Alice’s Adventures in Power Outage-land

Alice's Adventures in Power Outage-land
An incredible team.
Photo Credit: Matthew Atkins

Circle round, people.  This is going to be a long one.  It’s time for epic storytelling with Kerry!

Sunday, August 3 was the closing show of OKTC’s Through the Looking Glass.  Our closing show was scheduled for 11 am — an unusual time, but that’s the way it works when you’ve got two shows playing in repertory!

I woke up fairly early that morning in anticipation of an amazing closing show, and (per usual) checked Facebook and Twitter during breakfast, where I noticed this tweet — a fire had occurred on York Street, and many of the residents in that area were without power.  That set off an alarm in my mind — the Spriet Family Theatre is two blocks over from York Street, and who knows what might have been affected?  There was definitely a possibility we might be without power, which means no lights or sound for the show.  But it’s not the first time I’ve had a show go on without power.  I jumped in the car and drove over to the theatre.

York Street was closed off, so I had to take a detour around to get to the theatre, where I saw my stage manager/assistant director, Shae, waiting outside of the Covent Garden Market (where our theatre is located).  Another market vendor was also waiting outside and told me that I couldn’t get into the underground parking, because there was no power to lift the arm of the parking machine, and all the lights were out and it was pitch black.  Then Shae told me that the entire building was locked.

I anticipated possibly having to perform without lights and sound.  I didn’t anticipate not being able to get into the building at all.

So I found some street parking and had to go into happy-smiley-brave-face mode.  After all, I had 18 kids about to show up, and we had a show to do.

As the kids showed up, we sent them and their parents over to the front of the Market where the picnic tables are located.  They were all pretty confused and I’m sure a few of them were upset.  Who could blame them?  This was their final performance of TTLG, and for 13 of the 18 kids, this was their first production at OKTC!  But they definitely kept brave faces on and sat around and chatted with each other, while I got on the phone and tried to contact anyone and everyone who could possibly help.  We got news from Market security that the Market would be closed for the day, and London Hydro said that power probably wouldn’t be restored until noon at the earliest.

Ok then.

Onto Facebook and Twitter to let the OKTC community know that the show would be delayed.  On the phone to Hannah, the director of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, to let her know that her show would also probably be delayed.  Texting with Joe and Jeff to get advice about what to do about our show.  Giving positive speeches to the kiddos and the parents and random people trying to get into the market.  Staying calm.  Because when it boiled right down to it, there was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it.

So, what to do?  Wait?  Postpone?  Cancel?  That was a call I really didn’t want to make.  I didn’t want the kids to lose out on their closing show.  Lots of friends were coming to see the show on its closing.  To make it even worse, one of our amazing backstage volunteers hadn’t even seen the show yet — she had been helping backstage for the entire run, and was planning on seeing the closing show, which was also her daughter’s last time performing in the lead role of Alice.

Luckily, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and I made the decision that if there was no power by 12 noon, that we would perform outdoors, right there in front of the Market.  At that point, everyone really came together and stepped up to help out.  The OKTC executive director, Jeff, basically gave me free reign to run the show any way I could.  Our camp director, Will, and Andrew Rethazi (one of our OKTC director/musical directors) drove out to CampOK and got us a battery operated boom box so we could have music.  Market security let us into the Market to get our show CD and as many costumes and props as we could grab.  So I left my musical director Matt, ASM Shannon, and sound operator Cole outside with the kids, and the OKTC production manager Joe and I took a small group of senior Original Kids upstairs with us to haul costumes and props.

Then, at 11:45 am, it happened…

THE POWER CAME BACK ON!!!

Shae, Carrie, Grace and I started screaming.  The girls ran downstairs and told the cast, and they started screaming.  We got permission from Market security to re-enter the building, and brought all the kids upstairs.  Joe and Cole went into tech-mode and made sure everything was working in the theatre, and Carrie and Natalie went into box office-mode and made sure everything was working in the box office.  We got the go ahead that the theatre was working well and everything was safe, and we went into show-mode!  Mics on, costumes on, props set, game faces on.

The show went on at 12:45 — an hour and 45 minutes delayed, but so full of energy and enthusiasm.  We still had a packed audience, and they were so wonderful and appreciative of the kids and their work.  The show went off without a hitch, the 2 pm Alice show was only delayed by one hour, and the 7 pm Alice show went on as scheduled.  We had a lovely cast pool party/BBQ after the show, which was really great for taking the edge off.

I fully admit that I had a little cry while the kids were getting into mics. I was mentally exhausted by that point, and my emotions were all over the place.  It’s hard to be the calm in the middle of the storm.  I knew that my attitude would influence the kids, so I put on a positive face.  And really, truly, there was nothing we could have done differently.  The power outage was totally out of our hands, and in that case, panicking or getting upset wouldn’t have accomplished anything.

So… how do you deal with a power outage?

  • Stay calm.
  • Stay safe.
  • Stay positive.
  • Ask for help.
  • Figure out a backup plan (perform outside, do a staged reading, postpone until a later time/date).
  • Thank everyone.

So THANK YOU to everyone — the TTLG cast, crew and volunteer team, the OKTC staff, the CampOK staff, the Covent Garden Market staff and security team, the audiences who came out to see Looking Glass, and London Hydro for getting the power back on!  This was certainly an experience that I will never forget.

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