Photo by Sam Long
No weather man is able to predict a torrential downpour of acid rain. No preface can explain the fiery fifty car pile up that came from my vehicular theatrical choices and demands. Instead, I will begin with posing you a question: of the two names, who strikes you more? Frankenstein, or Frosty? By Frosty, I mean the snowman. Who would you rather be seen in public with – the pathetic top-hat donning, waddling freak or the complex beast made of various materials and theories? Would you rather be forced to only serve gazpacho at soup parties due to your partner’s dietary restrictions, or wow your friend’s with your partner’s annihilation of an all you can eat buffet? It is always the monsters who fascinate us, who we want to shout “bravado! Encore!” at. Frosty just seeped into the ground and disappeared for an entire season after threatening to “be back again someday.” In Mel Gibson’s Young Frankenstein, the titular character performs a tap dance to Puttin’ on the Ritz. People hoop and holler, a triple D bra is seen flying onto the stage and requests for an EKG are made. Which is why I am so confused with the fist-waving, black-balling reception of my monster. After my directorial Debut of The Lord of the Flies, there were no bras flung to my feet. There were no hoops and hollers, there was no frantic rubbing together of metal slabs. There were, however, receipts flashing mountains of debt. Tense conversations with fingers wagging. An overwhelming expression of intense distress.
Auditions 28 days until opening night
The pool of auditioners interested in the show significantly decreased after I gave the note that read, “if you don’t pick up a folding chair and throw it on the ground by the end of the scene you will be asked to leave.”* Next to me sits Sophia Lopez, a platinum blond from Las Vegas. She tried to start a wreath business in the winter and woke up at 4 a.m. to work at Crumbl Cookies in the fall. A worker for all seasons. The two of us sit wearing matching cowboy boots and jean skirts as we shuffle papers amongst ourselves. One man, a ginger in a raincoat (it was 80 degrees without a cloud in the sky), hurls the chair across the room before the scene begins, then once more at the end for good measure. Sophia passes me a note that says “we need him.”
First rehearsal, 23 days until opening night
Absolutely everything imaginable goes wrong. We give cast members the wrong version of the script; entire characters suddenly don’t exist anymore. Our stage manager sits playing a desktop version of Candy Crush and occasionally leaves the room and returns with paper towels that she simply places on the table, like a person who was manning a buffet would do. I say, “thank you,” as if we desperately needed them. The version of the script we use is 30 pages shorter than the one we planned to perform — the production team is relieved, knowing that the fewer pages there are the fewer chances we have to set something on fire. We end the rehearsal, pinning the catastrophes of the day on an imaginary crew member who had gotten COVID-19. Somebody’s gotta keep Fauci’s name relevant!
Saturday Five days until opening night
A disgruntled lesbian blasts CeeLo Green as her fingers lay strips of papier-mâché across a balloon, breaking every dozen strips or so to take a massive rip from a bong that acts as a Thanksgiving feast’s centerpiece. At our first production meeting, under a slide titled “props,” I typed only three words on the screen:
Ginormous pigs head.
I hovered over her eyebrow piercing and mullet, eyeing her mâché techniques. She occasionally motions towards the cornucopia, offering me to christen it. Seemingly from the ether, “Purple Rain” begins blasting. She stares daggers into my eyes and says, “would you please turn this up.” I hold her gaze. Hers does not waver. I Charlie-Brown-walk over to the speaker and turn the volume up. She goes back to work. We do not talk for four hours.
Thursday Opening night
I draft a speech to perform for the cast. In an attempt to ignite some passion behind their performing, I spawn a fictional brother and narrate tales of comradery and celebration the two of us have shared. Towards the end of the speech, whether or not Brutus is alive is left up to audience interpretation, as phrases such as “if Brutus could see us today” are laced within our shared love for banned books. The pig’s head that lurked backstage became a shrine that they prayed to for the next four performances. We expected to sell four rows worth of tickets and tripled our predictions. While I have no idea whether people enjoyed the performance or not, the cast organized trips to Cook Out and movie nights amongst themselves. That is enough for me to watch the weatherman hang up his green screen, and predict clear skies.