Blood, Beer, Bernstein & An Old FriendFriday, October 28, 2011
by John Lekich
|Scott Augustine & Therese von Hartwig|
Flash forward twenty-five years. Alex and I are waiting backstage during the final minutes of the VOA’s production of West Side Story. We’re close enough to hear a rousing rendition of “Gee, Officer Krupki” And, as waiting for interviews go, there are far less pleasant ways to pass the time.
We’re there to see Therese von Hartwig and Scott Augustine – the young local actor who plays Riff. The leader of the Jets. For those of you unfamiliar with the musical, Riff meets an untimely end. This involves getting his tee shirt smeared with a spotch of fake blood that would do Jackson Pollock proud. That’s where Therese comes in. Having long since abandoned her career behind the bar, she’s now devotes her time to a wide array of activities in the field of stagecraft.
A veteran of many local productions, she’s done everything from set dressing to electrical work. She has more than one responsibility in West Side Story. But the one that interest us most? She’s in charge of making sure the blood effects go off without a hitch.
You can feel Halloween in the night air. And as “Gee, Officer Krupki” draws to a close – complete with a suitably resounding “Krup Off!” - I toy with the idea of calling Theresa West Side Story’s Mistress of Blood. But the image doesn’t seem to fit. Meeting her again after all these years, she has the same sunny smile. Even the tattoos that decorate her arms remind me of stained glass windows in church.
We pass a pleasant few minutes with Theresa and Scott, who are old friends. They’ve worked together in previous productions but the fake blood is a new wrinkle. Theresa shows me a bag of red liquid with Scott’s name on it. She explains how the bag has to be taped in precisely the right spot under his shirt. “We had to practice with bags of water first,” she says.
I ask the obliging Scott if it was a bit of shock to see the blood on his shirt for the first time. “Definitely,” he grins. “I mean you’re in character. But it’s still a shock to look down and see blood on your shirt.”
We chat for a while longer. And then Theresa gives us one last smile before grabbing a laundry hamper and heading down the hall. “Excuse me,” she says. “I have to go wash out some blood.”