The Show Must Go On

Craig Wallace and David Selby in <em>Necessary Sacrifices</em> at Ford’s Theatre.  <em>Photo by T. Charles Erickson</em>

Craig Wallace and David Selby in Necessary Sacrifices at Ford’s Theatre. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

So, Wednesday night, I had the good fortune to tag onto Linda Levy Grossman’s coattails and catch the VIP Preview of Ford’s Theatre’s world premiere of Necessary Sacrifices.

It was the cast’s first time in front of an audience. Evah. No previews. Cold turkey. A house filled with theatre family and DC movers and shakers. A house filled with people who have been to more than one show in their lifetime and like to talk about theatre. It would be daunting on your best night.

Many have heard that Washington actor/playwright David Toney had to withdraw from the role of Frederick Douglass due to health reasons. So, longtime Washington stalwart Craig Wallace flew back from a gig in Wisconsin and stepped into this MASSIVE role. In something like five days. Kudos to David Selby and Michael Kramer for holding their own. God bless Necessary Sacrifices Director Jennifer Nelson. She looked damned good for a lady who had just held onto the back of a caboose in a tornado.

I thought Ford’s handled the circumstances beautifully. Ford’s Theatre Director Paul Tetrault invited us into the process, entrusting us to understand the circumstances, ignore the script in Craig’s hand, and appreciate seeing the final stages of a quick re-work of a production to now fit the sudden change in artist and that emerging new creativity. We all know, no two artists are the same.

And of course, all us theatre-folk heard that intoning Thespian-God voice booming in our ears, “The show must go on!” But must it go on? Does it always go on? Are theatre artists Supermen and Superwomen able to leap tall dramaturgy in a single bound? Are we expected to overcome odds from which sane mortals would run?

I think, more times than not, the answer is yes. Theatre people are crazy. We are heroic. We are generous. We are glad to help and want to keep theatre alive and know that any setback in a live theatre sets us all back. And we love the work.

We all have stories about those sudden last minute replacements: Going on with the book. Making sense of the art when we barely know what tools we have in our toolbelt. When sheer inspiration and blood, sweat, and tears carried the day. How many Shirley MacLaine moments have you witnessed? Or had? Did you regret it or did it help you grow as an artist? Or did you appreciate actors more when you saw them out on a limb?

I even have my own personal story I will share if you ask. :)

But I applaud one and all at Ford’s for carrying the banner with grace and dignity. I hope they have a great run.



02/04/2012 08:18pm
  Pam Bierly Jusino

Do you remember, Brad, when I went on for Angie Reaux in "Carnival" at Wildwood Summer THeatre, the summer of 1971 or 72? I went on with script in hand to play Rosalie, the Kaye Ballard role in the original, the second female lead. That was my Shirley MacLaine moment. Could it have been the one you mentioned in your article?


02/15/2012 09:19pm
  Brad Watkins

Hey, Pam! I do remember that bold moment in our youth. But you were already way down the road on becoming a powerhouse performer, having played Hortense in ZORBA, our Spring Musical. Imagine, a sophomore stealing the lead and the show. No, I have my own Shirley MacLaine moment to share if anyone asks.


01/27/2012 02:11pm
  Stefan Sittig

I learned all of Joseph in 2 days. Joined the cast as a replacement 1 week before tech. It was scary and fantastic at the same time. Helped that I had a wonderful cast and crew behind me and a very supportive director!


02/15/2012 09:21pm
  Brad Watkins

Hey, Stefan! That's what I mean. Theatre people bind together and rise to occasion. Maybe it's the ultimate Trust Game. Remember that exercise in Acting 101?