It’s become a birthday tradition that Susan and I should be surprised by Sarah onstage.
On cue, I stepped onto the historic Stanley stage. Butterflies rose up…I could do this. I’d taped a few cheats to my handheld microphone – keywords for lines I tended to mix up. I never looked at them.
Sarah brought a striking reality to her key scenes. She introduced an element of danger, the sense that what was happening on stage had real consequences – something was at stake…I have to think others in the audience shared my sense – before everyone sung Happy Birthday during the bows, there was a subtle gasp from the audience when it was announced that Sarah was celebrating her 16th birthday.
At one point during the show, Sarah crossed through the dividing curtain and bumped into a tall black man. “I just need to go to the other side of the stage,” she said. “OK,” he replied. About that same time, Leon’s manager Bill Dustin reported that rapper 50 Cent had walked by. “Hey,” Bill said. “Hi,” Fiddy said. Leon was furious that Bill hadn’t told everyone sooner. Sarah: “I thought he was a security guard.”
Please, brothers and sisters. Have some self-respect. What message is sent when the stagehands come out to bow? “Oh, there’s the people who couldn’t get into the show. Poor dears. Clap for them, Harold.” It’s embarrassing.
“Sarah, how did rehearsal go today?” “Fine, except I had to comfort a crying squirrel.”
An invisible show happens behind and underneath what the audience sees. Curtains fly, lights go up and down, sets move, all because of stagehands and technicians. The stage manager coordinates their activity prior to and during the performance. It requires a cool head, a wide understanding of theater craft, and comprehensive knowledge of the production.
In June 2012, Dan Fusillo directed Avenue Q at Players’ State St. theater. I was cast as Nicky, the Ernie-like puppet who sings If You Were Gay to his Bert-like roommate. The show was a success, and I couldn’t wait to get back into lighting and maybe perform more frequently.
One day, I was discussing dream projects with my friend Jackie Osterman. I said I wanted to do Little Shop of Horrors… “Believe it or not, I’d love to play Seymour.” This is what Jackie said: “OK, so you’re Seymour.”
The first time I walked into Players of Utica was May, 1994. The group performed in a former church on Oxford Rd. in New Hartford, NY, where they’d been located since 1962. I remember a ramshackle building, peeling blue paint on the outside, entering through the downstairs and going up to get to the theater. The floors groaned, the stairs creaked, it smelled like a hundred years of must. I found it absolutely charming.