What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

The Trouble with Trampolines March 22, 2017

Once upon a time when I was a bright-eyed youth, I worked for a summer stock theatre that performed all their shows in the round. For non-theatre folks, that means that the audience is on all four sides of the stage. We did somewhere around seven shows in twelve weeks or something crazy like that, and one of the shows was the musical Swing!

I love Swing! It’s a great show. Just a bunch of happy, dancing frivolity. I will say it’s an ambitious endeavor for a summer stock. That many dance numbers to put together in a two-week rehearsal process with the entire cast currently performing another show? Not really the ideal situation.

But it was fine. Nobody died. (A few close calls, but we all survived.) And in all this super intense work, they even decided to do a trampoline number.

It was a normal swing number, except we were bouncing off our trampolines and throwing ourselves at our dance partners. It was pretty terrifying. Being tired as butt having twelve new dance numbers in your head, knowing your dance partner is in just as a bad shape as you are, and tossing yourself at them anyway.

But like I said, we all survived. We made it all the way to tech working with the trampolines. The time came to light the number, and one of the techs looked at the trampolines, looked at the director, and said, “Those trampolines are in the handicap spots.”

It was true enough. There were four gaps near the aisle of the front row where wheelchairs could park. And that’s where the trampolines had been placed.

“Where are you going to move the trampolines when there are wheelchairs?” the tech asked.

It was like watching a sped up video of a soap opera. The director hit six emotions in five seconds.

Outrage, disbelief, blame, hope, defiance, and crumpling defeat.

He walked out of the theatre, leaving the cast on stage. The Stage Manager gave us a five minute break, and when we were called back an hour later, the trampolines had all been cut. But we had our first audience the next day and no time to redo an entire number without the trampolines. So we jazz squared around the stage for a two minute number. No lifts, no fancy partners, just jazz squares.

And why? Because no one had ever thought of where the trampolines were supposed to live.

Sometimes a good idea is just a nervous breakdown waiting to happen.


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