Thursday, November 15, 2007

The One When Kate Broke Everything in her Path

As promised, a Kate theatre disaster story. This post is excerpted directly from an email I sent to my parents the day after the events in question. Enjoy.


Hi! Here is another update… this one is a doozy. brace yourselves; i promise i'm fine. honest.

I handed my French paper in about 2 hours ago; I changed my topic to something much less outlandish (which was the word I used to describe it; you were on the right track with the out- prefix). I think it was good, especially considering the day i had yesterday.

So, Kate, what happened yesterday? Well, you might or might not recall
(I only mentioned it once I think) that in addition to the Dramat mainstage [note: this is Mother Courage, alluded to in the last post], I am doing two other shows this semester. Ine of them opens on Thursday; it's The Mineola Twins by Paula Vogel. My friend asked me to help with it, and it's in a tiny little theatre in the basement of Trumbull (it's call Nick Chapel; it's a converted squash court= tr├Ęs ghetto). The deal with Nick Chapel is that you're not allowed to build an actual set; you can only hang thing from the walls or balcony and use furniture. So I figured it would be easy. Thursday afternoon I went to Home Depot and got the lumber we needed for the hanging pieces, and then I went to the props warehouse to find furniture, and Sunday we started putting stuff in the space.

All the furniture we found was delivered yesterday around 5:30. I had been at the University Theatre (UT) helping with Mother Courage (which was bordering on debacle, still) and ran over to Trumbull. So the designer and my friend and I unloaded all the stuff and started carrying it down the stairs to Nick. This is in the basement, remember, and we needed to go down 2 full flights to get to the floor level of the theatre (remember-- old squash court, so think stadium seating once converted into a theatre). And it's a twisty staircase (so, 7 or so stairs, 90 degree turn, 7 more stairs, etc). Now consider that one set piece is a bar (as in, place where one has a drink) that is about 2.5'x5.5'x4' tall. Equals unwieldy. Now remember that Trumbull is old and sucky and needs a renovation.

So, we get some stuff down one level, and then we decide to move the bar. We get in down the first 7 stairs with great difficulty. The other two people are below/in front of it, and I am above/behind it. So we stop at the first little landing where the stairs turn, and we start trying to move it (in an extra-unwieldy orientation, now it's very tall and skinny) around the corner and down the next 7 stairs. And we get it wedged against the ceiling and un-wedge it and re-wedge it and do it again, and it looks like we are about to make some progress. One of the people notes, "Ooh, be careful of the sprinkler," and we observe the exposed sprinkler head jutting out of the wall.

Not five seconds later, the bar moves down a stair. Taking the sprinkler head off the wall. Releasing a deluge of oily, gross, sprinkler water. Great. Really, awesome.

We all scream like little girls for about a second, before we yell obscenities for a few seconds, before we try to figure out what to do. I duck my head around a corner so I am not getting disgusting water on my face, but my pants and shirt (nothing nice-- build crew clothes) are SOAKED and repulsive. Also, I am terrified of letting go of this thing because I don't know if it will crash down the stairs onto the other people. So I am standing there, looking at the Trumbull dining hall as about 30 different people come by, point, gawk, say "OH MY GOD!", laugh, do some combination of these things, and then run. Bear in mind, water still pouring down the stairs. A random dining hall worker comes out to watch the shitstorm, laughs, says "Oh man! That's gonna be a MESS to clean up!" and goes outside. 10 Davenport freshmen look at me with sympathy and pain and bolt. The fire alarm starts going off (because of us). It's a party. Really.

Finally, I decide that the other people aren't stupid enough to stay standing there forever, so I take my hands off the bar (it doesn't move) and leave the building. I see dining hall worker smoking a cigarette, he asks me what happened. I explain; he replies, "HAHA! So you're responsible for cleaning it up! HA!"

I see one of the people emerge from another entryway, followed by some freshmen who went down to see how flooded it was. Answer: pretty damn flooded. Another person exits with a huge bag of costumes she saved. I go back in (down these other stairs, not the ones in which the bar is wedged) and retrieve my bag and my jacket). By the time I come back up, the director is there, sitting on the steps. We are all absolutely aghast/hysterical/in shock. Did I mention damp?

I look at the collected theatre people. I hear sirens from the approaching fire trucks.

In a very small voice, I say, "You guys… I… I can't stay to clean this up tonight… I have to write a paper… and go back to the UT… and… um…" To which someone replied, "Y'know, at this point, all bets are off, so why don't you go home and shower and then go help Mother Courage."

So I left. On the way I saw these two guys who do some theatre. They asked how I was doing.

KATE: I'm a little squishy. I've been better.
JOHN: [with one of his feet in an air cast with a big bandage]: Um… I mean, I just lost between 30 and 40 percent of my toe.
KATE: I mean… I just flooded three levels of the Trumbull basement.
DAN and JOHN: [look at each other, then at KATE]: Wow.
KATE: Yeah. You hear that fire alarm?
DAN and JOHN: Yeah...?
KATE: Yup, that was me.

Possibly the most amazing part of the story is that I emailed the other people last night to see how everything had gone after I left, and they said that after they all left and came back the building manager had gotten the flood cleaned up, the lighting panels that hadn't been working pre-flood were more or less operable, and that the show is still opening Thursday (barring another FEMA-worthy disaster).

Love, Kate

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