Perhaps the audience should be — because there have been times when Scheie gets his wish.

Rhonnie Washington, an SF State theater professor, recalls the theater manager's cat at his alma mater of East Texas State wandering through stage productions and, on at least one instance, leaving a souvenir in his dressing room. "I think it was malicious," says the professor. "I never did like cats."

Stage managers still swap stories about the long-ago Broadway production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in which an animatronic camel exploded during dress rehearsals. Closer to home, Scheie personally witnessed the ignominious conclusion to a San Francisco Opera presentation of The Girl of the Golden West, in which famed soprano Deborah Voight closes the show by mounting a steed and riding into the sunset — but not before her horsey dropped a load, center stage.

"It was kinda ruined," says Scheie. "But kinda awesome."


Your humble narrator's mother was an actress and, from an early age, he ran lines with her, memorizing entire shows. There are times even now — on Muni, in an elevator, during a writer's meeting — when a snippet of Brighton Beach Memoirs or The Dark at the Top of The Stairs comes flooding back after a 30-year interregnum: "I'll go to Ponca City, and drink booze and take Mavis to the movies, and raise every kind of hell I can think of. T'hell with you!"

Sitting in the front row of a show and knowing every actor, every stagehand, every line, every gesture, every entrance, and every exit is an experience antithetical to that of most theatergoers. When miscues occur — and occur they do — the terror is intense. The acid in your stomach runs up your spine and into your eyeballs. Your ears ring and your brain vibrates. But, here's the thing: You look around, and no one else is any the wiser. They don't know what you know — the actors are winging it, righting the ship, and moving the show along.

And, in these moments, you don't know much; you don't know what's coming next and you have alarmingly little control over it all. Like life itself.

And like life, it's horrifying, but it's also exhilarating. It's kinda ruined. But kinda awesome.

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4 comments
Nancy Queenofsheba Endy
Nancy Queenofsheba Endy

When they keep putting up they same old tired productions they need to do SOMETHING to keep their audience base. ;-)

vance1936
vance1936

Great job Joe.

Now we're off to Ponca City ...


Vance

 
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