Adventures in Read-Throughs

Tonight was the first rehearsal for Saturday Night. For those of you not familiar with theater, the first rehearsal is the read-through. The cast gets together, we all congratulate each other for getting a part while secretly envying the person who got the lead (unless you’re the lead, in which case you get to just look smugly at everybody else), and then we read through the script for the first time. For many of us, including me, this is our first exposure to the show, save for a few small pages of dialog that you might read during auditions.

So tonight was all that and a bag of chips. This looks like a really great cast, and The Arlington Players, or TAP (pronounced tap), looks like a great organization. The people seem really dedicated and a helluva lot of fun. My part is moderate, but I have a big solo number, so score! I have to say, though, through no fault of the fine men and women there this evening, that the highlight of my evening was using the bathroom during the five-minute bathroom break between reading Act I and Act II.

I had been holding it for some time, after having drank a fair amount of water before I left home in preparation for an evening of strenuous reading. So we get to the break, and I meander down to the other end of the hallway, nodding to the friendly janitor wheeling his trash can down the hall, and step into the lavatory. I walk up to a urinal and proceed to do my business. I don’t splash all over or make a mess; I just pee. Now, this may come as a surprise to some of you (mainly the females), but oftentimes men do not flush the urinal. It’s no big deal: guys just don’t always flush. Yes, Mom, I’m sorry, but I am one of those guys who doesn’t always flush. It just doesn’t occur to me. Blame it on society, nature vs. nurture, whatever. It is what it is. I always put the toilet seat down, though, I promise! Anyway, I finish my business, close the cargo bay doors, and head back out to reheasal, sans flushing.

I am just about to turn the corner back into the music room when the janitor calls out to me in an urgent voice. “Sir! Come here! Come here!” he says in broken english. And now I’m scared. Did I drop my wedding ring in the toilet? No…it’s still on my hand. Is their toilet paper on my shoe? Has somebody slipped and fallen and died in the bathroom? I haven’t taken CPR since my failed stint as a Boy Scout fifteen years ago! I can’t resuscitate somebody! This madness!! “Is everything okay?” I hollar as I jog back down to the bathroom. When I reach him, the janitor leads me through the door.

Suddenly, I’m struck by a terrible thought: What if this guy, this night-shift janitor, is going to mug me or rape me or something? Am I about to meet my end in the Gunston Arts Center bathroom during my first rehearsal? I could see the headlines: “Dead Actor a Real Stiff.” I envision Gil Grissom, dressed in his Vegas CSI garb, hovering over my body. “I hope his understudy is a dead ringer for this guy,” he quips; and cue the title sequence. I am about to die.

“Why do you do that? I just finish cleaning this, and then you just leave it. I get paid to clean these, not flush them.”

Oh. My. God. That’s it?! I’m not going to die? I’m not going to have to lock lips with one of my fellow cast members and bring them back to life? I’m getting scolded for not flushing the fucking toilet?! “Sorry,” I say, flushing the urinal. As I turn and walk out, I can’t help but be relieved and a little embarassed. One of my fellow cast members, Mike, had witnessed the entire event. We mumble a bit to each other about how weird it all was, but I’m just too flabbergasted to say much back. We return to rehearsal, and continue the read-through. I didn’t see my maternal janitor on the way out.

In retrospect, this poor janitor was totally right. He worked his ass off cleaning the piss and fuzzies off of a public toilet, and then I don’t even have the decency to flush. Even worse, I don’t even notice his presence as I walk out without flushing! How callous can I be? I was in the wrong, and I admit it. Still, I wonder if I should start a little war with him.

Probably not.