Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scripted Memories: A Christmas Carol

Scripted Memories are those moments in life that just seem so perfectly timed that you can just imagine them being written for you. Everybody has these moments, of course. These just happen to be mine.

Back when I was in high school, I did community theater. It wasn’t my biggest extracurricular activity, but it was the only one I did outside of school and, as anyone who’s actually done community theater knows, it took a lot of time and energy. I preferred to audition for the musicals, so I was only really involved with the program in December and January, and I was never cast as anything more significant than a chorus girl, but I had fun and that was all that really mattered.

One year, I got a bit part in their semi-annual production of A Christmas Carol, a beloved rendition of the old Charles Dickens story that they liked so much they put it on every other seasons for something like twenty years. And, because they’d done it so often, they managed to have some really elaborate and impressive props.

Possible the most impressive was this huge mausoleum that they rolled on for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come scenes. The thing was like ten feet tall and thirteen feet wide, rolling around on the power of stage hands hidden inside, and at the critical moment, it opened up to reveal this huge angelic tombstone with Scrooge’s name. Top it off with the Ghost himself – played by a man named Chastin, who was well over six feet tall and a really nice guy despite looking absolutely terrifying in his big black robe – and it was pretty damn amazing.

So, about a week before the show opens, there’s always this one big rehersal where everybody comes in on Saturday and we run through everything, and I mean everything. We go through every scene, every song, every transition and lighting cue, all in chronological order. And it takes forever, I mean forever. Usually, it starts at like 3 pm and runs until 7:30 or 8, whereupon they feed the cast and then run through it again, at actual speed instead of stopping every time there’s a fix needed.

So it’s that Saturday for Christmas Carol, we’ve been here all afternoon and we’ve run everything to death, including Chastin’s big entrance on the giant mausoleum. That all goes off without a hitch, and half-an-hour later we’re finally at the last scene of the show. We’re all tired, and it’s finally time to run the final scene. This one involves the entire cast, as everybody is in the street scene, and then everyone in the street comes in to the Cratchet house for the finale.

Now, Chastin is big, cuddly man with a very friendly face, so he also played the toymaker on the street whom Scrooge brings in with a rocking chair for Tiny Tim. The street scene begins and we’re all wandering around singing, but there’s no sign of Chastin. Scrooge makes his way through and gets us all to follow him to the Cratchet’s, but still no Chastin. Everybody crowds into the tiny shack, and Scrooge moves to set Tiny Tim down on the rocking horse, but still, there’s no rocking horse and no Chastin.

The director calls, “Hold!” bringing everything to a stop. He gets on the microphone and calls out over the loudspeakers, “Chastin Rankin, please report to the stage.”

For a moment, there is silence. And then, from the back of the stage, back in the shop where all the used props and scenes are dragged off, we hear a voice:


The stage hands had forgotten to wheel over the ladder to get Chastin down off of the mausoleum, and everyone on stage burst out laughing. I don’t think anybody ever wanted to do something like that on purpose, but after a long day of hard work, it was exactly the sort of release we all needed to unwind.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 37
Word Count: 11,700
Story progress: Still wandering through Chapter 4
Status: Gaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

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