Instead of wishing each other luck, theater people say, “Break a leg!”
Cindy Flood took that literally.
The president of the Peninsula Association of Performing Artists was cast as the female second lead in this summer’s production of “She Loves Me” and opened the five-week run to appreciative audiences. Her character sang and danced in the romantic musical, which takes place in a Hungarian perfume shop.
Then, three hours before she was due to appear in a performance the following weekend, she was returning from the sandcastle contest on Long Beach when her dog’s leash entangled her legs.
Show went on
She fell onto the hard Bolstad Avenue surface.
Theater folks have another tradition: The show must go on.
As Flood was heading in an ambulance to Ocean Beach Hospital, daughter Brooke alerted director Barbara Poulshock and stage manager Hope Bellinger.
Not knowing how serious Flood’s injuries were, the trio hatched a plan to have Brooke, the assistant director, step in temporarily. Bellinger, who was playing the female lead on alternate performances, said she remained calm in the crisis, having grown up with the example of a father in the medical profession.
“I just went into ‘emergency mode’ and started thinking about the different ways of dealing with it,” Bellinger said. First she called other cast members to the theater early to help. Actress Kristen Gadzik, who shared the lead role with Bellinger, scribbled out Flood’s lines on pieces of card which they hid around the set at the Fort Columbia Theater in Chinook and taped to perfume boxes and other props.
“I just winged it,” said Brooke Flood, who had sung in the chorus of “She Loves Me” as a freshman while earning her theater degrees at George Fox University at Newberg, Ore. “But by the third night, I just about had it.”
Once the seriousness of her mother’s injuries was apparent — she had broken her knee — the change became permanent. “We were hoping it was just bruised, but no,” said Cindy Flood, who has appeared in the troupe’s shows for the last 10 years. “It was heartbreaking. The only way I can handle it is because Brooke could step up. I would have done it in a wheelchair, if I’d had to. But the show must go on, and Brooke saved the day.”
Bad luck strikes twice
The need to shuffle roles, was not over, however. Sadly, another enthusiastic cast member, Sandy Nielson, one of several who performs with Poulshock in the Bayside Singers, had a accident at her home, breaking her shoulder blade, and had to bow out.
This year’s broken bones are not the first such backstage drama for PAPA. Years ago, Bellinger stepped in to cover a role with minimal notice when an actress became ill.
As the show closed with a matinee Sunday, Flood teared up as she heard the applause for her daughter’s success. “I am sure that most of the audience never realized there were new people,” she said as she recounted what had happened.
But for Brooke Flood, some theater superstitions will have to go.
“We don’t say ‘Break a leg!’ around here any more,” she laughed.