St. Valentine’s Plague

The week started on Monday with a cast-all for each of the sixty-three kids present at the audition. Minus one: a Pea-Wee was too overwhelmed at the audition and left before the cast announcements. One down, sixty-two to go.

When the first rehearsal started, a 16-year-old Scout quit, claiming a conflict. This wasn’t the first time a Scout quit within an hour of casting. Halfway through the first rehearsal, an assistant director quit with a similar excuse, yet she’d joined the final five minutes of the audition, begging us to be part of the show somehow. Five assistant directors wouldn’t hurt. A Seasider quit after the audition, too.

On Tuesday, another Scout quit. She was in tears trying to explain that she’s not usually a quitter, but she’s just not happy being in a group of kids out of her circle. We agreed on her changing to assistant director to keep her involved. Another student showed up with her mom, asking if she could still be in the show even though she was sick and absent from the first rehearsal. I said of course, and to come to the next rehearsal for the Seasiders. I have yet to see or hear from her again.

Come Wednesday, one of the remaining assistant directors agreed to taking over a vacant role, and we accommodated the blocking and dialogue to balance out this new twelfth player. Ilaya and Heather were out sick. In rehearsal, kids started dropping like Londoners in 1800. Our Gil had to mark his voice to ease a sore throat; Preston had to lay down; Molly had to sit out due to a sore leg.

Thursday. I excused Preston from rehearsal before we started; he vomited in the office while awaiting his ride. Casey the Pea-Wee had been home all day, sick from school. Ilaya and Heather were still missing. Molly sat out with a fever. I sent Gil home early to kick whatever bug started to bite his stomach, throat, and head. Laura was homesick, and an assistant director read Ophelia’s lines.

Friday morning, I got a call from Gil’s dad, who informed me of Isaiah’s infirmity, which sounded serious. Rumors were flying about why Heather wouldn’t perform: broken leg, sprained foot, birthday party…? Her stepmom straightened things out by informing us that Heather lives with her mom this weekend, out of town. Heather had said bupkis about any of this – she just disappeared. Preston was still home, recovering. Trace had to lie down during rehearsal with a sore stomach, and later, Hannah complained about an upset stomach. Laura rejoined us, but Jennifer (another assistant director) stepped in for Heather. Alex, our one male assistant director, saved me from performing Gil’s role.

By the time our audience arrived Friday evening, I applied three or four band-aids to bleeding arms and legs, retrieved ice packs for bonked heads and strained joints, and crammed wadded gauze in an infected ear. I used our costume kit’s hot glue gun to fix Sara’s broken shoe sole. Finally, our masking-turned-set-walls fell over onto the children both onstage and backstage at least twice during our run-throughs prior to showtime.

I have no memory of the performance. The costumes were sorted, the set pieces packed, and off we drove to the next town to start the entire process once again. Another school, another cast, another collection of maladies.