Friday, June 22, 2007

The Shear Must Go On

Last night, I bid farewell to the Kennedy Center, at least for now. My Spring Fling with the phenomenon known as "Shear Madness" went out with a real bang. Our shows earlier this week had small audiences of largely adults, a refreshing change for us. We've spent the last 18 weeks entertaining huge crowds of teens and pre-teens.

Our final performance did have the usual school groups, but what made the show memorable was the reaffirmation of that oldest of professional mottos: "The Show Must Go On." One of our cast members started the show feeling quite queasy, and truth be told, he probably should not have attempted to go on. But it was the last show for our company, and replacing him would have been more than problematic, so on he went.

Anyone who has seen the show recalls that the audience interaction is integral to the proceedings. Just as that section of the show began, Mark muttered something about leaving his toothbrush upstairs (it made sense at the time), and he bolted backstage. The rest of us gamely moved forward, covering Mark's absence while still making the plot points necessary for the Murder Mystery to progress.

Mark returned to us after several long, harrowing minutes, and the show continued as scripted (or as planned, I guess I should say, since much of the show is dependant on the non-scripted responses from the audience.)

It was a memorable show to take us out. I left the theatre knowing that "Shear Madness" remains the most challenging, but probably the most fun, gig in DC. I had a ball this session, only my third trip to "the salon" in about 10 years. We had a dynamite cast and raucously enthusiastic houses.

The administration worked very hard to allow me to do "Opus" at the Stage Guild simultaneously, and for that I'll be always grateful.

Because it is an ongoing show, the creators are very hands-on. This is not a production where the director checks out after opening night. We had consistent notes sessions, and notes emailed, throughout our run. It is the only way to keep such a show fresh and sharp. Not every actor is amenable to that kind of on-going attention, but the show is doing something right. It turns 20 years old next month.

Today is the first day since March that I have not been under contract to perform in one show or another. I have lots of fun stuff lined up for the summer and fall, so I am not complaining.

But, as usual with a piece that you love, it's a bittersweet feeling to be leaving "Shear Madness" behind. It's surely one of the hardest jobs I have ever worked, and one of the most rewarding.