Once, again, it is Monday night and the theatres are dark. So let's have a little bit of fun sharing some favorite theatre-related stories.
I've been a fan of theatre for longer than I care to remember; with sad consequences to my pocketbook. I can't remember why it took so long for me to realize that ushers were paid to stand around and watch performances! D'oh!
Well there is a lot more to ushering than that, and I hope to share some of the funnier or more interesting stories through this series. Join me below the squiggle for some of them.
As an usher for more than 12 years, I've worked productions of Shakespeare, classic theatre, Broadway shows, opera, chamber orchestras, symphonies, recitals, and dance. While the genres can't really be compared ... and I've loved it all ... sometimes there is overlap: some operas are also Shakespearean plays or ballet. Some operas have been modernized into Broadway musicals. One example is Puccini's Madame Butterfly and the Broadway counterpart Miss Saigon.
The basics in both stories involving an American man who loves and leaves an Asian woman who bears his child and waits for his return. For me, the opera is far more beautiful, as in this scene where Butterfly longs for her lover's return:
But it is hard not to get a little emotional over the more modern Kim's longing:
Of course, serious as the subject is, Miss Saigon was the source of some of the funniest questions I had to answer from the patrons. For instance, after the fall of Saigon, there is a complicated and disturbing dance to Morning of the Dragon (I couldn't find a video I liked), and a very large statue is rolled on stage. Some patrons in the cheap seats asked me who the statue was supposed to be and I replied Ho Chi Minh. There was a little silence, and then the guy said, "How do you know?" Without thinking, I replied, well on the main floor you can see its head. Oops
Another hilarious question involved this scene:
In all seriousness, I was asked on more than one occasion how big a hole they had to cut in the roof in order to get that chopper enough room to land.
After several months of the show, we ushers were ready to move on. But there were symptoms of withdrawal. Without warning, someone would break into cries of Kimmmm!!!! Tam?? KIIIIIMMMM!!!
Operas could be very funny in untentional ways as well. Now as many know, the Marriage of Figaro is a very funny opera. But sometimes behind the scenes there is a lot of chaos! In the middle of one production, soon after this aria by Dr Bartolo:
I happened to be passing through the musicians lounge backstage. There were several chorus members involved in a game of cards, when the Dr. Bartolo character came wandering in, and asked "shouldn't you guys be upstairs for this?" Cries of oh shit, where was the cue call, gaaahhh!!, and people running upstairs and on stage...I was nearly bowled over. Bartolo meanwhile laughed a deep bass HO HO HO. This is the scene they were late for
Well this is getting a little long, and out of hand for my first theatre diary ... I'll have to save some for another time. Meanwhile, you have the floor for any sort of theatre chitchat you'd like to share.