“Carrie: The Musical.” It was one of the many theatrical offerings that abounded during the month of July. Of course, it’s over now, so if you missed it, it’s too late.
But consider: “Carrie: The Musical,” really? If you are a Stephen King fan it’s hard to imagine his tale of bullying, prom horror, and retribution coming to life on stage. One of his early novels is about a young girl who discovers her first period while showering during gym class. She is already an outcast, the object of derision (which was very hard to watch) and her screaming fit over the blood leads to more taunts. The “nice” girl tries to make it right by having her own boyfriend ask Carrie to the prom. The “mean” girl plots further humiliation for Carrie by having her chosen as prom queen and during the ceremony arranging for a bucket of blood to be dropped on her head. Carrie retaliates by using the powers she has discovered and electrifying the crowd to death.
That’s enough summary for now. The important thing is that it was very well done. With this production. Sandstone Theater in Amherst, under the direction of Kristina Rivera, posted a huge triumph. It took a stand against bullying. It included teenagers from all over the county in a well directed production that they will always remember. It delivered strong performances and earned a standing ovation from appreciative audiences.
For me, though, I lost focus when the bucket of blood poured down. Oh, it’s not that it was poorly done. No. It was quite effective with fog, red downlighting, and such. It was the blood that caused a trip down memory lane.
My very first year as a theater major at Baldwin Wallace, the show that kicked off the season was “We Bombed in New Haven.” As a wide-eyed freshman I watched with anticipation as the cast list went up. There was only one female role, so I knew there was no chance, but it was fun to soak up the excitement. I asked almost breathlessly how to get involved backstage. Jack Winget, who turned out to be my mentor, overheard me and immediately put me in charge of costumes. I didn’t have to make them or get them. I only had to launder them. I had to launder them after each performance because one fellow got shot in the stomach, then grabbed another actor and belly-bumped him as he was dying.
The costumes were army uniforms with canvas-like material. The washing machine was one of those old fashioned ones with a wringer. There was a lot of blood. After a week’s performance my fingers were raw from scrubbing. So when Carrie got drenched my first thought was, “I hate to think of the poor slob who has to wash those costumes.” So much for aesthetic distance, eh?
Working costumes for “We Bombed in New Haven” also provided a transition from Oberlin High School drama in the cafeteria to the college scene. It was also part of my job to sit in the costume room during the show to tend to any emergencies. (Luckily there weren’t any since sewing skills skip a generation in my family, and I’m the one it skipped.) Part-way through the show, most of the all-male cast came in and dropped trow to change costumes. During that time period I made it a habit to sit far back in a chair with a rack of costumes covering me up.
One night I became aware of a sickly silence as I hid out. Suddenly one of the guys swooshed the clothes that had been my cover up to the side. “What are you doing back there?” he asked as all male eyes seemed to pierce through me.
“You’re just about to take your pants down,” I innocently replied.
“Don’t you have brothers? “ he queried.
“”No,” I gulped.
“You do now,” and with one motion each and every actor dropped those pants right to the floor. Yup, I was officially a theater major.
You know, sometimes what goes on backstage is just as interesting as what happens on stage. Every show has its backstage stories that will be repeated for years. I wonder what stories those involved with “Carrie: The Musical” will share as the years roll by?
As an audience member only, I’ll never know, but I’m sure there will be memories and stories that they will cherish. After all, my “We Bombed in New Haven” memory is now 46 years old and just as vivid for me now as it was back then!
Pat Gorske Price graduated from Oberlin High School and taught English and drama there for 12 years. In retirement she continues to enjoy writing and theater. Comments can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.