Friday, October 13, 2006

Waiting for Gunman

posted by brad at 11:53 PM
Friday the 13th. Ugh.

Spoiler Alert: The following story may spoil some surprises for anyone planning to come see the show.

Consider yourself warned.
Tonight, the gun fell apart. Onstage. While I was in the middle of the "Russian roulette" scene. I then spent a good 2 and a half minutes backstage trying frantically to put it back together while I left my fellow actors onstage to ad lib their way through a very serious and tension filled scene that shouldn't exist in this play. But, I still needed to shoot two other people so we could end the play correctly, so I kept thinking I had to get the gun back together...

Here's what happened.

The performance was moving along well (not stellar, but well) and the audience seemed to be totally in it. The top of the final scene starts and I begin the Russian roulette process. I typically work my way through five bullets (dead blanks), never actually shooting myself and questioning God as to what he's trying to tell me. I then pick up the 6th bullet and put it in my pocket, exit my apartment and go to my neighbors apartment where my cheating wife and the guy with no face are having an affair. In the 20 seconds or so I have between exiting my apartment and entering the neighbors apartment, I have to empty the dead blanks in the gun that I just used to play roulette with, and reload the gun with live blanks to be fired. Eventually I shoot the guy with no face, but only after I have also shot the exterminator, who conveys the message to me that "there is no God." A few more details and... end of play.

Craig's play - truly brilliant, despite my hack cliff notes I just gave.

Anyway, after the fourth attempt in the roulette scene, the gun falls apart. Literally. Springs, sprockets, the locking pin that holds the chamber in place, etc. All the guts of the gun fall out. Some on the coffee table and some on the floor. What do I do? Be decisive and calm. So I thought. First, I go ahead and end the roulette session and begin my brief bit of dialogue before I am supposed to head next door to the neighbors. I also, quite calmly begin picking up the pieces of the gun (that I can find in a very dim, moody lighting cue) along with the other blanks that have fallen out and put them in my coat pocket as I begin making my way off the couch and out of the apartment. Turns out most people had no idea something was wrong at this point. Not even the actors onstage with me. I also, truly believed that I could put the gun back together. I had faith. I have done it before, while cleaning it, so I thought, no problem. It may take a few extra moments, but I found all of the pieces and I can make this work. As I exit I find the nearest bit of light, just behind the set and go to work, knowing that I only have 20-30 seconds tops to get the guts back in the gun, check that it works, reload it with the live blanks and come in (somewhat) on cue.

Two minutes later...
Eric and Sara are suffering through an improv scene about "waiting around" and "what do we do now" thinking I have either passed out and we'll have to stop the show... or I am eventually going to find the blanks that I have no doubt misplaced (the only logical reason I could be taking so long) and finally come on. Little do they know that the gun has completely fallen apart and I am still fighting with the guts to get the gun put back together so that the show can still manage to play out the way it is intended. I look up from my somewhat vulnerable and uncomfortable squatting position just behind the stage wall to see Damaso (the show's director) who had enough time to evaluate that something was wrong, exit the lobby, come backstage and see what was happening. As he spots me, huddled helplessly in the floor he starts gesturing for me to just get out there. This was what I was feeling too, I knew there was only so much time we could continue the charade, but I was so close (so I thought) to having the gun back together... and I couldn't bear the thought of trying to seriously threaten anyone onstage with a gun that was missing the center chamber and sure as hell couldn't fire.

I finally did give up and go out for the scene, knowing that was probably hurting my fellow actors way more than the faulty gun would hurt the ending. I normally have the gun out and pointed at someone for nearly the entire last 15 minutes of the play. I played it the same way tonight, except I had to try and hold the gun so that my thumb could also hold the chamber in place and not make it too obvious what I was doing.

Turns out... I would have never gotten the gun back together because I was missing one of the tiny springs needed to get it back intact and make it fire. So, ultimately I spent two and a half to three minutes offstage trying to make a prop work that would have never worked under the circumstances and I left two actors and the audience waiting for the gunman. Waiting and waiting. It seemed like an eternity for us, but one witness said "it didn't feel like an unbearable amount of time." It definitely created a unique experience for all at the show tonight. Onstage and off.

I can only wonder what the experience must have been like in the audience. I'm guessing a lot of people still have no idea what happened... except for those sitting near the back who could hear the Stage Manager in the booth trying to call our Production Manager on his cell phone to get him to come find me with the back up gun, which arrived late yesterday (after having to have it replaced when the first one busted because the blanks were too powerful) and it had not been put into play yet. So, I am told that Nick, our Production Manager, who was onsite but not in the theatre, ran to his car and was then seen sprinting down street with a large gun in his hand while yelling into his cell phone "I'm on my way." At some point I hear there was an actual attempt at text messaging too, because the cell phones didn't have good reception. Yes, text messaging. It was a very long 3 minutes. Waiting for Gunman.


Also, half of the dressing room was flooded by the water cooler right around the time we got our "5 minutes to places" call before the show. So, that was fun too.

Friday the 13th. I'm glad it's over.


Anonymous Kimberly A Kroll said...

Well, wow. As we all know, ANYTHING can happen in live theatre - and it is kind of eerie that this was all on Friday the 13th. I made the grave mistake of reading your not-so-tall tale in accouting class and I managed the straight face UNTIL I got to the visual image of Nick running down the streets of Pasadena with a gun yelling into his cell phone. I couldn't help but laugh out loud. Try playing off factory depreciation as HIGH-larious, not so easy! However, what I got out of your blog is how well Furious members can cope with completely unforseen problems - you all have each other's back without breaking character or ever giving up. That deserves admiration, and shows how strong you all are. Plus, it makes a REALLY great story :)

5:57 PM  

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