The Grief of a Lost Production

Erin Fossa

  • North Carolina Columnist

My dear theater comrades, oh how I am in need of your fellowship right now. My heart is broken for reasons only you will understand. Please, hear my laments so that I can begin to heal and begin dwelling on more important things. 

For the past two weekends, I have been appearing as Shelby in the Gilbert Theater’s production of Steel Magnolias here in Fayetteville, North Carolina with five other incredible actresses and a wonderful crew. While it has been a blast, it has also been an uphill climb as a performance. We lost one actress in September and had to replace her with another who got the script on the day we started the three week rehearsal process. While she did an amazing job, it was understanda-bly difficult for her to memorize such a dialogue heavy show in just three weeks, although she did do it! 

Because lines were always an issue (for all six of us), one cast member was pretty new to the craft of acting in general, and one rehearsal was canceled due to weather, the production didn’t quite come fully alive until the second or third performance. But when it did… it did! 

We really found our groove during the first and second weekend and Steel Magnolias turned into a production I was so proud to be a part of! My husband waited to get tickets until this weekend and his parents drove over 6 hours from Florida to see the show. We planned a cast party for after the final production and I couldn’t wait to go out with a bang! 

And then hurricane Matthew… 

Friday night, the winds and rain began tearing through North Carolina and taking trees and roads with it. This far inland, we were not expecting to be hit as hard as we were. But Fayetteville re-ceived over 15 inches of rain in just 24 hours. Two of our cast members had damage to their houses and we were all without power for some amount of time. Both of Saturday’s scheduled performances were wiped out by the weather. But at least we had Sunday! 

Today (Sunday) came and we planned an additional performance for 7 pm, giving my family two more chances to see the show. However, this morning due to power outages at the theater, both of those performances were cancelled and the production was officially closed. 

We had just found our sweet spot in the performance and it was ripped out from under us before my family ever got to see this beautiful piece of art that I’ve been pouring my heart into for weeks. Without warning, the production is over and I will no longer be seeing these wonderful women on a regular basis to laugh, cry, and bond with them. Never again will an audience get to experience this story the way we have crafted it, and (because of various reasons) I will not get to be a part of another production until next season. 

Now, to anyone else this may seen ridiculously dramatic, but that is why I must pour my heart out to you, theater friends. I now must mourn this show as though it were a sudden, unexpected death rather than just a life completed. I’ve never experienced heartbreak quite as unique as this, and I’m afraid I’m not taking it well. This beautiful thing had just gotten to where it was meant to be… and now it is gone. I feel like a painter whose masterpiece has just been destroyed right in front of her eyes. I’m hurt, tearful and frustrated. 

How do I begin to move on from this? I suppose I must simply find another project to give my heart to, as always. Please, tell me it’s okay to feel this level of grief in this situation, and I’ll allow it while not allowing myself to dwell on it. I’ll do what we artists do best - pick up the pieces and move on while trying to remember those who have much more to mourn after this weekend!