Photo: Toledo Blade The novel was inspired by my first real show as a stage manager, but before that, I co-stage-managed Driving Miss Daisy in 2004, with my sister, Cheri. I refer to it as “Rescuing Miss Daisy,” because we had to come in at the last minute, on tech day, after the original stage manager flaked. When she finally showed up, hours after call, we watched the director fire her on the spot. They asked Cheri to step in because her husband was in the cast. She didn’t want to do it but she couldn’t say no, so I offered to help. I’d taken a Rep-Ed class in stage managing the previous year, and was ready to do more. This seemed like a good chance. Cheri sprang into action the second we arrived and pulled everything together in the course of an afternoon. She brought in a crew, wrote up a prompt book, and ran a tech rehearsal for a show she’d just learned. By opening night, we were a well-oiled machine. It was all her — I just followed her lead and did what she told me to do. I don’t even count it as really stage managing. Still, when I did my own show later that season, it was more experience than I let poor Emma have in the book.
After the fifth draft, I asked for outside opinions, and two of my three readers said the same thing — drop the first 10,000 words of setup and start right in with Emma’s first Earnest rehearsal. I decided they were right, but I really miss the original opening, so here it is now: Chapter 1 David Davison commanded the center of the crowded basement lobby. It gave him no satisfaction at all to be the most important person in this tiny hellhole of a theater. He was the kind of man who would have infinitely preferred a bigger pond. Tall and lean, with just the right amount of distinguished grey at his temples, he both literally and figuratively looked down on the older couple whom he was gracing with his presence. “Well you see, it’s a very dense play.” He took a sip of wine, ignoring their tight-lipped smiles. “Which is why, as director, I included a glossary of terms in the program, to help those audience members who aren’t familiar with the more advanced concepts in the text.” He was holding the same kind of cheap plastic cup they were, but his had been filled from the special bottle stashed in his desk. Working here was bad enough. He certainly wasn’t drinking the donated swill they thought passed for wine. It was about forty minutes to curtain, and the patrons were milling around here until the house was open upstairs. The lobby was one of the nicest parts of the hundred-year-old converted church that housed the Northwest Ohio Community Theatre, but that wasn’t saying much. Nothing could change the fact that it was a cramped basement, but the board members had made an effort to keep it attractive for the audience. The paint was reasonably fresh and the business manager had brought in small vases of silk flowers to place in strategic locations near the box office and the concessions window. David continued with his academic analysis of the evening’s production. If he didn’t notice the boredom of the poor couple who had only come out to see their nephew on stage, he certainly didn’t notice the young woman in black darting behind him and heading for the door marked “Cast and Crew only.” She was equally unremarkable to the rest of the crowd, average of height and build with straight brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. She carried a Styrofoam cup of tea as if she were on a sacred mission, and was trying as hard as possible to make herself invisible. Crew members were not supposed to be seen. They weren’t supposed to exist at all.
We had a great turnout Saturday at The Old House vintage shop in Waterville, Ohio, for the book signing. The other two authors and I were thrilled. Some of my friends came down specifically to support me, and I made new friends while I was there. I even sold some books to total strangers, which feels amazing. It was also nice to help our friend Aggie Alt promote her local business at the same time. It’s been hard work looking for readers, and I have a lot more to do, but the success of this event really encouraged me to keep going.
I’ll be at The Old House vintage store, 26 N. 3rd. St., Waterville on Saturday, November 9, from 11am to 2pm, signing copies of my book. Bring your copy, or get one there, and I’ll give you an autograph. My fellow local author, Kathie Foreman, will also be on hand, signing her children’s book “One Way Only: The Narrow Hard Road.” Hope to see you there!