Saturday, June 16, 2007

Day Nine: Birmingham - Backtalk

I had an honest-to-God actor's nightmare last night! Great Lakes was producing The Importance of Being Earnest. I was playing Algernon. (Scoff if you like - I said this was a nightmare.)

I have never been in a production of Earnest in my life. I found myself backstage, fifteen minutes before curtain, almost entirely in costume, and I didn't know a word. I picked up a script in the valiant attempt to cram some lines, but they were incomprehensible. They certainly weren't pithy.

The first act was a mess. I remember at one point, during an awkward pause, D.A. stated rather exaggeratedly, "Maybe David Hansen would have something to say about it." I believe I had missed a cue.

Laura Perrotta was pissed. So was Eve Michaelson, but that was just normal.

Meanwhile, during waking life ... last night I realized I had come up short (no pun) on y-fronts. As a result, the folks here in Birmingham have pulled ahead of the pack in one very important respect: they did our laundry.

Ooh, that was lovely.

Photo: Camping out in Nottingham Station.

You see, the weather had turned the day we left London, and continued raining pretty regularly the entire time we were in Lincoln. We took the short train to Nottingham ... where we discovered our train to Birmingham had been cancelled. All the trains to Birmingham had been cancelled. The trackes had been flooded, or maybe it was just the electric signals. We sat around the station in Nottingham, making calls to our contacts in London and Birmingham, and waiting for the rail situation to change.

We began speculating on a night's stay in Nottingham when they suddenly announced a train would be going through, but by the time we arrived in Birmingham, all other trains had been cancelled. So in that respect, we were lucky. Except Toni had planned on spending the afternoon doing laundry, and now there would be no time, if we could even find a laundrette in the city center.

Lisa and Elaine, the two main organizers of our event here for SANDS joined us at the hotel for some late night libations ... and asked if someone couldn't wash my underpants.

The performance today was the end of the local SANDS conference, sharing the new Guidlines. There was a larger percentage of medical health professionals than bereaved parents, or so it seemed, and the Q&A included the first comment I have had on this tour from an offended nurse, one who didn't appreciate my presenting only the negataive aspects of our time in the hospital. It was a respectful exchange. I think everyone knows my opinion on this subject, the character I am playing the show is who I was at the time, and that's how I felt. I understand it can be harsh, the play is called I HATE THIS.

What was unique about this talkback was that not only was Toni joining me, but so was Connie. As a nurse, as a woman who trains obstetric nurses, as Toni's mother and as a bereaved grandparent, she offered a rich point of view to the proceedings.

As a result the discussion with the audience had nothing to do with the history of the play, less to do with our lives since 2001, and so much to do with caregivers, what assistance is available (or not) to parents who have lost children in both the US and the UK, and issues regarding grandparents and other relatives.

It was an intimate gathering, maybe thirty audience members. A lot of them knew each other, and aspects of the discussion were, not so much a debate, but a mutual agreement on certain points regarding patient care and communication. I probably said the least during this talkback than I ever had, and I think that was a very good thing.

Photo: Zelda loves to pose with otters.

In the five-year history of this play, I have never performed it many times in a row. The fringe festivals were five perfs each. And though I have performed this show for hospitals and conferences before, it has never been incorporated something like one help organizartion's two-week schedule of events. What this has done for me, and also for Toni, is to really challenge our participation in perinatal bereavement and counseling. The extended dialogue we have participated in through all of these talkbacks has thrown what we have accomplished, and what we still hope to do into some kind of relief. Today was particularly helpful in that regard.

The kids had a good day, we took them to National Sea Life, an aquarium which is so totally geared to kids. There can't be a fish tank without there's a ship's anchor in it, or a statue of a mermaid.

1 comment:

Henrik said...

Oh, man, I've had that dream. With me, I'm always supposed to go on as Albin in La Cage Aux Folles, which is weird because I've never even seen that show.