We all know it, because we’ve all been there. Production week approaches, you wrap yourself in multiple scarves, vow to consume quantities of water that even the Loch Ness monster couldn’t hide amongst, and chow down on as many multivitamins as you can get your hands on. You're protecting yourself from show week influenza. Or, more commonly, Prod. Week Show Plague.
Forget swine-flu, this is the monster that can knock out your leading lady up until mic. check on opening night. This is the foul demon that prays upon the young, the inexperienced, and half your dance chorus. It is a seriously dangerous beast.
So how does one deal with such an unstoppable creature? You need a battle plan, and it is my objective to assist you in formulating one with my handy list of top ten bug-beating tips;
- Get clothing-happy. Do not be fooled by the promise of approaching summer – warmer weather does not mean a lesser chance of infection, it means a lesser coverage of body parts in your day-to-day existence. Increased exposure of your freshly-spray-tanned-show-body allows viruses a greater surface area on which to launch an attack. It is recommended you remain covered at all times, especially when attempting intimacy with your show crush. Low cut tops and high cut pants mean Influenza Type B will be crushing on you all night.
- Establish a ‘safe distance’ from all other humans. I recommend no less than a one metre radius for any persons wishing to communicate with you. However, this can be difficult when getting a mic. pack on or having your hair done. One easy solution is to politely ask your sound technician or hair stylist to use lengthy tongs (instead of their hands) when attaching your pack or curling your locks. Don’t let anyone tell you that inferior approaches such as hand sanitiser will work. Tongs, tongs, tongs. Remember – safe distance = safe respiratory tract.
- Don’t share snacks. It can be hard to keep to this rule when there is a pre-planned ‘Gala Opening’ for your production. I suggest kindly asking those responsible for catering to whip you up a personal plate of whatever they plan on serving. However, if you have less than ten lines in the show, this approach may not be successful. If this is the case, you may just need to whip out those above-mentioned tongs. Never pick up a mini-quiche with your fingers. If, whilst you are executing your very nifty 'tong-to-hors-d’oeuvre' manoeuvre, anyone should look at you strangely, ensure they are doing so from a one metre distance. Otherwise, kindly ask them to step away from you and your lengthy utensils.
- Impose upon yourself a ‘no exceptions bedtime’. I usually find ten or ten-thirty to be best. If this should mean you have to bring a sleeping bag on stage for the finale, then so be it.
- Quarantine ALL show gifts. Anything traveling backstage from front of house poses a number of serious health risks. For instance, who has touched this? Where has this been? Can I trust this is not covered in anthrax? The answer is no, and you should set up a quarantine area to which all cast members chocolates, flowers and balloons must be sent. This area is ideally located in your car boot.
- Minimize all forms of transmission. As you are all aware, organisms such as bacteria and viruses are constantly adapting themselves to new environments. They are always finding new pathways into our bodies, and will stop at nothing. This is where we need to question all forms of transmission – including audio. How are we to know that volatile viruses are not currently finding ways to spread themselves across the input/output function of audio systems? Just to be sure, I suggest turning your leading male/females sound pack to OFF. If, for any reason, this should somehow prove troublesome during the show, then you can rest assured that the director will be eternally thankful for your sound pack still being on and you magically knowing all the lines.
- Minimize cast consumption of alcohol. It is no secret that those cast members who choose to consume alcoholic beverages are risking their immunity. Alcohol can prove most hazardous when trying to contain a show epidemic. People become lax with their attitudes toward sharing glassware and exchanging contact. To control this, you should ensure all persons adhere to a ‘one party, one beverage’ rule. All superfluous beverages must be surrendered upon the commencement of any party. These should be passed on to the individual kindly taking on the responsibility of promoting this risk-management policy. This person will be you.
- Take multiple days off work and/or school. I am aware many of you already take part in this preventative measure. However, I have always felt it is done at a rather late point in time. Ideally, you should take a week before the first full run of the show and an additional month before bump in. This means you should be out of harm’s way for most of the rehearsal process. Thank me later.
- Do not watch the conductor. A strange suggestion, but one that proves quite important. Your chances of being ambushed by flying sweat from the conductor's wildly waving arms is increased exponentially every time you steal a glance. It is widely known that the humble virus loves an exchange or transmission of bodily fluids. It is therefore important to never ever look at the conductor. Really, I shouldn’t have to tell you, because you shouldn’t be doing this anyway.
- Don’t do a show. If you’re that prone to getting sick, then don’t do a show. This would mean, however, that you’d never have fun, you’d never learn terms like sitzprobe and if anyone told you to ‘strike’ a chair you’d probably hit it. Ask yourself this; is avoiding involvement in that gloriously all-consuming and addictive passion called the amateur show really worth clear sinuses for all twelve months of the year? If your answer is no, then you must learn, like your fellow thespians, to both accept and embrace the inevitability of your worst enemy; The Prod. Week Show-Plague.