Kanyadaan opened on Friday, April 13th. The two days before that were the most eventful of my theatre life.
Our first Technical Rehearsal (or Tech) was on Wednesday. We had the theatre booked from 5pm till 11pm. The first Tech is a crucial day. It is the first time we would be putting our show on the actual stage, with costumes, makeup, lights and sound. For many actors it requires considerable adjustment to go from studio rehearsals to the stage. The Tech is also very important for the crew, who get to practice stage setup and scene changes on the actual stage. But more than anyone else, Tech is the day the Director sees the show from the eyes of the audience, adjusts things - lighting design, sound, actors entries, exits...there are a hundred things to be done at Tech. And Wednesday was our first Tech.
But our first Tech turned out to be very, very different. At 830am on Wednesday I had an accident in the kitchen and landed up in the ER.
The injury was to my foot. A glass dish cover fell from an overhead cabinet and shattered on a ledge. My right foot, which was very close was pierced, rather deeply, by two glass shards. There was a lot of blood.
My wife, who is amazing in a crisis, drove me to the ER. The doctor stitched me up. But he wanted me to get an X-Ray and an MRI done. The glass shards had cut through skin and muscle and he suspected that one of them may have nicked a tendon in the foot. Eventually, the MRI did not show anything. But because of the close proximity of the tendon to one of the wounds, the doctor put me in a walker brace. "Four weeks should do it", he said.
I told him about my show, but you know how doctors are. He started telling me about deformities like Hammer toe that can occur if you break that tendon. It wasn't even a contest.
I got home at about 4pm. I called Sindu Singh, the Director of the play and my partner-in-crime at BAD Company. When you put in hard work for 3 months and something happens right before the show, which is literally a "show stopper", it doesn't feel good. I wasn't feeling good. And I knew she wouldn't either.
But I wasn't expecting what she said on the phone. I had called her in the morning to tell her that I'd had an accident. But she hadn't heard from me since. But it didn't matter. She had already talked to her husband, who is an ER doctor himself. She knew where I was medically, and what I should and shouldn't do. She said that I was going to do the role in a wheelchair. No handwringing. Not a single word of disappointment. Just the mission.
I was a little skeptical at first. But it started making sense to me. Walking around on stage in my boot was going to look terrible. And we couldn't cancel the shows at this eleventh hour. The good thing about having limited options is that you have to force yourself to become enthusiastic about the only option you do have. Startup folks will get this.
I landed up at the theatre at about 6pm. Sindu had already told everyone in the cast and crew about my accident and the new game plan. I went straight from the Uber into my wheelchair. I got a hero's welcome. And then non-stop rehearsal.
That evening and the next day, we re-blocked the entire play. The movements of the actors (blocking) on stage is carefully choreographed. But since I was in a wheelchair now a lot would change. For instance if I was earlier going to go and sit in the couch next to my scene partner, I could no longer do that. She would have to be somewhere else so I could roll my wheelchair next to her. Effectively, the changes were not just for me. They affected all cast members.
A team is tested in a crisis. Our cast and crew were incredible. They rallied around our new situation. Led by our indomitable Director, Sindu Singh. I tip my hat to her, as I have done many times in the past. She is also in the play in a major role which she pulled off with aplomb! Unbelievable!
We decided not to tell the audience that I was hurt and would be in a wheelchair. We didn't post any photos of me in a wheelchair before the shows. No one knew. We had wrapped my boot in bandages so that it sort of looked like a cast that someone might be in in India of the 70s. When the show started, as they told us later, they thought that my character was supposed to be in a wheelchair!
We had three terrific shows over the weekend. The feedback has been overwhelming. Some regulars have said this is our best ever. It just goes to show that no challenge is big enough for a team that makes up its mind to do something. "Ain't no mountain high enough."
I'll leave you with this photo that Kush Patel from our crew took right after the opening show. The standing ovation was before we told the audience about my injury. That's what made that moment priceless. They are applauding the show, the performance. The sympathy came later.
- Basab Pradhan