The beauty of live theatre is that the show must go on, no matter what. When I played Nurse Kelly in Harvey last January, one of the set’s doors fell off its hinges mid-performance. We fixed it during a black out because–the show must go on! During my run as Janet Davis in Marrying Terry, the lead forgot part of her costume, a black skirt. But I lived only 5 minutes away and a black skirt was hanging neatly (?) in my closet, so 10 minutes before curtain, a crew member grabbed the keys to another crew member’s car and drove me in costume to my apartment. I looked a bit out of place running around the parking lot in high heels and an elegant pink dress, highly overdressed amidst the Florida Keys casual wear of tank tops and flip flops. But you know what they say; the show must go on!
Never have I known this adage to be more true than with the production of Challenger. On April 7, I debut as NASA astronaut Judith Resnik, a role for which I spent hours tutoring myself from YouTube how to speak a Hebrew prayer.
Just how many things can go wrong in a production run? Let me break it down for you.
In January, the cast was announced. Just as we were beginning weekly rehearsals in February, one of the lead astronauts dropped out due to time commitment issues. No worries; we found a replacement two weeks later. But during that time, another lead dropped out for personal reasons. No worries; we found a replacement. But then, without warning, we lost the replacement for that first astronaut again.
Then, the fundraising party that we spent hours planning was cancelled. (It’s hard to throw a party when you don’t have a budget to throw a party.)
Last month, three hours after we left rehearsal, a gas explosion rocked the neighborhood, originating across the street from the playhouse. The theatre’s door blew out. No worries; the community came together. The door was replaced and we now wear our shoes at rehearsal to avoid scraping our feet on the itty bitty glass particles buried throughout the carpet post-explosion.
But then last week our replacement to replace the replaced replacement dropped out. That’s right. We lost a lead one week before the curtain goes up. But, well, you know… the show must go on!
Our dedicated, albeit a bit overwhelmed, assistant director stepped in, splitting the role with another actor the director pulled in. The drawing bowl was narrow for this astronaut role as race plays an integral part. (Aside from being remembered for its disastrous and untimely end, the Challenger was legendary for the diversity of its crew members).
This play has certainly been challenging in its road to fruition. It would seem it is, indeed, aptly named. But so far, somehow, for now, the show is progressing toward opening night.
How is the story of the Challenger space shuttle told in this production? Here’s the director’s beautiful synopsis of this devised, fringe theatre piece:
If you find yourself in Seattle April 7, 8, 15 or 16, you’ll want to grab tickets to see this performance, the epitome of “the show must go on!” If you live oceans away, perhaps you can instead reflect on the legacy these heroic explorers of space left behind. They are a reminder that we must reach for the stars. As friends of Judy Resnik say, she would be the first to pick up and continue with space exploration despite the disaster.