Thursday, January 17, 2013

Show Business in the 23rd Century

She was playing the part of Star Trek's Mr. Spock.

In my inter-active murder mystery, Who Killed Captain Kirk, since we travel with a cast of only two - an actor and an actress who play multiple parts in each show - this meant that I'd get to be Captain Kirk (one of my heroes - see below) and the actress would have to be Mr. Spock.  Spock became a woman in my script due to a freak accident in the Enterprise rec room involving a stationary bike.

Yours truly as Captain Kirk.

The actress I had cast as Spock was a new one for our company, Upstage Productions, and she did a good job the first show she did for me.  She was cast for a second performance of Who Killed Captain Kirk on September 9, 2000 at the Holiday Inn at the Lake of the Ozarks, about a three hour drive from where we live in St. Louis.

On the Monday prior we had checked with the Holiday Inn who told us that they had only eight people signed up for the Sept. 9 show and they might have to cancel.

I then made a big mistake.  I decided it would be nice of me to give our new actress a heads-up that the upcoming show might not happen.

Bad idea.

Because on Thursday, the Holiday Inn had sold 60 or more tickets for our upcoming performance!  I called the new actress and let her know.  "Good news!  The show's on for Saturday!" I said on her voice mail.

I did not hear back from her on Thursday.

I did not hear back from her on Friday.

I left several messages.  Once I called her house and her roommate answered and was downright rude to me.

But the actress sent me an email late Friday night telling me she was all set and would see me Saturday at 2:00 at my house to leave for the Lake.  At 2:00 she was not there.  At 2:15 she was not there.

I called her work number and the actress herself answered the phone.  She changed her voice and pretended it wasn't her.  She told me she wasn't at work that day.

I called my only other actress, Linda Spahl, who was in Rolla, Missouri at a Statewide Community Theater
Club meeting.  "She can't do the show, right?" Linda said, picking up the phone, after they paged her.

"She won't tell me she won't do the show, but she's not here and she's not on her way."

"I'll do the show.  But remember, I don't know Who Killed Captain Kirk.  I've got my Murder at Bunny & Clyde's dress in the trunk of my car.  Let's just do that," Linda said.

"No problem, Linda," I responded.  "I'll just explain to the client what happened when we get there."


I drove to Rolla and picked up Linda.  I was very thankful that she was bailing me out.  She was, as usual, a real trooper.

We made it to the Holiday Inn with about an hour to spare before the performance was to start.  We walked in and Tiffany, the front desk clerk, was wearing a Star Trek costume.  "We're so excited!" she exclaimed.  "Ticket sales picked up as soon as we put the poster up in the lobby!  And everyone coming is a Star Trek fan!"

We looked at the poster.  A giant picture of me as Kirk.  COME ABOARD THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE!  GET YOUR TICKETS BEFORE THEY DISAPPEAR!

Linda and I rounded the corner, walking to our changing room.  She looked at me, a look of dread on her face.  "We've got to do the Captain Kirk show, don't we?"

"Well, we should," I admitted.

"Have you got the Kirk costumes with you?"


"Teach me Act One before the show starts, Act Two during the dinner intermission, and Act Three while they're eating dessert," Linda said.

And I did.  I hastily rewrote the script, cutting many of Spock's lines, and filling in with new cover lines of my own.


As showtime came, Linda was dressed as Spock, but very nervous.

"Linda," I said, as we stood out in the hall waiting for the bus boy to tell us salad plates were clear and it was time to enter and start the performance.  "I've got a good ten minutes in the room alone, where I do my Captain Kirk monologue and dialogue with the people in the audience playing bit parts.  The whole first scene is about me being on a planet and being unable to find Spock.  I don't know where you are until you enter.  You don't show up until you hear your cue.  That's a good ten minutes in.  Once you hear your cue, enter and we'll take it from there.  Don't be nervous!"

The busboy came out of the banquet room where the audience was seated.  "OK, you can start!" he said.

And immediately, Linda walked in.

Ten minutes before she was supposed to.

With me still out in the hall.

I heard some laughter, then nervous silence as Linda stood there in front of 65 paying customers with nothing to say.  I could not enter, since my whole first bit was about not knowing where Spock was.  It made no sense for me to see Spock standing there with a stupid look on her face and for me to keep asking where she was.

Linda Spahl as Spock, all dressed up with nothing to say, frozen in panic.

Another bus boy was walking about in the hall, a bus boy from the private function in the next room, a Lions Club meeting or something.

"Hey, you!" I said.

He was maybe 18 years old, tired, not too bright, looking like he'd just been smoking a reefer outside while on break.

He wondered for a moment why some guy dressed like Captain Kirk was calling him.

"Hey, do you know who Spock is?"  I asked.

"Huh?" he replied.

"Spock, from Star Trek."


"Well, there's a girl in there dressed like Spock.  Just go in and tell her someone in the hall wants to talk to her."


"We haven't got time!  She's standing in there frozen with nothing to say and the audience is getting uncomfortable.  Hurry!"

He walked by me into the room.

"Somebody wants to see you," he mumbled to Linda.

In a moment she came out, followed by him.

"Wait for your cue!" I said and jumped into the room.  Linda stood in the hall sweating, but eventually came in when she was supposed to.


The original actress, I have since figured out, volunteered to man a booth at the Clayton Art Fair after work on Saturday, September 9, 2000.  She had originally told them she couldn't make it because she was going to do a murder mystery with me.  Then when I called on Monday and said the show might be cancelled, she called the Clayton Art Fair, told them plans had changed, and that she'd be there.

And when she learned the show was in fact on, she decided to hell with show business and to hell with Kevin O'Brien and Upstage Productions.  Volunteering at the Clayton Art Fair was more important than keeping a commitment as a professional actress to what she had been cast for and accepted, a paid acting gig.

Apparently she didn't have the courage to tell me that, so she had her roommate be rude to me, and she changed her voice on the phone when she picked up at work, and she sent me a nice email telling me she'd do the show, just so I'd feel better.

But she had no intention of ever showing up.


The amazing thing is, this sort of crisis has only happened three times in 20 years of performing murder mysteries, in nearly 3000 or more performances.  Maybe some day I'll tell you the other two stories.

But thank God for Linda Spahl and for actresses who have the integrity to live by the motto, The Show Must Go On.  

Even if The Show Must Boldly Go On where No Man has Gone Before!


Anonymous said...

You should have called me, I love Spock! ;-) Especially as a kid, I wanted to be Spock. I can do the Live Long and Prosper salute and raise one eyebrow by itself. Although, I would have to be "Evil Spock" as I have a beard.

Dr. Eric

Tom Leith said...

Yep, you're right. Big mistake. But wasn't this a dozen years ago? You know how long that is is show biz years? It is like a forever and a half.

And Dr. Eric -- before you sign up for this, remember in every episode of Star Trek, Kirk gets laid. You'd have to sign up for that too.

Kevin O'Brien said...

I know, Tom, it's an old story, but I told it here by request.

As to Dr. Eric's sexual escapades, which he will have to sign up for to replace Capt. Kirk - there are a few books by Christopher West I could give him to help pave the way.