An account, entirely from my perspective...
The night was a triumph. It began at ten minutes to six o clock, on the morning of March 6th 2016 with my awakening, showering, dressing for half a day of manual work, double checking my packing for the day and jumping in an Uber car to Red Hook.
Arriving at 8.15 I went up to Sam and Val's place to start hauling crates of beer downstairs to another, bigger, Uber. We also had to get in there an 8 foot fairly heavy tube containing the rolled up step and repeat (step and repeat: a portable background in front of which people get their picture taken at events, see below) and various other bits and pieces. As Sam and I were buckling up to drive to west 95th st, our managing director/angel Ali was in a separate car with a separate load of stuff.
So when we'd all made it to our venue, Symphony Space, we got to unload all the loads of stuff, take it all downstairs, stash it all somewhere and begin the tasks for the day.
Tasks like putting auction prize fliers in frames, highlighting scripts, obtaining a receptacle for raffle tickets, liaising with the awesome team at the venue and greeting our arriving company members plus a couple of helpers. At 12.30 we gathered in the theatre for a cue-to-cue run through so our musicians Ellie and Maks and stage manager Cris could get everything sorted.
After that was over I became a tornado of activity, doing the kind of things I do best in event situations. I'm not so good with the administrating, the finances, the communications, the PR but the on the ground, on the day stuff is where I feel comfortable. Doing shit.
I was also on introduction duty with Sam and reading stage directions for part one of the day. This meant I had to do a very fast turnaround from stomping around in boots and a slobby jumper to being polished, emphasis on ISH, and Sam and I completely freestyled our intro. In fact I was holding a notebook, just in case nerves struck (they didn't) which I promptly dropped as I walked onto the stage.
The reading itself was stunning. I've seen the play staged-read before, and read it many times since, and enjoyed it every single time but this was very special because a) we had 140 people watching our friend Ben's work for the first time ever, b) we had Ben seeing this play in the most realised form its ever taken, c) the actors outdid themselves, particularly in my opinion Ali who has played the role before but this time took it to new heights of heart rending realness, d) we had live musicians providing underscoring and also allowing us to have songs interspersed throughout, each chosen to represent a little of a characters' inner life or unspoken words.
It's really a beautiful play and I know Natalia, myself, Ben and probably others got teary in several places. We meet a group of science lab employees. Henry is the absent minded but inspired leader of the project...his wife Ruth who is never seen is very ill in hospital...Marie is the group's de facto caretaker in unrequited love with him...Martin is a close friend of Henry and even closer friend of Ruth's, frustrated at Henry's inability to detach from his obsessive working to visit Ruth while messing with his workmates' heads out of sheer boredom...Waldy is the practical and gruff janitor who harbours a secret desire to be in on the brainiac stuff going on in the lab...Selma is a prodigious mathematical genius, clever enough to create the formula for perpetual motion but hopeless enough to crash a van, be duped into believing her formula has already been created and spend her time feeling awkward and laughed at.
They are searching for a whale, orbiting through space. How does Henry know there's a whale up there?
Well, he put it up there.
After the reading and after we'd thanked our guest actors Patrick Breen and Julia Murney, we had an hour odd to do a high speed turnover to the evening gala event which meant removing four rows of chairs, adding more tables, setting up a lot of food, the bar, the step and repeat, more ice, a silent auction, welcoming the evening's guest actor Aidan Quinn and generally sprinting all around the building still in my afternoon dress but now back to boots once more. Eventually I was able to go backstage to change for the evening and try and look a bit more groomed and finally join the reception/stuff some long overdue food into my mouth before taking our seats for the evening's reading of The Public Eye, a short comedy by Sir Peter Shaffer who was also in attendance. Sam, Valorie and Mr Quinn starred and they were excellent - except I'm not terribly ashamed to say that by this time I'd been going hard for 11 hours and was flagging, plus being a bit nervous to speak on stage again because the evening crowd was different from the afternoon crowd - not as many friendly and familiar faces, money people, friends of Sir Peter.
Oh yeah and ALEC BALDWIN.
So I did take a tiny nap in my seat during The Public Eye.
The whole company then took to the stage. Sam read a great passage from a Shaffer play about theatre, tres apropos. Ali made a heartfelt speech about why we honoured Ben with the Peter Shaffer Award for Excellence in Playwriting. And I introduced the whole company and gave some background on us and our future plans. This time I did use my notebook a little - and I felt myself stumble over a couple of words. I like to think people forgave me that since I admitted that I was planning on using notes and I put a lot of thought into the words themselves.
I got it all out and we made our exit. I made my exit in the direction of the wine. We spent a couple more hours with people mingling and milling, eating and drinking, taking loooads of pictures and eventually in my 4.5 inch heels I started the cleanup which was rapidly picked up by almost all and sundry - almost every company member plus 4 or 5 other fabulous volunteers who came specifically to lend a pair of hands for whatever we needed, the true heroes of the piece. So I did everything that happened at 9am in reverse - tables packed up, tableclothes folded, ice emptied, cool boxes returned, wine beer and soft drink leftovers carried upstairs, keyboard taken upstairs, step and repeat carried upstairs, box of miscellany carried upstairs, everything loaded into the back of a car. Also we gave the Symphony Space staff lots of beer and food, they really deserved it.
The man of the hour Mr Holbrook
Spencer and Ben
These guys are relatively new friends and they are fantastic
My dear pal Naty and our stage manager/fellow AMDA 2013 grad Cristina
Fearless leaders Sam and Ali
Our first ever whole company picture
Lauren chatting to Jim our awesome AMDA acting teacher
I think we've known each other too long
The full FTP company with Alec Baldwin and Sir Peter Shaffer
L-R back row: Roger, Alec, Alec's wife, Spencer, me, Ali, Ben, TJ, Val, Jon
L-R front: Downie, Naty, Carly, Sir Peter Shaffer, Sam, Maite
Nice to share the day with these lovely ladies who I've been friends with now for so long. Enjoying our status as the international component of Fundamental Theater Project.
Finally myself, Lauren, Charisse a helper friend, Ben, Ali, another helper friend Lauren, Jon, Naty and Roger - the stragglers - went around the corner to a bar for more beers, hanging out and basking in the glow of a successful day.
I went to bed at 4am after a long subway ride home with several bags and got up this morning at 1pm which is fair because it was literally a 22 hour day.
And did I mention the time I spent carrying tables and buckets of ice up and down stairs in 4.5 inch heels
Also I started the day lugging 10 crates of beer down two flights of stairs at 8.30am
My forearms are pretty sore today. But
The night really was a triumph.