How I Learned the Show Must Go On

Jennifer Butler

When I was growing up, and before I became involved with theater, I had injured my hands and wrists. I have had an issue since birth which is the cause of the injuries, it turns out. I also had thumb surgery on top of it all. So, needless to say my hands/wrists are super weak and I can easily injure them which causes pain faster than it takes for you to read this sentence. One wrong move and I can be out of commission for at least a couple of days. But I have always been able to figure out how to rest and relax in order to give my hands enough time to get better.

Once I became involved with theater handling things became a bit trickier on my wrists. I am willing to help but I am always afraid of getting hurt. I can remember working backstage at a show where I was supposed to wear all black but had to wear a white brace on my wrist. It ended up not being a big deal because the director and the stage manager were more concerned about my safety with the injury, than the color of my brace.

After getting injured once while working on the production side of a show, I learned how to get through tech week as well as to take care of myself.

I honestly thought I had it covered. That was until I re-injured my hand once again right before the second performance of the show that I was in. This was something else I could add to the list of things I had to figure out how to do when it came to being cast in a show. Being on stage in the show is certainly more revealing than working on the backside of things. This particular time, I was in so much pain and my left hand swelled up to the point that it wasn’t useable. And by being in the cast this time around, I was not in a position to wear my brace on stage. How was I going to take care of myself and be onstage to tell the story. Then a 1000 other things started racing through my mind. How was I going to get ready for the show with the use of only 1 hand? How could I do my hair and put on my make-up singlehandedly? I have had to adapt quickly at times with how to do things one handed, but hair and make-up for a show had yet to make it onto that list. The more I thought about it the more I started freaking out because once I got past hair and make-up, there would be costume changes to think about, shoes to be buckled and tied, and a wig that needed to go on for one scene in Act 1. How was I going to pull all of this off?

As soon as I arrived at theater the answer became clear. My cast mates. When they found out about my condition, they were willing to help in whatever way they could. They were all more than willing to buckle my shoes, or put my wig on, and even button up my shirt for me at intermission. Off stage I was crying and icing my hand but onstage I was up there singing and dancing as if nothing was wrong. Somehow, by the end of the night, I had managed to make it through the whole production and I am sure the adrenaline of the lights and the audience had a lot to do with that.

By the matinee the next day, I was feeling a bit better. The swelling in my hand was down but I still couldn’t use my thumb. I felt better because I wasn't completely useless. As silly as this sounds, I could at least dress myself but I still couldn’t buckle my character shoes. And by feeling better I enjoyed being a part of the show more.

The entire process of being in a show was still all new to me even by the third performance. But what I quickly learned from this particular experience is that I can trust my cast mates because we were all in this together, we were all a part of a story that was going to be told and because no matter what, the show must go on!