—A week ago Friday and a night in a lighting booth (watching people push buttons) awaited. Moreover, with the eight-hour Tech Sunday vigil approaching (and our opening in a week), well…

What was I doing here? Really! I mean: me directing a musical? Sure I had guided some comedies, but those came easy. Laughing’s in my wheelhouse — but song and dance? I had to get cute, didn’t I? Had to let my ego run wild! What was I doing at the helm of a cast of forty teens, citing my vision for lights and action, tweaking choreography and costume?

(I should have stuck to slipping on banana peels).

Nine months ago it had been. Submission of my resume to the theater had generated an invitation to interview and I’d jumped at it. Five shows were scheduled for their season, and they wanted to know (in our meeting) which productions I’d favor.

(Ed. Note 1: Thrice in my life I’ve had job interviews: once in law school (third year, after my then-wife aptly pointed out “Bruce, don’t you think it’s time?”, again the summer of the bar exam (with the guys that did hire me), and yet again a decade later, with Mandel’s firm).

—And so it was all that months ago I’d walked up to the second floor of the Arts Center, sat before a quintet of foreign faces, and sold sizzle, not steak. There, in period of twenty minutes (not much more), channeling an inner confidence generated by a high school Snyder in heat, I gave them my candor and enthusiasm…and more than that: my truth.

I told them my first choice was “The Music Man”. My father, I pointed out, had been my Harold Hill. My Dad, I asserted, had the twinkle in his eye that always told me — whether I saw it or not — that there was a band.

I acknowledged too that this would be my first musical, but that I was a “people person” and “team player”, and that I knew how to delegate, was excited for the challenge, and ready (quite frankly) to go to the hoop.

They bought it!

For whatever reason…perhaps it was my enthusiasm…perhaps I was just a breath of fresh air….but they offered me “Bye Bye Birdie”.

And again I jumped! Indeed, perhaps this was a better fit.

How I’d loved the old movie — the first one…with Dick Van Dyke — having seen it at the old Center-Mayfield Theater in the 60’s. Better yet though, I’d thrice done the stage play. In Bay Village and Beachwood, and most recently out in Willoughby had I not been Harry McAfee? Yes, this made sense. I knew the show; I could coax the laughs from cast. THIS, I could handle.

—So I jumped right in.

The “book” says that if you’re going to direct a play you should see it as much as possible, research as much as possible … and so I did. From the teen production in Akron to the excerpts on Youtube, to the emails with directors both here and in Jersey…

— And I knew the show…

But what I DIDN’T know is what I didn’t know…which was a lot. (There were lighting issues and sound issues that I’d never had to deal with! Better yet, there was the chaos endemic to a company of 30-some teens). It would be a learning curve, I soon sensed…

—Yet I was blessed.

There was the musical director with whom I’d worked twice before. John was a fortress, a support, and above all a friend. There was the choreographer, Lisa-Marie. She’d forced smiles as I danced in a recent show and, frankly, I’d always had the feeling she liked me if for no other reason than that lumbersome me wasn’t embarrassed to dance on stage. A veteran like John, she brought her craft to the equation, always having my back. And there was the producer, Greg: always with an ear…

Still, production was rocky. From auditions last fall through the onset of Tech Week there’d been issues with — well, let me see: There was the problem getting funding for the pit musicians. Then there was the staff member that quit for a day. Then there was the set being delayed. Oh, and then the Stage Manager quit to leave town with her boyfriend…

But it mattered not. Not at the end. You see, we opened last night.

And the cast: they knocked it out of the park!

The teens had fun; the audience loved it. And the director? He kvelled!

Midst the post-curtain hoopla cast members dragged parents over to meet me. Mid the mob in the lobby Conrad Birdie greeted me with a bear hug and Albert Peterson pushed through to thank me (as did others).

It was after 11 that I drove home last night. For a half hour I drove….home.

I thought about the nine month journey, all the bumps in the road, and I smiled.

—And the song still ran through my head: “Everything Is Rosie”.

2 Responses to “FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS”

  1. alan wieder says:

    Congrats — hope that their was some humor in the trials and tribulation. Maybe we will here about them once the show closes?

  2. Marc says:

    Way to go B. You deserve all the accolades for all your hard work and dedication.

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