April 23, 2018
Prince Fine Arts Students Learn True Meaning of “The Show Must Go On”
Written By: Amy Frierson
“The show must go on” is a mantra quoted often in theatre circles. Usually, this quote is used when a costume splits, or a prop is lost, or the lead character has laryngitis. But this Spring, at the Saturday matinee performance of the Prince Avenue Fine Arts production of Seussical, the cast and crew learned what “the show must go on” really means when the actor who played the main character of Horton, freshman Finn McGinnis, severely injured his knee during the performance.
“Usually I am always in the back or walking around checking on things, but that day I decided to sit with my parents,” explained Fine Arts Director LaMurl Morris. “I was sitting there enjoying the show, and then comes Mr. Mayor. . .” (She was referring to freshman Walker Johnson who was playing the role of Mr. Mayor.) “He had that look on his face, and I could tell something was wrong.” Walker was there to deliver the urgent news that Mrs. Morris was needed backstage. “I got backstage, and I saw Finn on the floor, and he was saying over and over, ‘I think I broke my leg’.”
While students who were dressed as jungle animals, colorful birds, and the Whos of Whoville were dancing and singing and putting on a fantastic show, and while Horton himself was supposed to be chasing three monkeys around the stage, Finn lay injured backstage. “I heard a snap, and then all of a sudden, I felt an intense pain in my knee. I looked down and my kneecap was not where it was supposed to be.”
Immediately, students sprang into action. Senior Isaac Moore, the assistant stage manager, was first to Finn’s side. He offered Finn constant and calm encouragement until one of the Fine Arts parents, an emergency room doctor, was able to come to Finn’s aid. The help offered involved putting Finn’s kneecap back in place, duct tape, Advil, and a quickly acquired knee brace from the hospital around the corner. When asked if he considered not going on, Finn conceded that the thought crossed his mind. “I was not sure if I was going to be able to do anything else.”
Meanwhile, other students overcame the fear and emotion of an injured classmate to determine how the show could go on. A quick announcement to the audience that an injury had taken place and that an early intermission would be observed allowed the cast and crew the time necessary to make adjustments.
Sophomore Thompson Sewell had one of the lead roles as The Cat in the Hat. He immediately took on the leadership necessary to make decisions related to the script and blocking in the hopes that Finn could continue. “I was already in the role of the narrator outside of the story, so some of it fell on my shoulders because my character could justify what was happening.” Thompson worked with the lead stage manager, junior Abby Frost, as well as senior Rebecca Hathaway (who played the role of Mayzie La Bird) to decide what to cut and what to keep. “Some of the lines we planned,” said Thompson, “but I had to change some of them on the spot to make them fit what was happening.”
Prince drama teacher and show director Hannah Hunt explained the beneficial aspect of the way Seussical was staged. “Horton spends almost the entire second act in the birds nest. I can’t think of another production where the main character sits in one place for that long.” So with Finn’s leg wrapped in duct tape, a plan in place of how to get him to the nest, and the entire cast armed with courage and determination, the show did go on.
After being helped by members of the cast to a metal chair, Finn’s opening line of the scene, designed by Thompson to help ease the worries of the audience, helped set the mood for the rest of the afternoon. Lights . . .
“The fact that I hurt my knee looking for a clover is beyond me!”
. . . Finn’s presence and that single opening line were met with enthusiastic and supportive applause and even some tears from an audience that was equally concerned and impressed with Finn and his classmates.
The rest of the hour was filled not only with excellent acting, singing, and choreography, but also on display was courage, integrity, and the true meaning of “the show must go on”.
Thompson explains, “You grow up hearing ‘the show must go on’, and you think, ‘when is that ever going to apply?’. I used to think that was a useless statement, but we really did learn what it means.”
The students expressed mutual admiration for one another in all that it took for the show to continue. Perhaps the best example of their care and support of one another was explained by Rebecca Hathaway. “When you grow up performing, you wait for the day that you will have a lead role and have the ‘last bow’ at curtain. This was Thompson’s year to have the last bow, but right before we went out, Thompson came to us and asked us all to give Finn the last bow for being so brave and making it through the show.”
Not only did Finn make it through the matinee in the moment of his injury, he found a way to carry on, learn to use crutches, and perform the final evening performance as well. Upon reflection, Mrs. Morris explained that there were so many details going on behind the scenes, but the most important one was when they all came together to pray. “We thanked God for protecting Finn and asked for God’s wisdom as we continued.”
So it was, that on that Saturday afternoon, the students learned a lesson that no amount of line study, rehearsing, and technical detail could ever teach them. They learned how to come together, support one another, and with courage and tenacity, to accomplish an amazing feat. The audience learned something as well. That day, there were not just characters on display, but true character carried the day.
Finn McGinnis as Horton Finn McGinnis with Thompson Sewell as The Cat in the Hat
The cast and crew of Seussical