Lexington seems full of theatre this week. Several shows feature dream casts. It reminds me of another dream cast from antebellum days. You can pick whichever “bellum” you prefer, I’m sure this “ante’s” them all.
Imagine, if you will, a show in Lexington with a cast consisting of Trish Clark, Jane Dewey, Eric Johnson, Kevin Hardesty and Paul Thomas.
Sweeter than sweet. If you’re the director of that cast your duties are basically to turn on the lights at rehearsal, yes?
Now, imagine that show being not so hot.
In fact, imagine it being thoroughly shredded by the Herald’s reviewer.
As Tom Waits so elegantly puts it;
“Impossible you say?
Beyond the realm of possibility?
It can and did happen. I have the scars.
All it takes is a director with little directorial experience, even less experience with improvisational farce, and no real vision beyond “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” (I’m reminded of Mickey Rooney’s immortal query; “Hey! Why don’t we put on a show!!”).
If you’re lookin’ for a director of your production of Bullshot Crummond with exactly that resumé, I’m your guy.
This was back in the early, early years of Actors Guild when they were performing in the basement of Levas’ Restaurant on Vine Street. The cast worked hard. Kevin played about eight different characters. Eric played two, including one duet scene with himself (a dream come true for him, I’m sure). Trish was ultra-sultry. Jane was innocent and dizzy. Paul was checking out the locations of the exits. All were trying to figure how to get new agents when they had no agents to begin with.
What can I say?
The show seemed funny to me. (BUZZER! Thank you for playing, Mr. Leasor.)
Then came opening night and we played our farce to an audience of seven (7) (VII)…plus the reviewer (Tom Carter).
It was a long night’s journey into sad.
The next morning I awoke to the devastating review. Tom summed things up by saying “Leasor has done his friends the disservice of casting them in roles for which they are not suited.”
My wife, Janie removed the poison/razor/gun from my hand and convinced me that though life was obviously no longer worth living it was still necessary to do so as we still owed a lot of money on the house.
Therefore, my next concern was how to help my cast through this undeserved (on their part) catastrophe.
I called an acquaintance who owned a t-shirt shop, set the wheels of foolishness in motion, and that night each member of the cast found, at their make-up station a bright red t-shirt that read “I am NOT Roger Leasor’s friend, please cast me”.
It seemed to help break the ice.
After that evening’s show, Eric went out for his post-show “snack” to Columbia’s Steakhouse (that Nighthawk Special and a Diego Salad always serves well when it’s time for a little something to take the edge off at midnight). He was resplendent in his new t-shirt. Guess who was standing at the bar…none other than the reviewer himself. Eric, of course, diplomat that he is, made sure Tom saw the shirt…less than 24 hours after the review was written!
Lexington’s a small town at heart. I saw Tom at lunch the next week at the Saratoga (the “Toga” always served well when a wedge and a chicken-fried steak was needed to take the edge off at noon). He was gracious and impressed with the alacrity of our response (if not our show) and life in our small town went on.
Sometimes it all falls into place, deserved or not.