I had one of the strangest experiences of my performing career last Friday Night at the P@W One Act Festival. Days later, I am still trying to process it. Here’s the story:
Background: Gertrude Fox and I performed the one-act “Twilight” written by Barbara Schmitt. The well written piece tells the story of a 60-year-old man who wants to move his 90-year-old mother into “a home” because he’s concerned about her living alone. The story is heartfelt and explores a very current and serious issue impacting the “sandwich generation.” Gertrude and I took our roles and the play very seriously. Fortunately, in addition to a great story, the play contained a moment or two of humor designed to lighten the dramatic mood.
Opening Night: The reaction from the audience was not at all what we expected. The audience howled at almost every line. You would have thought we were performing a Neil Simon play. Both Gertrude and I were stunned, to say the least. Had we missed the point of the script? Is this a funny show rather than a serious one? Was the audience just desperate for comic relief? Did we truly enter the Twilight Zone? And, now how were we supposed to play it? Both the author Barbara and Director Tony Kruzman were surprised by the audience’s reaction, but not necessarily troubled. It did however, bother me!
Day 2: Things calmed down a bit on the second night. The reaction from the audience continued to be livelier than I originally anticipated, but at least people were not falling out of their seats. Gertrude and I thought the performance went very well, our best to date. We had solicited some feedback about the show, and tried to tamp down some of the humor in our individual performances.
(I Digress: The first part of the day was spent at “Day on the Town” the annual Birmingham Shopping District Sidewalk Sale day. The Youth Theatre was on the main stage at noon, and they set the place on fire! Some of their “graduates” came back to sing a song or two, and the crowd was wowed by this home town talent! Over at the VP booth on Maple, we talked to lots of folks about Village Players, fighting that old maxim: “I’ve never been there before!” We talked up the One-Act Festival and our upcoming season, handling out season ticket brochures.)
Day 3: Although the Sunday matinee presented the smallest audience of the weekend, for “Twilight” it seemed to the most responsive. This audience seemed in-tune with our message, and after the show, a few confessed to a tear or two after reflecting upon the show’s message and their own lives. Finally we returned from the Twilight Zone.
Post Production: The weekend wrapped up nicely with set-strike and post-event reception. Personally, I think the One Act Festival is a great artistic triumph for the Players, and I would like to see it expand and grow in coming years.
Special note to the Big Guy: We’re going to miss you! Hurry back!