During shows, almost everyone gets sick. It’s a fact of life. You rehearse or perform for hours on end with the same group of people, experiencing high stress and little sleep, your immune system is going to suffer and then make everyone elses’ suffer in turn. Being an unpaid actor who has no hope of ever getting an understudy makes this even more miserable to endure. Most productions I’ve often had to fight off the show sickness, telling my body that it just has to hold out for two more weeks then it can be as sick as it wants. And more often than not, it does, with a vengeance.
During the filming of our musical, people got sick. I got to experience the worry and stress again but this time I got to experience it from the perspective of actor AND producer. As an actor, I only had to worry about myself. As a producer, I had to worry about the whole production and the increasing number of nasally voices and vacant feverish stares.
It all started with Luke, who wandered into the park for filming late, shivering and feverish and very apologetic for daring to become diseased. It wasn’t particularly cold that day, but that big black coat you see him wearing was the only thing that would keep him even close to warm. He powered through it like the pro he was. Orders were given all around to avoid him unless absolutely necessary and I went home praying that the Show Disease would stop at Luke.
It didn’t, of course. Poor Blythe was struck next, which was no real surprise since she plays Luke’s love interest. She practically had to crawl her way to my apartment, sounding very much like someone who had been smoking eight packs a day since she was twelve. All I could really offer was tea and the promise that we would try and wrap early so that she could get some rest.
It was only a matter of time before it got me. I managed to fight it off until the end of September but soon I felt that familiar draining presence lurking in my brain. It didn’t help that I was rehearsing a stage play at the same time. I downed Cold-FX, orange juice and tea and told my brain the usual spiel. It didn’t work this time. As soon as we wrapped filming, I breathed a sigh of relief and my body took that as a sign that it could let whatever festering illness in it wanted. I ended up performing the play through a cough syrup haze, fighting the urge to lie down in the middle of the stage to take a nap.
What I can be thankful for through all of this is that I was working with professional actors who still haven’t figured out the meaning of the word “sick day” and who will lay down their lives in the name of creativity. We all managed to stick together through the sniffly noses, scratchy voices and sinus clogged brains while at the same time convincing our audience that we were all just right as rain. And we all comforted each other with one single thought: This was all Luke’s fault.