The Show Must Go On

Posted on April 22, 2020

The Ghost Light Chronicles, vol. 5

A Message From Actor & Apprentice Alum Elyse Sharp

Elyse Sharp in various productions, on and off stage, with Capital Stage and Shakespeare on the Vine. Photos by Misty McDowell, Charr Crail , and Leda Mast Photography.

“The theater is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.” – John Steinbeck, Once There Was a War

The show must go on.

Last summer, I was playing Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I woke up on opening day with plenty of time to do the complicated braided hairstyle that the director and I had agreed on. The final dress rehearsal had gone as smoothly as we could hope for, and although other shows I’ve been in still need one last rehearsal the day of opening night, the cast had been given the day off to rest.

Then, my phone rang.

It was the company’s artistic director. The assistant stage manager had been in a car accident on their way home after rehearsal and was in the hospital. This person spent most of the first act of our show as my dresser to help me with my quick changes.

If you’ve never seen a quick change, imagine a choreographed dance between the actor and one or more dressers who move with precision and speed–and there’s clothes.

Have you ever tried to help someone else put on or take off clothes? If you are home with another person right now, feel free to try. We all have the time.

It isn’t easy, so, there’s an exact order: As I run offstage after the discovery of Duncan’s body, I’ll undo the clasp at my neck on this nightgown so you can help me get it over my head once I hit the quick change booth. Then, I’ll kick off the pair of shoes I’ve been wearing without socks, and you’ll help me put back on the socks and boots I had been wearing earlier, but not before you’ve handed my shirt which is already layered under a leather tunic. I’ll work on tucking that shirt in and fastening the tunic while you roll down the legs of the pants that I had kept on and worn rolled up so they wouldn’t show under the nightgown. Another cast member will arrive just in time to help me finish putting on the tunic–there’s one latch-like thing that I can’t reach and your hands are full with either my boots or getting the final touches for my costume–then they’ll hold open the cloak while you help me put on a necklace and crown. I’ll maybe get a sip of water before walking back on stage.

This all happens in under two minutes.

And I have five of these changes in Act One. And they are all different, all complicated.

But the show must go on.

So, we adjust, we hatch a plan, and I do that complicated braided hairstyle in record time before arriving at the theatre three hours early in order to teach another crew member how each change functions.

The show goes on.

Take an introductory improvisation class, and you’ll hear about the concept of “Yes, And.” At its basic level, it is about accepting what someone else has said in an improv scene and building on it. So, if someone else says that the office building is on fire, then you have to agree to that setting and add something to it — maybe your character grabs the bottle off the top off the water cooler to do their best to stop the fire before the firefighters arrive.

Eventually, Yes, And becomes more about stepping into the unknown, letting go of anything you had planned, accepting the situation you found yourself in, and adjusting to it.

Capital Stage is the theatre that said, Yes we will do theatre on a river boat, And it will be excellent. Yes, we will take that old gun store, And we will turn it into Sacramento’s home for cutting edge theatre.

We are all improvising life right now — finding new ways of living and working through the unknown. We can’t change what is going on, so we have to Yes, And it. Capital Stage excels at Yes, And, and it is what I believe will see us through this never-before-seen situation.

For now, I’ll be catching up on reading plays and finding new material for when auditions start back up again. I’ll be video-chatting with friends, discovering new outlets for creativity, and taking walks with my fiance. And I’ll be looking forward to the next time I can walk in through that door on J Street, sit down in a seat (I’ve honestly tried them all, and there isn’t a bad one), and watch a show in the theatre that feels like home.

The show will go on.

I’ll see you at CapStage when it does.

Elyse Sharp

Actor & Apprentice Alum

Capital Stage

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