Not too terribly long ago, I had to meet with the dean of the conservatory at Wheaton to switch from being an arts and sciences kid to being a conservatory kid. And in this meeting (I'm skipping a lot of steps of this story here), I was essentially double-dog-dared to find a pit conductor in the Chicago area to follow around, admire, badger with questions, and just generally stalk. All of this by spring break (which is fast approaching, I've realized). So beauty of beauties, I did, with much help from various faculty in getting email addresses, setting things up, all that. All this to say, last night, I spent a solid six-and-a-half hours at Drury Lane Theatre in a nearby little suburb for their current production of Gypsy. And it was supah fun.
There were two shows last night, one at 5, and one at 8:30. For the first, I sat with the other pit-dwellers on my own little bench with the heavily marked-up score, borrowed from the assistant conductor. And I wore cute little headphones that fed a little bit of everyone in the band, a little bit of all the people on stage, and a lot of the double bass (since his balance control box was the one I was hooked up to). And this was when I learned that the people playing in this pit (a) cannot see a thing going on onstage, and (b) cannot see the conductor except via a tiny screen clipped to the stand. Exciting times.
But not as exciting as the second show, when (brace your collective internet self) I sat on the podium next to the conductor. Who was also playing keyboard. And cuing everybody everywhere. And turning a million tiny knobs and pushing a jillion tiny buttons and flipping a kazillion equally heavily marked-up pages. This wasn't exciting only because I could see the spit flying from the actors' mouths, or because some actors stood five feet away from me to address "Mister Conductor," but because of a little something that happened during intermission. I was just minding my own business, getting comfy in my very prominent chair for Act 2, when a teenage girl walked up to the pit, held out her Playbill, and said, "Could one of the two of you please sign my program and date it?" at which point I snerked and turned to the conductor, saying, "Pretty sure she means you." But 'twould have been mighty funny if I had signed and dated her program. As if anything would have gone differently at all had I not been there.
In any case. It was a lovely evening. And he even invited me back to come see the show from the house tonight. And I get to bring a friend. Tickets? Totally unnecessary. We're just meeting him in the lobby, and he'll walk us in. Oh, don't mind me, just being chummy with important people in the real world.