|Our old pal Jonathan Farwell, shown here as Captain Walker|
Keel from an early Star Trek TNG episode.
It’s the same play that was adapted into a feature length film with Anthony Hopkins in the lead role, but actor Jonathan Farwell played the part of Lewis in our production.I played one of Lewis’ buddies, Alan Gregg.
One night we were all standing around waiting for a touching scene to end that had Jonathan on stage with his leading lady, Deb Note (who actually became Deb Note-Farwell at the end of the run, as they were married in the theater on closing night after the final performance.)
We were standing there quietly in the dark stage wing but one of the older gents, Grant, had his hand in his pocket and he kept jingling something that sounded like change.
Grant was about eighty-years-old and hard-of-hearing, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one contemplating saying something to him. We were all kind of giving each other looks as it went on..
We took turns glancing down and watching Grant fiddle in his pocket until the stage manager, Liz, finally came back and spoke in a hushed but urgent tone that made it quite clear we weren’t the only ones who could hear it.
“Do one of you guys have change in your pocket?” she asked. “We keep hearing a jingling sound and you can hear it out in the first few rows, it’s VERY distracting!”
Nobody wanted to rat Grant out. He was a sweetheart who put a lot into his performances and everyone liked him. Plus, his health hadn’t been so great and we all saw how much he struggled; we had a soft-spot for old Grant.
“No, none of us have any change or anything, really!”
We all denied it and no-one looked at Grant.
“Well then, let’s see your hands.. everyone pull your hands out of your pockets right now and show me they’re empty!”
We could all hear Jonathan and Deb on stage saying their lines in low, hushed tones. It was an emotional scene and we knew the audience would be hanging on every word.
It was going to end and go dark in about two minutes, then we’d shuffle out there and the lights would come up on the next scene, which would be the bunch of us talking as we sat around a table. Liz examined our open palms and made sure no-one was holding anything, then she instructed us all to keep our hands out of our pockets for the next two minutes until the scene ended.
But sure enough, as soon as she left, Grant’s hands went right back into his pockets and the jingling resumed..
As much as I loved Grant I just had to ask. It wasn’t my place to make him stop and I didn’t want to be the stage manager, so I just framed it as a question..
“Hey Grant” I whispered, “are you absolutely certain you don’t have any change in your pockets? I mean, we can all hear the jingling that Liz was talking about.”
“Oh for Cryin’ out loud!” Grant looked indignant as he pulled his hand out and held the offending matter in front of me. “For the last time, I don’t have any goddamn change in my pocket.. all I've got here are my car keys!”
I can’t stress how difficult it was for all of us to keep looking solemn throughout our next scene, given that the one which Jonathan and Deb had just completed was her character’s death scene. It wasn’t easy.