A heat index of 114 and a sudden knock-down, drag-out storm. My new little one (who thankfully sleeps like a dream) slept through the chaos as the huge grill outside his window was tossed several feet into the woods behind our house. As a former Michigan girl, it was big, but I didn’t realize the extent of the destruction until the next day. I suspected we might have to delay rehearsal a bit the next day.
The next morning, after a night of no electricity, I showed up at the theatre and learned that fortunately, the theatre was not damaged, but it was plunged into darkness, and it would be for five days to follow. Our Big Love rehearsals were in jeopardy. We’re at a critical time in our rehearsal process and we brainstormed about how we could still get the show up with so many unknowns thrown in the mix.
Big Love asks for big heart, big commitment, and big risks. We cancelled Saturday’s rehearsals since no one could get anywhere, but then we rallied and rehearsed in The Hub’s office building lobby (which felt a little Greek with its massive echo and high ceilings. We were challenged to stage a massive brawl fight scene in a reverent (and donated) church Sunday school room.
But the truly magical thing this week was seeing the dedication of these talented performers, musicians, designers and choreographers. They each had their own challenges to work through—most were without power (and no AC) at home. Driving to and from rehearsal took hours for some. We set up a phone tree to keep each other up informed, worked out carpool arrangements and worked together to find our way and just keep going. Our lighting designer was hanging lights in the mostly dark theatre, with only a tiny stream of light from an open door. And, literally, our set designer was painting scenery by candlelight.
Everyone in this business has a story about working in less than ideal conditions. The events of the week brought out great “show must go on” stories form the cast—stories of electricity going off mid-performance and finishing a play by candlelight, stories of improvisation when props are misplaced or costumes are ruined before the curtain comes down. Events like these remind us that, at its very essence, theatre is about the connection between people, the power of being in front of an audience, and the importance of telling a story.
Our Big Love rehearsals are like training for a huge competition. It’s exciting when everyone shows up in workout gear, ready to sweat and dig in deep. We, all of us, are pushing our reserves for this show. “No excuses” and “no fear.” It’s like we’re training for a marathon. Or, for our actors who are doing some hugely incredible things on this stage, more like the Iron Man.
Thankfully, power at the theatre came back late in the day on July 4. Our rehearsals are back on track in a more traditional sense. We’re grateful to have power again. But losing power for a few days was a pretty powerful thing to happen to us in the making of Big Love.