Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing*

Last night was the one and only performance of the fall play.

I'd have to say it was a success ... in the sense that no one made fools of themselves, the set didn't fall over, and I had a margarita when I got home.

At RHS, we do things up right; our plays take place in the cafeteria. It's the only area in the entire building that resembles anything close to a stage. There is no curtain, no backstage, no lighting or sound system.

When I announced auditions for the play in the first month of school, a student I'd taught for two years straight (was it only two? it seemed longer.) asked me, "Ms. Flower, can I be your technical director?"

"Suuuuuure," I said, because I am a dummy. And also, I hate the technical stuff.

He assured me that he would take care of everything: sets, scenery, lighting design, props. I had to sign a bunch of papers for his Eagle Scout troop, because he said he was going to build me some sets as his Eagle Scout Community Project. (Another boy was putting together a light and sound kit as HIS ESCP.)

So three weeks ago he came into my room. "Hey R," I said, "How's the set coming?"

"I need to talk to you about that," he said, which should have been my cue to start doing things my own self.

"I don't have any money to buy wood," he said.

"I thought YOU were supposed to raise the money yourself," I replied. "I READ the contract before I signed it; it said everything was YOUR responsibility."

"Yeah ... well, we may have a problem there."

Yeesh. So what it boiled down to was this: he turned in his paperwork too late and the Eagle Scouts went and changed the program so all that stuff I signed was nullified.

And also, he wanted ME to buy stuff for him.

"Are ya NUTS?" I asked. "I'M A TEACHER."

"Well, could the Drama Society buy it?"

"Yes, they could, but not TODAY; there is a PROCEDURE that I have to follow. I can't just walk up to somebody and say, "Gimme my money.'"

And then he went on a rant about bureaucracy and how much our school stinks and I was like, "Um ... no. You cannot blame this on anyONE or anyTHING other than YOURSELF. You HAD the schedule; you KNEW the dates; YOU ARE THE ONE WHO SCREWED UP, not the red tape, not the school--Y.O.U., YOU."

Well he did not care for THAT at all.

So for the next two weeks, every single day I would give him a list of businesses in Randomville who might be willing to donate money or supplies. EVERY SINGLE DAY. And last Friday, I asked him, "So how many businesses have you been to?" fully expecting that the answer would have to be somewhere in the twenties or thirties.

"Four," he told me.

FOUR. And even though we did get some help from those four, I was mighty displeased.

"Well, I had to work," he tried to tell me.

"I work a freaking FULL-TIME JOB," I said, "AND I have rehearsals twice a week, AND I have rehearsals for ANOTHER play, AND I do odd jobs for people because I need the money. BUT I MYSELF PERSONALLY HAVE CONTACTED MORE THAN FOUR BUSINESSES."

He did not have any response to that.

So I said, "When are you going to build these sets, R?"

And he said, "My grandfather and I are going to do it this weekend."

"Are you SURE?"

"Ms. Flower, they will be completed this weekend."


So Monday, I got to school and guess who comes running down the hall toward me. "Ms. Flower! I need to talk to you about the sets!"

"I hope that what you have to say is, 'I'm totally done and they're already on the stage and ready to go,'" I said.

"Yeah ... about that."

I was losing patience. "WHAT," I said, with special emphasis on the T.

"I don't actually have them built yet."


"I don't actually have the wood for them yet."

"Uh HUH."

"But I'm getting it today! And they'll be done tonight."

"Of course they will be."

So Monday night at dress rehearsal, I got to the cafeteria and there was wood all over the place but none of it looked anything like a set to me.

"What is this?" I asked.

"That's the set. I just have to build it," R said.


I don't even know what he said then because I stopped listening. I put my hand up and then I walked away. If I'd stayed any longer there might have been some profanity.

The rehearsal itself went well, though. I was very pleased with my actors, who took everything in stride and went on like professionals. ("Please understand," I said to them, "that I am very stressed and very angry and in NO MOOD. Everything I say, I say with the deepest love and appreciation, even if it SOUNDS like the F word.")
NOTE: I did not say ANY curse words. Out loud.

At the end of the night, my "technical director" had built ... let's see ... carry the four, minus two ... ZERO SETS.

My most often-repeated line of the night? "LESS TALKING, MORE WORKING!"

So yesterday, I got to school and guess who comes running down the hall toward me. "I've had an epiphany!" he said.

"I hope it involves monkeys flying out your butt and a genie in a magic lamp," I thought, but did not say.

"I'm staying after school today to build them," he said.

"R," I said, calmly, rationally, with many deep breaths, "You realize this play is actually BEING PERFORMED in less than TWELVE HOURS."

"I know, I know," he said. "I can do it."

"I repeat: FLYING BUTT-MONKEYS AND MAGIC-LAMPED GENIES," I thought, but did not say.

I didn't even stick around after school. Set? No set? By that time I was just about over it. I was running on caffeine and indignation by then anyway, and I just DID NOT CARE.

Liar! I totally cared. But I thought it would be best not to be in the same room with him, when there were power saws and nail guns lying about, where someone could, you know, ACCIDENTALLY pick one up and do some damage. And by "someone," I definitely mean ME.

When I got back to the school, there was ... something ... up on the stage. Not the set I'd been promised, way back in August, but at least it covered up the giant Wildcat paw painted on the back wall and provided a makeshift backstage area where the actors could gather when they weren't onstage. I suspect that the fact that there was ... something ... had more to do with the "crew" R had bribed/coerced into helping him, and less to do with R himself. When I walked in, everybody was busy EXCEPT R.


Every time I turned around, he was yammering and yapping, and somebody else was doing HIS work. Even I was up on the stage, in my three-and-a-half inch heels and cashmere sweater, but R was ... where WAS R?

I know he showed up at the sound check, because he picked up a mic and started chanting, "Randomville sucks! Randomville sucks!" into it.

"YOU SUCK," I thought, but did not say. What I did say: "R! LESS TALKING, MORE WORKING!"

And I kept yelling it, right up until ten minutes before the play began, which was when the set was finished and in place. Literally, TEN MINUTES. Maybe less.

I think the fumes from the rapidly applied spray paint may have enhanced the audience's reaction to the play, and may have enhanced the actors' performances, come to think of it.

It was all over in thirty minutes, which is the perfect length for a high school play, I think. At least for a play I direct.

My favorite line was when the Indian gets fed up with his wife's perfectionism. He slams his hand on the table and says, "Will you STOP correcting people? Were ya RAISED in a TENT?"

His delivery was perfect. ("I thought the gay Indian did a good job," my dad said.)

The actors took their bows, the audience left, and it was time to strike the set. "set," I mean.

"R!" I yelled, more than once. "LESS TALKING, MORE WORKING!" I swear, that boy would have been there all night AND I WOULD HAVE HAD TO STAY TOO.

"So, what are you going to do with the set pieces?" he asked me, and by this time, I didn't even want to LOOK at him, I was so angry.

"I think that's the domain of THE TECHNICAL DIRECTOR," I said, through my teeth. "I'M not doing ANYTHING." And I could tell he was getting a little mad at me, but I had already run through MAD twice, myself, and was working up to the I in FURIOUS, so I could not have cared less.

"I guess I'll talk to the principal tomorrow," he said.

"Yes, do that," I replied.

We finally got all our stuff off the stage, all the chairs back in the rooms we'd stolen them from, all the tables back in the cafeteria, and all the actors' groupies out of the building.

"You guys did a great job!" I told my actors (pointedly NOT looking at R). "I'm very proud of you!"

"When's the next play?" they asked.

"How about we talk about that AFTER I've recovered from this one," I said. "See me in December ... of 2012."

Lesson learned:
Delegation is overrated. There is nothing wrong with being a control freak. Sometimes, control-freakishness is a good--no--a DESIRABLE quality which will serve you well and put custom-designed, FULLY-BUILT sets and scenery on your stage MORE than TWO HOURS BEFORE THE SHOW STARTS. (I would say, "before the curtain goes up," but ... no curtain.)
So, it's just like my mama always said: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

*What's that from?

1 comment:

lorinda said...

Hamlet, of course!

Is that boy seriously an Eagle Scout?

Congrats on the successful play--despite the 'technical director.'


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