A Loco Viewpoint
It’s a Wonderful Life
Looking at the fifteen or so people who had answered the call to enter into an adventure, Angie, Leah and I surveyed what we had bitten off and hoped it wasn’t more than we could chew. The three of us had agreed to spearhead the production of the radio-play-for-the-stage “It’s a Wonderful Life” as a fundraiser for our local yuletide charity. The daunting task we had set out for ourselves suddenly crystallized in my mind. I felt it was the ideal time for a panic attack.
I remember when we talked about doing this particular piece, I wasn’t completely sold on it.
‘It will be fun,’ they said. ‘There are roles for little kids, all the way up to seniors,’ they said. ‘It will be great for the community!” they said quite often.
However, I am of the W. C. Fields School of Acting which states vehemently, “Never work with kids or dogs.” As a performer who has been in, maybe twenty shows in the past eight years, I can state categorically that it is imperative to nail down every conceivable eventuality, because small things can screw up a scene surprisingly in a big way.
I’ve been onstage during a live performance when we managed to leap ahead, dialogue-wise, a good three or four pages in the script. Things happen in those pages the audience needed to know about, so you can’t just soldier on, forgetting about six or seven minutes of the play. The challenge, then, is to somehow change the conversation back to where it is supposed to be and then skip over the part we accidently already covered, to end up where we have to be to make everything seem coherent and, above all, natural. If you think it’s confusing to explain, imagine the confusion and panic of being on stage with four other actors all staring at each other hoping against hope somebody, anybody, will say something recognizable to someone. It is simply reality to see that including kids or animals increases the odds of something going wrong.
“Don’t be a nervous Nellie,” said Angie, rolling her eyes and shaking her head exactly like Cupcake does. (They learn it in that special class in grade seven only the girls attend. I think that’s also where they learn The Look; that certain stare that lets male loved ones know if they utter another *&%#%$& word, they’re going to stuff our *&%#%$& lips down our*&%#%$& esophagus.) “Kids are fun to have around and look so sweet onstage,”
“Yeah,” I acknowledged, “but…”
“And kids are much easier to deal with than some adults,” pointed out Leah. “When we did the melodramas, the kids were real troupers.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “but…”
“All those kids have friends and relatives that will come to the play and fill the seats,” inserted Angie. “The point is to raise money for poor, starving children who won’t get Christmas if we don’t do this play. You don’t hate both children AND Christmas, do you?”
So now we were looking at all the people that had heard about our project and wanted to join in the fun. The director’s notes said you can do it with as few as eleven people; four women and seven men, although I’m sure any decent impressionist like Jean Philippe Gagnon could do the whole thing himself. Unfortunately, Jean Philippe said he was busy and that he doesn’t work with kids or animals. He also said if I continued to contact him, he would call in the authorities.
Sizing up our talent pool, I noticed we had only three men, including me. We did, however, have eight or nine women there, although some were obviously there to encourage their kids. One woman brought four such yard-apes.
It was decided, since the play only needed a few kids, the rest would be part of a choir to entertain during intermission breaks. I have to admit, there are few things that light a Yule-log in your heart more than Christmas songs being sung by a herd of tiny folk.
I started the proceedings by asking a question I assumed would have a rousing, positive response.
“So who has seen the movie with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reid?” I asked the assembled group.
Only two hands went up. One of the women was just stretching apparently. I was non-plussed. How could they have avoided it, I wondered. I must have seen it dozens of times.
It was apparent some education was required. We agreed at our next meeting, we would all watch the movie together so they could know what parts were available and which ones they fancied. We had forgotten just one small detail. It is a long, long, long movie; much longer than the play. It was in black and white, too, although we won’t be. I worried the kids, of whom there were seven or eight, aged from about four years old to ten or twelve, would get bored. (I’m bad age guessing. Cupcake could probably estimate both their age and the month they were born in. Women do that stuff without thinking.) I needn’t have worried. The kids were great.
“Aren’t the wee ones wonderful?” asked Angie, with an ‘I told you so’ kind of smirk, also identical to Cupcake’s and probably from the same sort of class in Grade Seven. “Now come on, admit it. This is going to be a great show.”
“Okay,” I capitulated. “It will be a great show. The proof, however, will be in the pudding. When we get through our last performance and nothing has gone wrong, I will admit you were right.”
Come out November 29th at 7:00 or December 1 for a 2:00 matinee performance at the Calmar Legion to see who wins the argument.
other articlesTrue Community Theatre
It’s A Wonderful Play
The Beaker Report
Halloween is Sweet
Just Call me “Tubby”
Shaggy Dog Tale
Encounter at a Funeral
Living Among Zombies
Jack & Jill Baby Shower
A Story about George
Pushing Mom Around
Sleeping was in Tents
A Luau To Remember
Zucchini Gang Rides Again