As I’m writing this, the cast is wrapping up the first leg of their South African journey in Cape Town. I was lucky enough to be with these guys and Tim from their first day of rehearsal way back in March, to see the Syracuse run through to the end, and to help bridge their run into South Africa just past the opening weekend.
There are a lot of things that, if everyone is doing their jobs onstage and backstage, people in the audience are not aware of happening. Things like actors going out onstage when they are sick, or when they are limping around onstage (not “in-character” but in real life) because they’re in a lot of pain, or when they are getting stung by a bee onstage and keep going on with the show. (Didn’t see that last one personally, but I heard about it!)
Since I left the show, I have been keeping up with the production vicariously through performance reports, emails with folks, and through Facebook. Things haven’t changed. The commitment that I saw in the first week to sharing this story and bringing something of themselves to the show and, when possible, to the community they are performing for has not wavered. In the lobby after shows (on both continents) the cast would hang out as the audience waited for them to take photos, shake hands, exchange feelings about the show, anything. On their day off, Sam and Rodrick spent time with a youth group participating in activities with them and sharing their life experiences. It’s even reflected in the things they put into this blog. They want to share the show and themselves. It’s one of those times that you “break the fourth wall” with the audience not just during the show, but in life outside the stage.
When we crossed the Atlantic, the guys were a bit travel-weary, but raring to get the show re-rehearsed for the new theatre and set for new audiences. Before we left Syracuse, the cast and Tim often talked about what it meant for them to take the show to South Africa. When we had our first meetings with the people at the Baxter Theatre Centre and when we had our first audiences, I saw them well-up at times as they tried to express what was in their hearts.
To a certain extent, I don’t think that the South African community fully grasped the significance of what this meant to the cast and Tim. And to a certain extent, maybe it didn’t matter – it came out in the work and was there for people to see and hear. I’m just glad I was there to see it.
When I close a show, I will often look back afterwards and think about what made it special. Maybe it was great audiences that we had or a fantastic rehearsal process. My favorite ones are the shows where I can look back and the first thing that comes to mind is the people I met and the experiences and conversations we shared “off the clock.” My last night in South Africa was spent with these guys and my wife, Kristina, enjoying a great meal and then talking under the stars about the show, and about life. Just sharing a drink (several actually) through the late hours until we had to call it quits to get ready to catch a plane out of Cape Town. That is my lasting memory for this show and why I will remember it for a long, long time.
Have a great Cape Town closing, guys. And thank YOU.