And their eyes will pop

When I was a high school drama nerd, a friend of mine asked if I could run the light board for a dinner theatre cabaret show. I went to a rehearsal and took a look at the board, a big old Frankenstein-style killer dimmer panel with giant levers to shove up and down. I signed up immediately, and sat down with the lighting designer to create my cue sheets.

The production took place in a high school cafetorium, and the custodial cleaning protocol of emptying the trash and mopping the floor did not really cover the needs of an old theatre. There was dust everywhere, with that wonderful musty smell of old hemp ropes that might let go at any moment and drop a thousand pounds of lighting instruments on your head.

It was in the days before non-drowsy antihistamines. I was awakening to the fact that I had allergies, and that I could not really take anything for them, particularly if I didn’t want to fall asleep while in class, while swimming, or while riding my bike. I knew it was important to stay awake during the performance, so I came prepared with a pocket full of Kleenex.

My parents dutifully attended opening night. After the performance, I asked them how it looked. My mom said, “It was okay, not terrible. But there was this one magical moment! When they did Surrey With the Fringe On Top, one of the horses had this wonderful, manic expression on his face. He was just so proud to be pulling such a beautiful carriage. It made my whole night!”

I didn’t want to tell her the real story. Randy, the actor playing the downstage horse, had looked into the wings and caught a glimpse of me running the light board, with a Kleenex jammed in each nostril. He had to bite his tongue to keep from breaking character and laughing out loud.