It’s not the way we wanted to spend our opening weekend. I’m paraphrasing Tony Estrella, artistic director of the Gamm Theatre in Warwick.
It’s Sunday afternoon, Mother’s Day. We had just wrapped up a brush-up rehearsal of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ wearing our street clothes, and we’re about to head home for the day.
We should instead be heading off to get something to eat, ready to return for the 7:30 show. This should have been the first of a two-show day. But thanks to Covid, we’ve had to cancel five shows.
We’ve been at it for five weeks now. Rehearsals six days a week. Getting the language just right. Getting our movements just right. Getting our props and costumes just right.
This past week was tech week, when the lights and sound get mixed in. Robin Grady, our stage manager, called out “Hold, please!” quite often as technical items were tweaked.
A week ago, we had a ten-of-twelve. A full day at the theater, two five-hour shifts separated by a two-hour dinner break. We introduced a live dog to the show. Lily, a Westie belonging to Nora Eschenheimer, who plays Helena in the show, was needed for one scene. She handled it like a champ.
On Wednesday night, we had an invited dress rehearsal. Our first time in front of a live audience. On Thursday, we did the entire show, in costume, for the Gamm’s photographers and videographers.
On Friday morning, we performed for students from three area high schools. A very vocal and very appreciative audience. We finished at about 12:30, and we had six hours until our next show.
Instead, at about 3PM, we all got calls, either from Tony Estrella or Jessica Hill Kidd, our production manager extraordinaire. One of the 18 actors had tested positive for Covid, so we had to cancel that night’s show.
Depending on the results of his PCR test, which everyone hoped would be received during the day on Saturday, we may or may not have a show. No results by Saturday afternoon, so no show.
Late Saturday night, the PCR proved positive, so Sunday’s shows were canceled. Tuesday’s show as well.
So, we had a brush-up rehearsal instead. Most of us wearing masks. Don’t want to tempt fate.
We’ve been Covid-aware from the start of the production. We are all fully vaccinated and boosted. On the night we all first met for the initial read-through, we all took rapid tests. Kidd sent us all home with six test kits and asked us to test ourselves each Tuesday and Friday morning, texting the results to her.
For five weeks, we were fine. Eighteen cast members, and a half-dozen crew. All testing negative.
And then, as we’re poised to officially open the show, boom! One of the actors tests positive. So, he’s out for several days at least. His part is read at the rehearsal by one of the assistant stage managers.
Estrella gives us a pre-show pep talk. We’re doing the rehearsal just to keep our parts in our bodies. Too long away from it and we tend to forget. We’re keeping it fresh.
We’re also keeping our fingers crossed. “Who knows?” says Estrella. “We might need people to jump into a role if they’re not in a particular scene.” He points at Eschenheimer and says he’s always wanted to play Helena, so watch out.
We are hopeful we’ll be back at full strength on Wednesday. Shows will be added to make up for the missed dates. Full information will be available on the Gamm’s website, at www.gammtheatre.org.
Praying to the theater gods that all will be well.