A few years ago, but not so long ago that my twisted sense of humor had yet to develop, I was in the show The Producers. For those of you who are not theatre folk, The Producers is a very technically difficult show. There are all kinds of light and sound cues, which make the show an excellent extravaganza, but it also gives the Stage Manager a whole lot to do.
One afternoon, shortly after having lectured the cast about professional responsibility, the Stage Manager realized five minutes before the show was due to start that she had left her show bible at home. Her show bible held every cue for the entire show, and there was not another copy in the theatre! We couldn’t start the show! And she lived twenty minutes away! She charged to her car and raced home. The show would have to start forty minutes late! This was a theatrical disaster.
We had an audience full of patrons who had to be told the show was going to be late. So the Artistic Director did the best thing he could. He went on stage and told the audience that a bus of special needs children who were supposed to be seeing the show had broken down and that we were going to hold for their arrival. He then thanked the audience for their understanding.
Five minutes later, he went back onstage and told them the bus was running and they were on their way. Ten minutes after that he said the bus had taken a wrong turn. Fifteen minutes after that he told them the bus should be there any minute. As the Stage Manager ran back into the theatre, the Artistic Director told the audience that the bus had gotten lost again and that we could no longer hold the show but that arrangements were being made for the special needs children to see the show another day.
No one in the audience complained about the wait. How can you complain about waiting for one dear sweet child with special needs, let alone a whole busload? Nor did anyone question the fact that children were being taken on a bus trip to see a Mel Brooks musical.
We did the show, and the audience loved it. The cast had lots of fun mocking the Stage Manager. And the audience thought that we were the theatre with the heart of gold, willing to do anything to fulfill the dreams of children.