Stage Shows

Water for Words

The day the water broke was almost catastrophic. I am not talking about a pregnant member of the cast. That would be odd, and a rarity, indeed. Who would go on the road expecting a child! I am talking about a hot summer night in Arizona while the company I was in was on tour. Man, you could easily see one hundred plus degrees—at night. You therefore stayed inside as much as you could for protection and self-preservation.

Often in the theater, especially if it is a local or community affair, you go out the backstage entrance and have a smoke, join a conversation on your phone, or just socialize with cast members or crew that want a break now and then. It is a little mini refresher that helps you refocus and get back to the thespian business at hand. I, for one, like to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated before going on stage. Bottles are usually provided near the dressing room area, but not always.

Clean, filtered water is usually available in rest areas. This way, you can have it cold and not lukewarm. There are some who take precautions and tote their water in ice chests, but to me this is all too much effort. I rely a lot on the ubiquitous dispensers that will take care of my every thirsty needs.

But back to the day the water broke. It turned out to be that the water filtration system was not working as it should. No children were born. At least it wasn’t the air conditioning. That would have been so much worse and the show would not have gone on. That particular day I did not bring water as I had to leave my car outside for several hours while doing errands; and in the hot Arizona sun, that did not make for a good plastic bottle conservation experience. I know those little vials would be destroyed in the heat, tainting the water inside no doubt.

I need to perform at my peak wherever I am—little theater to big concert hall. I need regular doses of liquid purity to stay alive. You actually can sweat while acting. It is not hard to imagine. Remember those big flood lights? Well, they emit enormous amounts of heat. If you don’t hydrate enough, the warmth will boil you alive.

So the system was down that fateful night and everyone was hoarding what bottled water they had left. No sharing, my friend, was the message. We sent a crew member out for replenishment, but of course we had no idea when he would get back. I assumed it wouldn’t be long so I went on without my usual water intake.

Ten minutes into act three, the lights seemed brighter than ever. They glowed in a threatening manner, making my head spin. I mumbled my lines, sweat pouring from my weary brow. When you are hot, your body rebels and recoils. It certainly did it this night. You start to feel sluggish and every move is a burden.

I managed to recover for a few seconds, although a large drop of sweat had fallen in my eye, burning with intensity. I blinked furiously to lessen the pain. Another ten minutes to go. All of a sudden the seconds seemed like minutes, and the minutes like hours. I was moving in slow motion and the words wouldn’t come. I felt faint and beyond light headed. The room was spinning around.

I heard a thud and a clunk. Something had fallen on the stage. Was it a klieg light or a prop? No, it was my body, doubled over in two. No one was surprised more than me. The audience woke up from their heat-laden slumber and emitted a short “oh.” I managed to rise from the wood planks with my pride intact, thanks to the help of a fellow cast member. I shook myself off, opened my eyes, and went on with the show.

Now that is a sad story, and a cautionary tale of the harsh realities of the theater. Ha! I guess you never know what can happen, do you. Water is a necessity that you take for granted, filtered or not, so you never suspect any lack of it would be a culprit affecting a performance. I learned my lesson the hard way and believe you me, ever since I have checked beforehand at each theater on our tour list. Do they have a filtration system and especially, do they have a backup generator.