It was a rare treat and nothing like anything I’d experienced before. I was recently having lunch with a delightful employee of the Coroner’s Office when my lunchmate got an urgent text message that someone had died. Yep, right there in the middle of our chef salads someone kicked the breadsticks. I’ll admit that I live a sheltered life and nothing like that had ever happened before. Sometimes the interruptions are better than the main event. The dressing can outdo the salad.
Once upon a long ago time I was appearing in play called “Barefoot in the Park,” in Pittsfield. It’s one of Neil Simon’s earliest comedies and we were enjoying a good run at Pittsfield’s Old East School. We were exactly one minute from starting the show when the director walked on stage and asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?” Talk about a great way to get an audience in the mood for comedy. In fact, there was a doctor in the house, Doctor Thomas Bunting, who grabbed his medical bag from somewhere and headed backstage. This of course alerted the audience to the fact that it one of the actors was in need of medical attention. In further fact, it was me. I had to open the play by walking a catwalk at the back of the stage in full view of the audience as my character was attempting to break into an apartment. Just before the show I became so dizzy I could hardly stand and I told the director that I couldn’t do the walk across the plank. Doc Bunting hurried backstage, pulled down my drawers in full view of the cast, gave me a shot, slapped my bare rear and said, “Now get onstage!” I did, feeling no dizziness. After the show I thanked the MD. He said, “Yeah, that sugar water can do the trick!” Ah, the blessed interruptions.
Arenzville is a small town and I attend an even smaller church in that small town, so when the town fire alarm goes off and our truly wonderful volunteer fire departments jumps into action it can empty out a good deal of our seats in a hurry. The more experienced firemen have learned to sit at the end of the pew.
My cousin from Mt. Sterling said that he was having a root canal done in Quincy when his dentist got what he deemed an urgent text message. “There I sat,” said Mark, “bleeding to death while this guy was probably talking to his kid’s soccer coach.”
A friend of mine tells this to be true but her husband denies it. She said she went into labor with her second child at home just as the Cardinals loaded the bases in a scoreless game against San Francisco. She swears that despite her contractions and pleading, she had to wait until Albert Pujols had batted before he’d take her to the hospital. To this day she claims that her husband still blames her for Albert popping out to center field. Some things are in need of interruption.
A few years ago one of my camp counselors was leading a small group discussion at night in the woods of Green Pastures. She said that the kids had shared their concerns, ended with a group hug, then when they stood to form a circle of prayer an owl in the tree above them decided to call to her mate. My staff member opened her eyes to find that she was the only one standing in the need of prayer. Spiritus Interruptus.
One of the most disturbing interruptions I’ve experienced happened in Decatur. They’d hired me to work with a group of inner city kids doing theatre work and so 300 of them, a handful of adults, and yours truly met in the old Decatur Holiday Inn. It became obvious that the task for the day was not theatre but crowd control. These kids were wired for sound and were spending as much time on top of the tables as sitting down behind them. After a full fifteen minutes of simply trying to get their attention, I began my presentation. That’s when the door to the ballroom swung open and some idiot adult stuck his head into the room and shouted, “Hey kids! Jesse Jackson is in the lobby!” Forget trying to teach theatre after that bit of theatrics.
And there’s no interruption quite like doing a play at the former Jefferson School in Jacksonville when the Three Little Pigs were trying to hide the Big Bad Wolf in their cooking pot and a policeman walks in. It’s hard to keep your theatrical composure when the cop asks, “Where’s the wolf?” and a kindergarten girl in the front row stands up and shouts, “Well #$%! He’s right there!”