Diary of a Community Theater Director during the Pandemic

MONDAY

Shelter in place order announced today in California. Production on Annie the Musical cancelled until further notice. This won’t be good for Fresno community Theatre. We are still heavily in debt from injury lawsuits after the director for our production of Peter Pan embezzled funds and had to cut costs on safety testing our fly lines. This was going to be our opportunity to save the theater and the damn pandemic stopped us a week before we were supposed to open.

I had so much planned for this show that was sure to get us back in the black! For instance, I planned a fundraiser where audience members would pay the children playing orphans to come into their homes to clean and sing some songs from the show. We trained the actors in efficient cleaning, and how to recognize and hide valuable objects that we could pawn later.

After lots of thinking tonight (throwing darts at a picture of Gavin Newsom’s face) I came up with a plan to put the show back on track. It’s sure to be an event the scope of which California has not seen since the 1976 Chowchilla bus kidnapping. I am not writing it down at this moment so as to better build suspense. Until tomorrow, diary.

TUESDAY

Earlier today, I sent out an email blast to all of the actors saying that Abby Lee Miller of Dance Moms was at our theater looking for new, young talent. Of course this was a lie, but I needed some way to get them all back into one place I could keep them locked in. I should explain my plan: after luring the cast back into the theater and locking them in (check!), I’m going to continue rehearsals as planned until the end of the week when we make our debut on Facebook Live!

I don’t foresee any problems with this plan. I left them apple slices, a water cooler with enough plastic cups to last until I let everyone out at the end of the week, and buckets to use for the bathroom. I can’t let them use the actual bathroom in the theater because I told them that Abby Lee Miller is stuck in the bathroom and that’s why nobody has seen her yet. Would be terrible for morale if I was immediately outed as a liar. Should keep them distracted for the rest of the week.

WEDNESDAY

Lots of bad news today! The children are starting to get restless. I have a feeling that they don’t actually believe that Abby Lee Miller is stuck in our bathroom. Luckily, as someone who has experience in the arts and working in collaboration with other people, I know how to settle conflicts over differences of opinion. I have a spray bottle full of lemon juice that I spray in their faces. It’s been working so far. Personally, I don’t understand why they want to leave. Ever since I first saw Annie as a little boy, I knew that that was the life I wanted to live. I mean, being a singing and dancing orphan? Very glamorous. But try as I might, no matter how many toasters I left teetering precariously on the edge of my parents’ bathtub, I was never able to make my dream a reality. I’m just trying to give them what I so badly wanted growing up!

Our lead actress has also been showing signs of infection. Not great because she needs to keep her singing voice for Friday. I can’t risk anyone else getting infected before Friday or that could severely impact their ability to project. I changed her costume to a spare Hazmat suit that I found in the costume shop. I spray painted it red so people would still be able to tell that she was playing Annie (Can’t see her red wig inside of it). No ventilation inside. Can’t risk anyone escaping and spilling my secrets to another director before I get my Tony for this. So we are all a little lightheaded.

THURSDAY

Ran out of apple slices today. Because of this, tensions are running high among the cast. And unfortunately, the adult actress I cast as Mrs. Hannigan has a very robust knowledge of union law. They tried to unionize today. Among their demands were no more spraying them with lemon juice, union breaks, and for me to reopen the air vents so the fumes from yesterday’s spray paint could circulate out of the room. Obviously a trick, most of them are air vent sized! This is why I hate working with union actors.

Trying positive reinforcement instead. Tonight after rehearsal, we all sat in a circle and I had them sing Kumbaya. That seemed to relax them because there wasn’t anymore fighting that night. I also snuck out during their singing and slipping heavy doses of Children’s NyQuil in all of their water cups.

FRIDAY

The day started like any other show. Everyone standing nervously behind the curtain while I set up my Facebook livestream. As soon as I turned it on, I started seeing comments pouring in saying “We found him!,” ‘’He’s in Fresno” and I thought that people had been following my project! Turns out I had made national news as a kidnapper and police had been trying to reach me to negotiate a release of the hostages but couldn’t because I don’t allow phones in rehearsal. Barricading the doors as I write this. If I die, I only ask that I be remembered as a simple man who died doing what he loved. And take the Tony for Best Director from whoever wins it and put it on my grave. Scratch out the name with a coin or something.

AN EXCERPT FROM A NEWSPAPER OBITUARY

It is with a heavy heart that Fresno Community Theater announces the passing of our resident director after he died in a police raid to free the children he took hostage for a week to rehearse his musical. The cause of death is still unknown, but what we do know is that he either died from blunt force trauma to his body from the sheer amount of bean bags that were shot at him, or from being stabbed with a sharpened prop broom handle, whichever came first. He will be remembered for bringing fine arts into our town, his theatrical ingenuity, but most importantly, for creating our booming child psychotherapy economy due to the sheer number of child actors he terrorized in his short time with us. Auditions for our spring musical will be held next month.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Obnoxious