The Highlands Playhouse Production of Dames at Sea experienced a scary instance of real life imitating art on opening night. The play, after three weeks of rehearsal, opened to a standing ovation and energetic crowd. The traditional party celebrating the performance had a positive buzz and a community of patrons excited to tell their friends about the great experience they had that evening at the Playhouse. Then disaster struck!
Playhouse veteran Rachel Schimenti, the big voiced, curly haired audience favorite, tripped on the unforgiving Highlands terrain and broke her foot. After a long trip to the emergency room, and the advice of doctors and trainers across the United States, it was decided that Schimenti could not continue with the run of the performance. She was devastated and the Playhouse went scrambling. The traditionally short runs have stopped the Playhouse from the added cost of understudies so there was no one able to step in for her. “We were devastated,” Dames at Sea director Bill Patti said, “Rachel Schimenti is not someone who is easily replaced, she is one of the most talented young performers in the country.”
There were many talented members of the company who could have stepped in, but in the The show goes on at The Playhouse! end it was decided to call in veteran stage actress Jessica Humphrey. Humphrey had just ended a contract at Connecticut Repertory Theater where she closed Pirates of Penzance with a number of Broadway veterans. She was on her way to New York City when she got the call. Humphrey was at the Playhouse for a rehearsal by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, and by Saturday evening – the show was ready to reopen. In a mere 27 hours, with little sleep, Humphrey was able to pick up a major role in such a difficult show. Several audience members mentioned they did not even realize someone had just learned the show.
“Live theater is exciting because anything can happen and you somehow have to make it work. As they say,” Patti said, “the show must go on!” Although the Playhouse is lucky to have had Humphrey, the entire company banded together to make the show a success. “The actors worked tirelessly with Jessica to make sure she was ready for Saturday. I have never seen such a dedicated and talented company of performers – it was amazing,” Patti concluded.