By PAM HARBAUGH
My esteem for our area actors keeps growing and growing. The latest example comes from the cast of Melbourne Civic Theatre’s “The Curious Savage.”
The production (all sold out, BTW) features a wonderful ensemble cast. During rehearsals and performances, you can imagine how much of a family cast and crew all become.
Recently, one of its actors, Dan Wilkerson, became ill and had to bow out of this weekend’s performances. Director Peg Girard turned to actor Mark Blackledge, who did Dan’s role about 30 years ago. He said yes, that he would take up the role while Dan is out sick.
It means Mark having to step onstage “on book,” meaning he’ll have the script in his hand and read from it. It also meant that the cast and crew had to gather last night to help Mark with his blocking and timing.
This is a time-honored theater custom for productions where there are no understudies. That means most productions, by the way. Fortunately MCT had a day to rehearse the blocking for Dan. The first time I saw it was at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City when none other than F. Murray Abraham stepped in at the last minute on-book for performance of “Duck Variations” and “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.”
Such an occurrence recently happened at Mad Cow Theatre in Orlando in its production of “You Can’t Take It with You.” It was about 30 minutes ahead of time and the way an actor’s absence skewed the cast dynamic meant that two people had to go on book. (Read more about that by clicking here.)
This dynamic fascinates me. The script seems to disappear. The audience accepts it. The cast supports the sudden newcomer. Mad Cow’s executive director Mitzi Maxwell said it was an actor’s way of “paying it forward” to others who have stepped in to help. Where else but live theater can you find this kind of community that is a living reminder that one stick may break, but put them in a bundle and they’re strong as hell.
Anyway, break legs Mark Blackledge and your fine supportive cast, crew and director. And if you’re reading this, Dan Wilkerson, know that everyone wishes you well and hopes to see you onstage again for the show’s final weekend, which is Nov. 6 to 8. Call MCT at 321-723-6935 or visit MyMCT.org.
If you want to read my review of “The Curious Savage,” click here.