On Friday, May 8th, at 6:25 PM, I was backstage at the fairgrounds black box theatre, getting ready to open In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play.)
I had taken the day off of work, sleeping in until 11:00 AM and having a relaxing day. I had spent the afternoon having my hair dyed, cut, primped and styled by Chava at 2nd Street Hair Boutique.
At 6:25 PM, the lights in the dressing room went out suddenly. It’s an old building, so our first thought was to check the fuse box and see if a breaker had tripped. But we soon realized that we had a bigger problem on our hands.
It wasn’t just that the breaker had tripped–there had been an issue re-wiring a telephone pole on Langley Road that had caused a fire UNDER THE ROAD. Our lighting board operator hopped on his motorcycle to find out what had happened. He reported seeing scorch marks on the road, which was closed.
The cast stood backstage in varying states of undress. Those of us wearing corsets had already started the intricate process of being laced in. 30 minutes, they had told our messenger. 30 minutes, 45 five minutes tops and the power would be restored.
We waited eagerly for updates as the audience started pouring into the darkened theatre. We thought the worst case scenario would be delaying the start of the play by half an hour. We were wrong.
At 7:35 PM, our motorcycled messenger scurried down Langley Road again to see what progress had been made. The crew informed him that it would be until 10:00 PM before the power was restored.
There is a saying in theatre that the show must go on. The cast stood backstage in disbelief as one of our volunteers suggested bringing lanterns into the theatre.
“It’s a play ABOUT ELECTRICITY,” exclaimed one of the actors. “We can’t do it with lanterns.”
Like troops admitting defeat on the battlefield, we slowly took our corsets and other Victorian underthings off in the dimming backstage light. We would have to cancel opening night.
I’ve never had a show cancelled before. I’ve performed to audiences of ten or fewer and had wished the show had been cancelled. We were so ready to share our world of the play with the audience. We felt lost and betrayed by Thomas Edison’s creation, which is arguably a leading character in the play.
Since the power was on in the rest of Langley, most cast members decided to go to Mo’s and drown our sorrows. We took over a corner of the bar, some of us watching the Mariner’s game. And we talked. And we laughed. And we invited our other theatrical friends who we haven’t seen in weeks because we’ve been rehearsing the show.
At its best, theatre creates community and helps us discover more about what it means to be human. As we felt the very human emotions of disappointment and frustration, we were feeling them in tandem with a community of actors. We bonded.
I left the bar a little after midnight, feeling grateful for my theatre geek friends who lift me up, tease me, hug me, make me laugh and keep me sane. These people are why I live on Whidbey Island.
The next night, we opened the show to a nearly sold-out house that couldn’t stop laughing. They gave us a standing ovation. With the illumination of restored electricity came redemption. And we were ready for it!
This piece originally appeared on OutCast Productions’ blog and can be accessed here.
In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) runs through May 23. Get your tickets!
In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) runs through May 23. >>Purchase tickets.