OJ Ruins Opening Night
I spent the next year sending the play to agents and playhouses attempting to find someone to take it from the page to the stage. In 1993 Stages Theater, then in Anaheim, now in Fullerton, agreed to give life to my creation.
Working with the director we started casting and performing read-throughs in late April. I attended some of the rehearsals and anxiously awaited Opening Night like a first-time father awaiting the birth of his baby. I was so excited when Opening Night was set for Friday, June 17, 1994.
Unfortunately for me, and all of those who worked so hard on the play, June 17th just so happened to be the day that O.J. Simpson went on his slow-speed police chase all over the Southern California freeways.
Media reports say that 95 million people watched O.J.‘s slow-speed chase. Just for comparison, that year’s Super Bowl was watched by only 90 million people. The nation was emotionally invested in the outcome so much that Domino’s Pizza had one of their best sales nights ever because no one wanted to leave their television for dinner.
I was as invested in it as much as anyone, (except maybe those people who made “Go OJ” signs and stood on the freeway overpass) so I knew it was going to be a tough sell to expect people to leave the most intriguing news story in years to come to an industrial park warehouse converted into a theater to see the premiere of a first-time playwright.
The curtain was set to rise at 9:00 and there were plenty of unoccupied chairs & lumpy couch seats in the make-shift, avant-garde theater when I arrived at 8:45.
The stage manager walked out to center stage and announced, “OJ is in custody!” The small but boisterous audience cheered.
“And now we are proud to present, the world premiere of “Quick Fix!”
I should have taken a play out of O.J.’s playbook from that day and brought a fake beard with me just in case the play flopped and I needed to sneak out undetected. Turns out, like OJ, I didn’t need the fake beard after all. The audience laughed at the right times and reacted the way they were supposed to at others. The play ended, the actors took their bows, and the dozen or so audience members ventured out into the industrial complex to see if their cars had been vandalized.
There was no after party to sip champagne and await the reviews. Cast, crew, and audience all wanted to go home and watch the updated news reports.
The play ran for a couple of weeks and drew much better crowds once O.J. had checked into the Gray Bar Hotel. A year later, O.J. amazingly caught a ‘Get Out of Jail Hail Mary’ and I moved on to other areas of writing where I had more control over the finished product.
Having my play professionally produced was a great bucket list check-off, and a reminder that you can’t control the actions of other people. As Forrest Gump said, “Sometimes it happens.”