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EX TECH DAY
24 January 2006
"Is this Ex-Tech day?" asked Barbara Heroux, artistic director for The Lamplighters, looking at the group of people coming into the theatre to see The Pirates of Penzance. She had coined a new phrase.
It seems like I've known Barbara forever, from when she was a young girl, moving from the chorus into comprimario roles, then into lead roles. I worked with her, and others, for a few years after Gilbert died in writing Gala scripts--her brilliant, clever, bizarre mind going a mile a minute...how I loved those days!
She then took over as General Manager for the company and now serves as its Artistic Director. I guess I've known her for some 25 years.
We were there with a group of friends who all used to work as techies for The Lamplighters, jobs which ceased to exist when the company moved into professional theatres which demanded union technicians. But by that time, the group had forged fast friendships and so we still get together from time to time, either for dinners or barbecues or birthday parties.
Occasionally the group gets together to go and see a Lamplighters show. Saturday it was The Pirates of Penzance, an excellent production, directed by Jane Hammet (whom I remember from the days when she had her very first major role; she went on to play Carlotta in the touring company of Phantom of the Opera for many years, and now is an excellent director), with a new young musical director in the pit, fresh from the San Francisco Opera.
Days like this make me realize just how long I've been around this company. It is now second generation Lamplighters who are running things, with third generation Lamplighters standing in the wings ready to take their place.
I looked at a copy of the newsletter lying on the table--Cock and Bull. Gilbert and I started that newsletter in 1981 and wrote it together for five years. I had the same feeling that I had writing the DCOC article, when I came across copies of the old Basingstoke Bugle, which I am fairly certain I was the first editor of.
There were six of us who went to the show -- ex-techs and spouses -- and four more who met at the restaurant, Buca di Beppo, for dinner afterwards.
The "show" people got to the restaurant an hour early and while we waited for the "restaurant only" people, we sat in the bar drinking and laughing.
For those who have never been to a Buca di Beppo, it's very definitely an experience. The decor alone is worth the price of admission, with the walls literally covered with photos and strange pieces of bric-a-brac. All the food is served family style, you find more groups than tables for two, so as the place begins to fill up, and the wine begins to flow more freely, the noise level rises to where you can hardly hear yourself think.
I sat underneath a picture of an orantugan giving the world the finger, which was hung under a huge photo of the young Sophia Loren (showing a bit of under-arm hair, we all pointed out--obviously from her days in the Italian cinema), and across from a photo of a kitten covered with spaghetti.
Unfortunately, we've never had a large enough group to reserve The Pope Room...
...but the pope is very big here, with photos of various popes hanging all over the place (note the pope head on a lazy susan in the middle of the table there).
We enjoyed several delicious courses and were uncomfortably full at the end of the meal. I give a lot of credit to Stephen, the former tech director of The Lamplighters, who has kept this group of people together, finding reasons to meet socially. We have dinners or barbeques at his house, go to baseball games together, and occasionally see new Lamplighter productions together.
The Ex-Tech group is alive, getting older (we've celebrated Arthur's 86th birthday and Gil will turn 70 this year), but very much still together.
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