Monday, September 22, 2008

When it Rains, It Pours

When you do theater outside, weather is always an issue. Will there be enough blankets to go around if it's cold? Did the sun make the stage floor too hot for the actors who are supposed to be barefoot? Did the wind blow over the umbrellas in the grove? Are those rain clouds?

For most of the season we are blessed with beautiful weather out at the Bruns Amphitheater. Sometimes the nights get chilly, but our audiences tend to be a hardy group. But the last days of our season overlap with the beginning of the rainy season in this area. And on Friday night, the hardiness of our audiences got its first test.

The rain started while we were setting up for the Shindig. When the rain stopped Susie, our marketing director, ran around the North Star Grove with a big roll of paper towels and dried off picnic tables. Which was great for a while, but then it began to rain again. Not the kind of rain where you see the actual drops, but like a really aggressive mist. Just enough to get everything damp. I personally was standing under a big blue canopy pouring wine for most of the evening, so I stayed dry.

The Shindig seemed to go quite well, despite the moisture in the air. We had a big turnout. So much that we ran out of food and red wine. There was lots of mingling and conversation and participation in the game we'd concocted. A very special version of Mad Libs centered around obscure holidays to fit in with the Twelfth Night theme.

But the aggressiveness of the mist was creating problems on stage. The current floor treatment can get pretty slick from just fog. So Friday night, it was pretty wet. Which means it's a safety hazard for the actors. Which meant that the first 15 minute hold went into effect.

After 15 minutes, the rain was still coming down. The audience was mostly seated but the rumors of a possible cancellation had started to circulate. A second 15 minute hold went into effect while the staff crossed their fingers for the rain to stop and the cast crossed theirs for it to continue so they'd get an unexpected night off.

Actor's Equity, the union to which our actors and stage managers belong, has rules about rain and holding the show. You get three 15 minute holds. After that, if it's still deemed unsafe, you cancel the show. We were down to the wire.

The audience was starting to get restless. Each time a 15 minute hold went into effect, Susie would make her way to the front of the house and announce what was going on. When she announced the third and final hold, a murmur made it's way across the theater. And shortly after, there was a small line of folks loading up on coffee and hot chocolate at the cafe.

By the time the last of the 15 minute holds had expired the rain had finally stopped. The stage floor was mopped up and deemed safe. There were some adjustments made. Danny Scheie did not roller skate as planned. Shoes were switched out as needed. But at 8:30, a full half hour late, the show finally got underway.

The mist came back for while at some point during the show. But our faithful audience stayed with us till the end. Let's just all cross our fingers and hope that this is our rainy day experience this season. M'kay?

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