As you know, if you have been reading this blog, one of my most successful ventures in Theatre was at Anderson College doing "The Breaking of Bread". If you don't know, you may want to read about it, but if you are too lazy, this play was a one-act that we did at AC and in surrounding churches. It was about two soldiers in the Civil War, one Union and one Confederate, encountering one another with wanting to kill each other and then becoming friends. It is a powerful play, and one we thought was jinxed, because someone got hurt or something went wrong during each performance.
So, my first directing venture was at Presbyterian College in 1974. I was required to direct a one-act play, and I chose "The Breaking of Bread". After all, I was familiar with the piece, and it would be easy to direct it. I immediately found a problem with it. The Klan was very apparent in Laurens County at that time. If I did a Civil War play about two soldiers coming together, there might be problems, so I rewrote the play. Instead of it taking place during the Civil War, I changed it to World War III. Instead of two soldiers from the US, I changed them to one from America and the other from England. Yes, England and America were at war against one another. And, there had been a nuclear war that had wiped out everyone except these last two guys.
Our casting went okay. I cast a guy from the Theatre Dept. to play the American. I brought in a guy from outside the department to play the British soldier. We had a month of rehearsals, and everything was going great. Then the jinx raised its head. One afternoon rehearsal, about a week before opening night, the actor playing the British soldier said a line that I thought was funny, so I laughed. He thought I was laughing at him. I was laughing at his character. He got mad and stormed off of the stage. He said I insulted him. I tried to coax him back, but he quit. What was I going to do? I was going to be graded on this play.
The other actor suggested a guy he had seen, who he thought could play the role of the British soldier. I was desperate, so I saw him, and he was perfect for the role. I had a flashback to the time I did the lead in "Up the Down Staircase" at Anderson with two days to cram for the role. This new actor had to do the same thing. Once again though, one has a great advantage in the Theatre that the audience does not have the scripts in front of them to know if a mistake was made. Everything went off without a hitch, and the audience liked my play. One thing about the Theatre that you should know is that the audience sees the finished product. Thank goodness they don't see the rehearsals.