know of anyone who is hiring and has a house with an orange tree, send them my way and then make me re-read this blog post about earthquakes while severely shaking the chair I am sitting in.  Thank you.).

Speaking of Rob, we did finally talk, and he was (of course) glad to hear that I was okay and being so well cared for.  I was all, See?  You should have proposed to me before you left Rob Meffe, because at least I could have had the comfort of a ring on my finger as my hand was shaking in fear.  Have I mentioned that I wanted to be engaged?  Just a wee bit?

Poster boy of Singapore, 1994

Poster boy of Singapore, 1994

I think I can speak for the entire Les Miz company when I say that we were all ready to get out of California.  Even the unknown land of Singapore seemed great, because (as I told myself over and over) you can’t feel an earthquake on a plane. I didn’t know a lot about Singapore, but I will tell you, because of a teenager named Michael Fay who had stolen some street signs, Singapore was about to become international news.

We climbed aboard the beautiful Singapore Airlines jet, and headed off to the other side of the world, which had to be less newsworthy than where we were.

To read the next in this series, go here

 

 

 

About Sharon Wheatley

Mother of Charlotte and Beatrix. Sometimes an actress. Sometimes a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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2 Responses to One Day More (Blogisode Four)

  1. Frances Limoncelli says:

    Great post — and please do write us a Bullet Boy post someday. Love those backstage anecdotes.

  2. Enrique says:

    Hello, just read this a second time after being referred to your recent Les Mis film review, and enjoyed it just as much as the first time. Since you were so generous to share so much, I'll do the same as I remember that massive earthquake on that 17 January, 1994. It just so happened I also had front row tickets to the show that night.

    I've been a very, VERY dedicated fan of this musical since 1986, and even I'm spooked by my love for this show sometimes, because it defies normalcy! Everyone, and I mean every last soul, was absolutely traumatized that day. It was indeed exactly as you described and I lived on the other side of downtown L.A., not nearly as close as Pasadena was to the epicenter. I was nearly thrown off my bed. In fact, I was awakened by a giant binder filled with basketball cards slamming onto my head (I shared a room with my bro who was/is obsessed with the Lakers)!

    But there was a little boy who was worried sick about one thing and it had nothing to do with concerns of getting smashed by falling debris or aftershocks. He was worried something would prevent him from seeing the show that night. I mean, it was JUST an earthquake. No biggie. I had front row tickets to LES MISERABLES that night! LOL.

    I laugh about it now but I wish I could end this with a "just kidding!" or claim exaggeration just so I can seem not completely looney, but I was truly heartbroken in only a way a kid can. I felt the blood drain from my face when my mom demanded I not go and actually convinced my brother not to take me. It was the equivalent of…I don't know but I've never cried so hard in my life. I love the show more than ever now, but it truly is something else when you're a kid and I had been counting down the days on a calendar in the kitchen since tix went on sale more than 6 months before. I was traumatized alright, but not because of the earthquake! LOL. It actually hurt a lot more when I learned the show wasn't cancelled, but couldn't go because of mother. I walked around like a zombie until my brother drove me to the box office and had my tix exchanged for a matinee on the 21st, 6 rows from the stage. I suddenly began smiling again.

    Only Les Mis is more powerful than a threat of death by collapsing theatre ceiling. I don't think I ever felt any sense of threat. I am far more sensible now, even though I'm nuttier about the show now than I was then, something that even shocks me because I was pretty nutty about it then. But I'd not put my life in danger over it these days. Growing up and maturity does that!

    Anyway. Just thought I'd share the great trauma experienced that day, LOL. Buh bye!

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