In high school, I played Jennie Parsons in our production of “Down in the Valley.” There is a point at which Jennie must scream the scream to end all screams, at which point, the entire action of the show comes to a dead stop and it’s just her scream that sounds and sounds and sounds. Well, I was sick. Unknown to all of us, I actually had pneumonia, but I decided it was just a bad cold and so I kept going with the show (I was the lead and there was no understudy).

On opening night, when it came time for me to scream (and this is an operetta mind you so it wasn’t like we could slow down or back up or anything since the music came to a stop when it did and I was supposed to scream and that was supposed to climactically end the scene), I opened my mouth and absolutely nothing came out. So, there I was with everyone else frozen, the music stopped, the entire stage silent, and I had nada. The next night and through the end of the run, I had one of the guys in the chorus be my screamer. I would mime scream and then I’d touch his arm (we made sure he stood next to me) and he would scream for me. He had a scream that would curdle milk and make Freddy Krueger look around anxiously. And he saved my butt.


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