Opening night for Talley’s Folly was very exciting, not only because it was opening night but because theater is a live event and sometimes living from moment to moment, things are “just sprung on us.” So it’s 8 o’clock. The play begins. Matt enters the theater as usual but unbeknownst to him, additional obstacles to Matt and Sally’s love will appear on the road to happily ever after. The first of these challenges came in the likeness of a shoelace. Yes, a shoelace.
As Matt struggles to untie the shoelaces to his skates, I began to think, “Something’s funny here isn’t it? Something’s strange.” It seems that somehow Matt’s shoelaces are taking some extra time to untie. He fumbles with them for awhile and then Sally comes over to help him. The moment was totally unplanned and I’m sure it had every one of us who had seen the show through rehearsal on the edge on our seats. (After the show, one of the crew members told me that she was standing guard with a pair of scissors to come save the day—hoping no one noticed her in her all black clothes.) The actors moved forward through the faux pas with the help of Matt’s brute strength (he broke the shoelaces). The two actors seem to not miss a beat though; they were in sync enough to solve the problem and keep it going. I must admit, I chuckled a bit at the moment with a fond appreciation of live theater.
So, once again the show galloped along until something else funny happened this time with a set piece. As Matt moved the buggy seat into position to offer Sally a seat, one of the legs came off. It was very interesting seeing the plank of the leg come off. I was sitting in my seat thinking, how are they gonna fix this? Matt simply placed the short plank underneath the seat and the show continued. Somehow I really like that moment too. After all, why wouldn’t there be a broken buggy seat in a dilapidated boathouse?
I think that opening night really served as a reminder that the future doesn’t always go as planned. Matt comes to Lebanon expecting things will go a lot smoother than they do and Sally expects to put Matt off and they both end up mistaken. Opening night also served as reminder of the nature of theatre. Regardless of how much rehearsal a show undergoes, the moment is the moment and the challenge to the actors is to live in that moment.
Posted by Anthony Sanford, Jr., Directing/Producing Intern at McCarter Theatre.