Yesterday was a trying and tragic day for us at Wayside Theatre. One of our cast members awoke to the news that her husband had passed away during the night. She’s from Texas, working with us here in Virginia, and he passed away there. In addition to attempting to comfort her and also comforting the entire cast (our company is very, very close, and in Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming they play a family and the actors have become that close) we had to immediately launch into quite a bit of work.
Several tasks had to be taken care of immediately. We had to notifiy the rest of the cast and staff for the show. That was done as we all headed to the theatre and to visit our bereaved colleague via our cellphones. We had to cancel yesterday’s matinee and contact the audience and let them know. We also had to find a replacement actor so that the show could continue its run until the end of March. Both required a lot of phone calls. Also important, we had to contact the local media to help us get the word out about the cancellation. We only have four outgoing phone lines at our theatre. So cell phones were pulled out and fortunately, due to good weather, we had a number of staff out front of our theatre making calls to patrons, actors, and other theatres. Folks were out front of the theatre because cell phone reception in our old building is nigh on near impossible, unless you are standing by a window. We had to leave two of our phone lines at the theatre open as we were leaving lots of messages and were expecting phone calls to be returned (this was all happening on the east coast at a time our patrons were going to church, and most theatre people are sleeping in).
In addition to the many phone calls we had to make, a few of us were busy sending emails to both our customers, actors, and other theatres. We were reaching out to find a cast replacment as quickly as we could. Intriguingly, we got some quicker responses from that method of communication than we did from phone calls. Now understand, our theatre is in the middle of a renovation and offices are turned upside down, and at least one is completely unusable at the moment due to the construction. So folks were sitting wherever they could with laptops to do their work.
I had to be in several places at once dealing with all aspects of the communication issues, and it just figures that I had forgotten to charge my cellphone the night before, and in the rush to get to the theatre, I left my extra battery for my Mogul at home. Fortunately the Aliph Jawbone BlueTooth headset came to the rescue. I was able to dock the Mogul close to a window in my office and get good reception and could either be in my office or on the street and receive and make calls.
The good news, is that we were able to contact all but a very few of our patrons directly by 1pm and reschedule them for future performances, and had recast the role by 3pm.
It was a trying day, but the hard work was completed more quickly than if we had had to rely on just land lines, and indeed just phones, or even tied to our desks. By 4PM we were able to gather at one of our company houses for a meal and communal grieving, which after the day’s expereiences was sorely needed.
It should go without saying that as we turn to the work of adding a new member to our family for this weekend’s performances, our hearts, our thoughts, and prayers are with our dear friend and colleague Pam as she copes with her loss.