Three days ago, we closed out our second production, The Curious Savage, written by John Patrick.
The buildup to the three nights we showed was frankly horrifying. The terror, for me, lay in perfectionism. I simply can't bear putting things out that aren't exactly way that I want them. And, being honest, it was in a sorry state of affairs. There were exactly 13 of us total working on this play (well, 14 if you count our director), and we already had to postpone once, from February to March, due to a sudden bout of COVID striking half the cast out of nowhere. It was absolutely scary. I admit I was pretty strongly advocating for canceling the show. The Friday before the week we were to run, I almost passed out in my academic classes from exhaustion—something that is quite unlike me, both to me and to people who know me. The exhaustion stemmed from stress, confusion, and fear. Could we even put this damn thing on?
The answer, surprisingly enough, was yes. We rallied ourselves back together and put on what we in this specific department call a "black-box show". The first one ever put on in four years, since the COVID lockdowns.
Let me tell you how such a show was. The set was built from flimsy wood walls with only a thin layer of covering between us and the audience (disregarding other set pieces). And when we perform, we are quite literally in the audience's face. It's an intimate showing that is almost tailor-made for a comedy like The Curious Savage. Maybe, then, that explains why, despite my total reluctance to put this show on, I absolutely loved performing in it. It felt like that was the way it was meant to be performed. It's sad that it'll be the only one I'll ever be in. For all my initial misgivings about the show, I loved being in it a lot.
The show is about an old woman by the name of Ethel P. Savage. She has just come into possession of 10 million dollars from her late husband—no small sum of money in the 50s (when this play was written). Her stepchildren want that money, so they commit her to a mental asylum. She is placed in The Cloisters, a wing full of patients in their final stage of treatment—people who are kind and helpful but quite eccentric in their ways of thinking. While she is initially off-put by them, she grows attached to them, and they eventually help put her stepchildren in their place. She ends up keeping all the money in the end and is able to put it towards a Memorial Fund for her husband. I played the role of Hannibal, a former government statistician and patient at the asylum with a penchant for playing the violin. I got to play the violin incredibly badly and do fun math on stage. I also designed the sound for the show; every sound effect and piece of music came from me (either from recordings on YouTube or, in a couple cases, pulling MIDIs and editing them to sound more natural).
The week of the show was wild and bonkers. Opening night, it snowed. For like, 20 minutes, but it fucking snowed. In Southern California. Do you know how rare that is? The last time it snowed here was around 10 years ago. That's crazy to me. We all went outside and just watched it for a bit.
It was our little good luck charm that night. Or, rather, I should say Shield, because I actually broke the violin at the very top of the show. Nothing else went wrong, though! Never fixed that violin, though, so it was just me struggling to actually play the damned thing.
On closing night, someone came up to me and asked me to sign a playbill. They'd said they'd seen me in a prior play and were incredibly excited to have seen me again, and that I should really consider taking up a career in acting.
All in all, a good week. Tomorrow, I begin the audition process once again, but on the other side of the table: I get to cast kids from the beginning theatre class I TA for in a one-act that I will be directing. Maybe you'll see me here again once that's shown, or perhaps when we do Little Shop of Horrors in April. Whatever the case, have a great rest of your week, friends.