The story demanded the antagonist be killed. But the gun wouldn’t fire.
Berkeley Rep audiences were treated to enough drama surrounding Justine Bateman’s visit in the title role of Lulu, the vintage Frank Wedekind play of the same name. A gun-packing stalker infatuated with Justine held our preview performance hostage while he sat in the theatre courtyard demanding to see his love-target prior to the show. SWAT members remained in the catwalks above the audience even after the gunman was detained and the show commenced.
Playing her strange love interest, Alwa, I thoroughly enjoyed working with Justine and also helped her through a challenge in moving from TV (Mallory in the “Family Ties” comedy was her most noted role at the time) to the stage. Vocally, her role as Lulu was so
much more demanding than television studio conversation. In attempting to fill the theatre vocally and handle the screaming her role demanded, she strained her voice after a couple weeks of rehearsal which initiated some extra vocal technique sessions I coached.
Professional discipline is huge in the theatre as in any live performance. Though adapting very well to the stage, the ultimate challenge for Justine came when her character was supposed to kill her antagonist with a vintage pistol. One night during the thirty-plus performance run, Justine pointed the revolver and pulled the trigger.
Click. Click. Click. No bang.
Not being armed with any backup solution (her seedy character might have easily carried an extra weapon though!) Justine, in understandable panic, threw the failed weapon to the stage floor and stormed off.
This leaves the rest of the cast with a challenge. For the story to continue, the antagonist must die. Who’s going to kill him?
Justine’s predicament came to mind in conversations this week with professionals who are outraged at the choices some of their coworkers make. These amateur Actors, on the business stage, display behavior that confounds the minds of those with professional sensibility. In essence, the pros can’t believe that someone would actually do something in front of customers, internal or external, that defies reasonable decorum.
Conversely, think of a time when you’ve thought or said, “Now there’s a real pro.” What was that person doing to make you comment?
For lack of complete definition, I have always maintained that a professional is always good and often great. They act with a sense of correctitude given the circumstances present in any given situation. Their patience, presence and poise are always in play. And when under stress, they confidently take control, enabling those around them to relax.
Though Justine proved a pro through the run of the show, her fleeing the stage was not a professional move. Nor are the Actions of businesspeople who selfishly put themselves before the customer and their organization’s expectations. Both break the foundation of the story being told and leave the real professionals to clean up the mess.
Ultimately it’s up to professional Actors, on theatrical and business stages, to set the performance standard. They don’t put up with amateur crap. One such pro in the Lulu cast quickly took control after the gun misfire. He produced a large dungeon cell key (one of his props), attacked the antagonist with multiple, screaming stabs and convincingly sent him to his death.
Story preserved. Professionalism restored. The show goes on.
Your stage. Your performance. You’re on!