We rehearsed the play over a few weeks and I also spent many nights going over my lines as Abe Flores, owner of the Cherry Creek Saloon during the California gold rush. While I didn’t have to memorize specific dialogue I had to, like all the other actors, develop a believable character and know my story lines of “Hide” and “Share” information so as not to wrongly throw investigators off track nor provide too much information making it easier for them to solve the murder. It was a tricky balancing act as all of our roles affected each other’s performance.
By time of the dress rehearsal I had learned the story lines and developed a good sense of my character even adding a few flourishes to my appearance like a handle-bar mustache that matched my, now, center-parted gray hair. I developed a passable faux-southern accent although I don’t think I ever fully mastered it. At times I sounded like a strange cross between a high-brow Bostonian and a Texas farmer with a slight hint of Louisiana bayou drawl thrown in for good measure.
On performance evening we arrived one hour prior to opening in order to dress, apply make-up and block out the murder scene one last time. Nervous energy filled the air and we thought we were ready. But then - and experienced actors know this moment well – as soon as we saw the audience enter we realized we should’ve had more rehearsals. But it was show time and there was no turning back.
The scene was setup so that the incoming crowd encountered me first so I had to set the tone. I didn’t fail. A change came over me as I lost Brian to my character. Suddenly I was saloon owner Abe Flores loudly greeting customers as if they had just jumped off an arriving stage coach. Waving my bar towel around I welcomed our guests into the saloon telling them to brush off the trail dust and help themselves to the food and drinks, assuring them that the beef was mighty fresh – having been hung out to dry just a few weeks ago - and the beer was kept cold in the creek outback where the herd drank.
On and on I went for the rest of the evening. The more into character I acted the more the audience enjoyed it and, curiously, some of them even got into the spirit by taking on fake southern accents as we conversed. Feeding off that audience interaction I went even deeper into character and story line.
Before long the murder-mystery was solved and I was exposed as the killer of that no-good, card cheat Jeb Lyman. A fun time was had by all and hearty hugs and handshakes ended our evening. After changing out of my costume Kris and I packed up the car and as we drove away I turned to her and said, “Well, missy, it’s time we mosey on back to the ranch.”
The thespian in me just couldn’t quit.