First, off Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming is extending two weeks, and we’re thrilled. The theatre has been packed with happy toe-tappin’ people and the reviews have been strong. Plus, I’ve stood in the back and seen audiences of all ages laugh and clap the the cast. But. The greatest joy has been watching our seniors who lived through the 1940s and know these old hymns!!Their lips move silently as they quietly sing along and their faces shine with recognition and memories. When Art meets Life, it’s often magical.
Secondly, I’ve known that Theatre is Dangerous! There’s always the chance that something will go wrong, that an actor won’t show up, scenery will fall over — after all it’s “Live” and anything can happen. Right? Well, with all respect to the parties involved . . .
It’s not often that the on-stage, backstage and front of house team work as seamlessly as last Friday. But this was amazing!
A woman seated in the area to the house-right of the stage became ill about half-way through Act I and vomited on the floor in front of her . . . during Denise’s (Candace Vance) monologue, or “testimony at the little Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.” Staying in character June (Jenny Cross) exited to Mervin’s office to get napkins (towels, anything!), Denise kept talking and then the two of them placed the napkins over the mess while Denise proclaimed, in character “…and where would the church be without women?!” (Cue audience laughter and applause.)
Backstage action: Jenny was talking with Stage Manager Debbie Evans, about what to do next, as the mess was also . . . pungent.
After the next, immediate song, Rev. Mervin Oglethorpe (Kevin Brady) suggested – in character – the congregation (i.e. Audience) take a break – and in came Bree (House Mgr) with Gabe (Box Office guy) to clean up and PineSol the floor (fortunately the non-carpeted area) and swap out chairs ASAP. After a 5 minute brief break, the show continued. Like nothing had happened!! By all accounts the audience loved the show.
My personal THANKS go out to the cast (Candace, Jenny, Kevin, Edd, Theresa, David and Brent) the crew (Debbie, Kristi and Amarra) and the Front of House/Box Staff (Bree and Gabe) for maintaining the show, cleaning up rapidly, being so attentive and compassionate with the poor lady and caring for the entire audience.
What is worth writing about, other than the terror and dark-humor of the event? First, that the cast felt compassion for the poor woman and her family while maintaining the show for the other 200 people. And second, that cast, crew and front of house/box office staff worked — improvised as quickly as possible and in a unified manner. Both are reflective of character qualities, not just by-the-book / management-imposed behavior. Again, my thanks go out to the staff, crew and actors – and to the audience members whose patience was also deeply appreciated.
PS: Although I don’t know who the ill person was, we’ll follow through and make sure the woman is okay. And if they’re up to it, offer tickets to another night.