by Janine Sobeck
Today is what you would call a surreal day. I just got back from a double destination visit. First stop? George Washington University Hospital to visit actress Carla Harting. Carla, who has been playing Olivia in Legacy of Light, was biking to the matinee performance on Sunday when she was hit by a car. Though emergency surgery was required to fix the compound fracture in her leg, I was relieved to see that her spirits were high (she is finding percocet to be a good thing) and that there has been a constant stream of support from her family, the cast, and Arena staff members.
After a brief visit we left with playwright Karen Zacarias (who was also visiting Carla) to the emergency rehearsal at the theatre, where actress Jennifer Mendenhall is valiantly preparing to step in at the last minute and take on the challenge of continuing in the role of Olivia. She will begin tonight, script in hand.
This is the stuff that live theatre is made of. The relief that Carla is going to be ok is immense. The fact that we were able to find an actress who could step in as a replacement so quickly is incredible. And the rallying together of the cast, crew (the stories that the costume shop has of making sure Jennifer had the right clothes to wear!), and staff has been amazing to watch. And through it all, Voltaire's famous quotation "All is for the best in this best of possible worlds" has been running through my head. Obviously, the experience that put Carla in the hospital is not one that we would wish on ANYONE. But we all know it could have been worse. And the response, and the opportunity that is unfolding, is definitely one that is testing and pushing everyone here in a way that is truly binding. We've all come to realize how fragile things can be - and how much we depend on one another.
It is also turning out to be an opportunity for the audience. As it turns out, we have three post show discussions left for the run of this show - tonight, tomorrow matinee, and thursday night. I am grateful for that fact. Everyone is rallying around Jennifer, wanting her to succeed, and it will be a priceless opportunity to speak with the audiences that support her through these first performances.
So, is all really for the best? There is definitely going to be some debate on that topic. But as we continue on this journey with Emilie, Voltaire, Millie, Peter...and Olivia...we are at least finding that making the best out of the situation makes for a crazy...and a surreal...ride.