hell mouth wagon, or the time I got stitches

killing konundrum

Summer of 2010; we embarked on an ambitious project involving seven directors from seven distinctly different west coast theatre companies. Each given twenty minutes or less to tell a version of a modern morality play. Seven horse drawn wagon set pieces. The first day of rehearsal the stage manager and I realized this was going to be the most logistically challenging, under staffed and time sensitive project to date.

Two breathless weeks in rehearsal, daily re-writes to the scripts, tech week’s fury came upon us wild eyed and hungry. Telepathically, Jan and I knew we had to just run the show with out stopping -as one would in a cue to cue- unless of course something drastically derailed.

Right before the cue to cue, we were informed a journalist from the national media would be sitting in the house. We ran the first act. The cast was delirious. They hadn’t done a tech like this before, we were just running it! Albeit, the first act we knew we could pull off easily. It was the Killing Konundrum wagon in the second act that had the biggest question mark; even though we had tech’d it over and over in rehearsal. It held the highest stakes, was the climax of the play with multiple technical elements.The wagon had a long entrance from behind a hill, pulled by two huge black Percherons. Five actors were inside hiding behind a draw bridge which I had to lower before putting on a wolf mask and running in front of the audience with an applause sign like a ghoulish game show.

The wagon was a formidable presence as it appeared. I was hanging on the back side ready to jump off and lower the draw bridge in a fast, fluid sweep. Something with the winch didn’t look right. I was struggling with the safety latch. The band vamped louder and louder, filling time that wasn’t supposed to be there. The safety came off and the bridge let go. Part of the cable had come off the winch traveling up the road.

My first instinct was to grab the cable even though the bridge weighed 400 pounds. I had a horrible vision of a run away into the forest with the five actors inside. I was picked off the ground and heard a voice scream “Let Go!” The bridge slammed to the ground. The Percherons reared but the bridge hit with such force it anchored the wagon and the teamster was able to keep the reigns and control.

I stepped out from behind the wagon to say I was ‘okay’. I had my shredded palms out to show it was just cable burn. I heard a gasp, “Your leg!” I looked down to see my entire lower right leg bright red and gushing with blood. I let out was an “Oh” before I was swarmed, propped up, bleeding all over the band stage. The first thing one of the actresses pulled out of the first aid kit was a menstrual pad and pressed it against the gash on my shin. I had water, ibuprofen and an ice pack on my leg before clambering into the production managers beater truck and driving forty minutes to the nearest hospital.

Heather got a wheel chair and rode on the back. We gleefully raced and spun around the hospital till we reached the waiting room and saw a man with a head injury and a kid with a broken arm.

The nurse asked me to hop on to the bed. Dirt fell out of my sandals on to the crisp, bleached sheet. Under the disinfected surroundings and harsh lights the production manager and I examined the layers of filth we’d become accustom to, living and working on the eighty acre farm that serves as our theatre. Over the two hours we waited we talked about our youth and growing up in neighboring towns in the valley, different nurses would come in, lift the gauze off my leg and go “Oops yep” and scurry out again. I could see the thickness of my skin and little bits of fat surrounding the bone.

The doctor numbed the area, used a large curved needle and what looked like fishing line to close my skin up. He said to keep it clean and I heard the Heather let out a laugh. They would take the stitches out in a few weeks.

The draw bridge was completely re-rigged. I was removed from lowering it so I could just play my part as the wolf girl. The article ran in the arts section of the national paper and despite the artistic director asking the journalist to leave the incident out of the story, it appeared as a side line mostly focusing on how efficient and professional everyone dealt with the accident, even groaning out the cliche  “the show must go on”.


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