Yesterday was closing night of Little Plates, Big Tapas. All six of us actors were loopy and energetic for the performance. Ali was feeling sick, and the rest of us took a pre-show shot of the horrible, bottom-shelf 151-proof rum we’ve been lighting on fire during the Fire Dog dish finale. We improvised more in this show, which extended the show by about 8 minutes, but I think it was funny and playful and worth it. One compliment I’ve heard about our show is that it retained the energetic feel of improv comedy. That has been very nice to hear because, like movement on a fastball, I’m not sure that such a vibe can be taught. If this play felt scripted and methodical, it would have been very hard to intentionally inject playfulness.
There is apparently a theater tradition of screwing with one’s fellow actors as the run nears its end. With only four performances, we saved our sabotage for closing night. Scott put a piece of sausage in Ali’s purse (she found it before the show started). Ali placed a phallic sausage chunk in the yarchagumba spice box, which Jack discovered mid-show (he had to disguise his laugh by turning away from the crowd). I considered dousing the Fire Dog sausage skewers with 151, but decided against it for fire safety reasons (the Fire Dog came dangerously close to setting off the fire alarm last night anyhow). Jesse added a lot of water to the bucket of pasta which gets dumped on Scott during the show-ending food fight (Scott didn’t expect it). Standing in the dark restaurant section of the stage, watching Scott get drenched and then slip repeatedly trying to traverse the pasta-and-water covered floor, I couldn’t prevent my laughter. In that moment, I also remembered the 151, which probably contributed to my brief (but out of character) on-stage giggles.
We needed to strike the set Monday night and Tueday morning, so we had to curtail post-show chatting with friends and any kind of end-of-show celebration. The set took days to build, but eleven of us working vigorously dismantled it in a few hours. Making this play felt, to me, like the creation of something substantial. We built a small world in this big room and resided in it for weeks. To quickly dismantle it, only hours after completing the last show, was a melancholy mental readjustment. It also made me realize that the complete dismantling of a theater set would be a devastating, but entirely feasible, prank to play on a rival theater production. Twelve men, a key to the space, some screw guns and a Ryder truck, working from three am until eight am, could really flabbergast whichever cast or crew member arrived first the next morning.
The biggest challenge to our strike project was repainting walls and two tall flats we had used for the back wall of our restaurant. They were painted red, and we needed to return them to white. This bit of information is important for the following anecdote.
Nick Kerr and I were the two theater novices in this production. I think we both were a little out of our element in the role-demarcated, minimally-supervised logistics of striking a set. There are best practices to these things, everyone has their realm of responsibility, and you get very conscious of idle hands. Or at least that’s how I felt. Kerr, apparently, had taken the initiative to bring to bear the resources of his non-theater life upon the evening’s chores. Bustling about the Latvian as we began to strike the set, I descended the stairs towards the front door. In burst Kerr. He smiled and pointed a thumb back over his shoulder. “Look,” he said boyishly, as if referring to doughnuts he had brought to a office meeting, “I brought painters!” Following behind Kerr were three stern-faced Mexican men carrying painting supplies. Then they were gone up the stairs into the theater space.
My big contribution to our strike tools was a broom and dustpan. Kerr brought in a paint crew. Other theater folks take note: having a real estate developer in your show pays unforeseeable dividends. Without those painters, we would have been at the Latvian until five am. Instead, we left at one.
Scott, Kerr and I retired to their Fairmount house, where we made eggs (purchased for, but not used in, the show) and talked about the show until two thirty in the morning. Early discussions of what would become Little Plates, Big Tapas happened in that Fairmount kitchen, and from the beginning the plan was to throw eggs in an on-stage food fight. My time in the play ended with eating those show-purchased eggs in that same kitchen.