Originally published in a column I wrote, titled "Celebrity News" & written under the name of Linda Janus-Napier; copyright Fall, 1991
Soap Stars Act Out a Play of "Madness"
Recently I spent a weekend in a state of simultaneous agony and ecstacy. It had all started awhile ago when a friend and I began to write a play parodying soaps and romance novels. We weren't serious about this, nor did we have any clue as to what we were doing. Neither of us had ever written a play, but that didn't stop us.
Because of that slip of sanity, "Margarita Madness" set in, and the weekend of September 13 - 14, 1991 will forever live in our minds. Not to mention what it did to the minds of the brave professional actors who publicly read our play that weekend to benefit the National Child Rights Alliance.
It started on Friday. I arrived in New York City and settled into my hotel less than an hour before going to meet some of the actors involved at the Guiding Light studio for a rehearsal. Bill Timoney, a writer for "Soap Opera Weekly" who used to be an actor on All My Children, introduced himself. Moments later, Gary Rifkin, an acting student and soap fan, came in. He had been corralled to read the part of the psychiatrist (every soap has a doctor of some sort!).
Then Gil Rogers, who plays "Hawk Shayne" on Guiding Light, showed us, including my writing partner who'd also just gotten in, to the conference room where rehearsal would take place. Gil is very tall and soft-spoken, with a look of barely controlled impishness. We already knew that not all the actors would make the rehearsal, but I frantically watched the elevator for a sign of the actor who was to be the "star."
John Aprea, "Lucas" on Another World, had agreed to read the part of the scion of our make-believe town and the patriarch of the core family, (there's ALWAYS a presiding family). It was a half hour past scheduled rehearsal time, so I borrowed a phone and called the Another World studios. John was not there, but the woman who answered agreed to call his home and see if she could locate him. Moments later, she phoned back with the news that John was lost. He'd called home every half hour to see if I had called him to tell him where he REALLY should be. I gave her, again, the correct information so she could hopefully intercept his next call, and then I went in to "rehearsal." Since we only had 3 of 11 actors, we talked about stage directions and logistics. No real rehearsal yet.
Thirty more minutes went by and no John Aprea. Finally, we were finished. When I re-called the Another World studios (by now I felt like I was IN another world), my nerves were ready to snap. John had yet to call home again for further directions. The rest of the folks left while my partner and I waited for him.
He finally walked off the elevator into the lobby looking tired, frustrated and more than a little embarrassed. He also looked so much more handsome than he did on screen. His eyelashes were black, beautiful, and soooo long. I gave him the lowdown and assured him that if he was still willing, the show would go on.
The next day we went to a Guiding Light bowling event to benefit the charity, International Guiding Eyes. Jean Carol, the actress who played the character of "Nadine," was the group's spokesperson. Fans paid to either bowl witih the Guiding Light stars, or just watch them play. Jean was, of course, there, along with Amelia Marshall ("Gilly Grant"), Carey Cromelin ("Wanda Hiat"), Gil Rogers, and Jordan Clarke ("Billy Lewis").
Then, finally, it was THE evening. Our evening. My partner and I barely managed to return to our hotel after the bowling event before we found ourselves at the art gallery that was hosting our reading. We set up the room and, as actors came in, we fixed them margaritas (recommended to read Margarita Madness, our play), or sodas, whichever they preferred.
John Aprea was there, early, with his lovely wife, as was Gary Rifkin, Gil Rogers -- who showed up with props -- and Bill Timoney. Jean Carol and her boyfriend, rocord producer/actor Gerry Rand, were in rare form, kidding around and assuring us they were ready. Suzi Cote, "Samantha Marler" on Guiding Light, came in dressed in a beautiful suit and as adorable in person as on screen. Amelia Marshall arrived looking bright and ready for anything.
Carey Cromelin, a personal friend, breezed through the door, seemingly afraid that I might hit her over the head with a margarita because she was a bit late. Didn't want to waste a perfectly good margarita! I wasn't angry. Carey was there, everyone was there, in their places. All had shown up exactly as they'd promised they would. What more could I have asked for?!
Bill Timoney did expert introductions before the reading began, and he narrated stage directions as the actors began with their parts. After the first few minutes, I realized that they were truly enjoying themselves, so much so that my nervousness died down.
These professional actors were reading for a live audience from a play I'd co-written, and they were laughing their way through the lines. I'd heard that comedy is very difficult to write and few should attempt it. Well, with such talented actors delivering the insane lines we'd created, the audience was also laughing, every other minute. Now and then my partner and I would exchange looks of disbelief. When the play was completed, the actors signed autographs and posed for photos with their fans. My partner and I thanked the actors, who told us how much fun they'd had, and we also posed for a few pictures.
The real kicker happened nearly 48 hours later. I received a phone call from "Soap Opera Magazine." The editor had spoken with Gil Rogers during the fan club luncheon on Sunday, the day after our play reading, and he had mentioned it to her. However, he'd been laughing so hard she couldn't understand all that he'd said. She asked me for details (SHE was also laughing after I explained the plot), and said her magazine would run a short piece in an upcoming issue. This, in addition to the fact that "Soap Opera Weekly," another magazine, had had an editor at the reading.
I was truly thankful for all those actors who breathed life into our characters. Few rushes are as gratifying as when characters from the madness of my mind came to life right in front of me.