Monday, March 24, 2008

Episode 5: The First Meltdown

It was September 22, 2007, when Horror Show finally demonstrated just how crazy-out-of-her-mind she really is. Up until that point, various people had seen the telltale signs of stark lunacy, but on this particular day all became clear. I know one of the people who actually witnessed The Meltdown, so I heard most of the story back then, and have gotten more details since then.

New Line was supposed to have their lighting cue-to-cue rehearsal that day for the first show in the Ivory: Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll. For those not fluent in theatre-talk, a cue-to-cue is a (usually long) rehearsal, in which the actors walk through the show slowly, and every time they get to a lighting cue, they are stopped, and the cue is adjusted, notes are taken for future re-focusing, etc. Some shows have 200-300 cues, so it's a tedious process, but necessary if you have a complicated lighting design.

On that day, Horror Show had promised New Line that the windows in the theatre would be covered first thing in the morning with heavy black fabric to shut out the sunlight, so the lighting designer could work in the darkness he needs. (There were supposed to be curtains already, but she had forgotten to order them on time.) The actual cue-to-cue rehearsal was to be at 1:00 p.m. but was moved back to 6:00 p.m. because of previous delays installing the lighting system (some of this was due to construction delays, some due to Horror Show's incompetence). This would mean a shorter rehearsal, but it would allow the designer to finish hanging and focusing the lights before the actors got there, something he would normally have already finished at this point.

At 4:00 p.m. that day, New Line's artistic director called their lighting designer to check in with him. The director was told that the windows weren't yet covered! The director called Horror Show and asked her why they weren't covered. He told her that the lighting designer needed to focus lights and he needed darkness in order to do that. She began to scream hysterically at the director about New Line postponing their rehearsal without telling her about it. She told him that if he didn't get to the theatre immediately, she was closing the theatre down and there would be no show, and then she hung up on him. He tried to call back several times but she refused to answer her phone. No one could figure out why she cared what time rehearsal was -- it didn't affect her in any way. They just needed her to get the windows covered so the designer could work!

So the director drove to the theatre, found her and asked what was wrong with her and why she had been screaming at him on the phone. She started screaming again (now sounding a lot like Linda Blair in The Exorcist), threatening to close the theatre, even threatening to take New Line to court! And all this over changing a rehearsal time that had nothing to do with her...? At one point during her rant she picked up this big piece of concrete laying next to the stage door and held it while she screamed. The director wasn't sure if she thought this looked threatening, if she really intended to throw it, or if it was just more unexplained lunacy.

New Line called one of the owners at home and left a message for him that they had a pretty serious crisis at the theatre. Because there was still no darkness in the theatre, the designer could not do the work necessary to prepare for the rehearsal, so they had to cancel the cue-to-cue entirely, something that would bring hardship on all of them (but especially the designer) in the week to come.

After the director got back home, Horror Show called him, all calm now, pretending like she had not just had a nervous breakdown in the middle of the theatre. She said the owner had called her, told her the director had called him, and told her to "find out what's wrong." The director reminded her of her multiple threats less than an hour before. And the lawsuit. She apologized and promised to be more respectful in the future. In retrospect, that now seems like the biggest joke of all.

In fact, she would continue to treat everyone who worked there the same way: unprofessionally, unethically, dishonestly, and with enough bizarre incidents just like this in the ensuing months that most of the people working at the Ivory concluded that she was genuinely mentally ill. Of course, none of us will ever know for sure, but from this vantage point, it's a pretty good bet.

Soon, other companies would start working there as well -- and they would suffer similar nightmares.

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
An Ivory Survivor

P.S. For details on the drama New Line endured from the St. Louis Archdiocese and their attempts to shut down New Line's first show, I refer you to the director's blog. Since this lunacy was not directly Horror Show's fault, it seems inappropriate to retell the story here.