The Adirondack Shakespeare Company’s Remarkable Comeback

By Anthony Batson

I caught up with The ADK Shakes Artistic Director Tara Bradway by phone earlier this week.  We’d been playing telephone tag, but the truth was I had wanted to give the acting company their space, as they began their long healing process.

I was reassured on hearing her voice that that everyone was on the mend. And while the emotional scars are still present,  there’s a bright future ahead for all.

When we spoke some company members had just returned from a visit with injured cast member Sean, just our of the Operating Room.

“That surgery went really well. He got a titanium plate put in his head.  He is now fondly known as the ‘Titanium Cranium.’ He is doing beautifully. I know we had a bunch of folks to go down on Monday to visit him and a few more went down yesterday. They said, "He just really seems like Sean." I saw him a couple times last weekend when he was in the hospital and I thought he was doing well then. They said that the change from last weekend to this weekend after this other surgery was huge”.

“He's expected to make a full recovery but they're looking at six months to a year before they can sort of give him that clean bill of, you're fully recovered. It's going to be a long road but he will get there and that's the important thing.

I asked Tara about how the group reached the decision to go forward with this season.

“That was really hard for us. I'm so sorry if I cry through parts of this. When we first sat down to talk together as a group was Friday night. It was about 24 hours or so after the accident happened and everyone was still feeling very shaken up. We floated several options. Everything from cancelling the season, letting everybody stay to sort of recoup a little bit and sending them home, to doing some kind of variety hour with the scenes that was less stress on the company, all the way up to doing the full production and entertaining what modifications we would need.

“We left it very open. We just talked through a lot of the options, kept everything on the table, and decided if we were going to move ahead with the season, we needed to make our decision together by Monday night because we would need to begin rehearsals on Tuesday. We came back together again on Sunday night and we had been ... I took every one else who was in the car down to Albany Medical Center on Saturday to visit Sean and that was huge. That was huge because they got to all be together and talk with him.

“One of the first things he said to us was, "What are you doing about the season?" We had to say, "We don't know." I think it was hard for him. It was also hard for us but getting to see him and talk together I think was a big step in the healing process for everyone. When we came back together Sunday, I think it was Sunday night, the mood had shifted and everyone was feeling more ... I'm not sure what the right word is. Determined I guess?...not less traumatized but even though we've been damaged as a group, that we felt like we could pick up and move beyond that and face the adversity and overcome it and that it was something we felt we could do, that we felt we wanted to do, and that we felt we had to do.

Did that visit with Sean, emotional as it was, provide the inspiration to push the season forward?

“I think a good deal, yes. I think in part, we tried to be so very clear with everyone at that first meeting on Friday, that there was not to be any pressure of any kind, including wanting to do it for Sean. We had already talked with him, we already knew he wanted us to go ahead with the season but there were other people in the vehicle who sustained injuries that they're recovering slowly. We didn't want any body to feel like they had to do it for Sean, that they had to do it for anyone else in the group, or that they even had to do it for themselves because we're a touring company. I was so very concerned of what does it do to anyone's psyche to get into a vehicle and drive two hours to Plattsburgh. (The location of one of their first shows).

“We tried to be very clear about that, that we all love Sean, and we all want him to be here, and we all know how much he wants to be here but that can't be the pressure either of feeling like you have to push through something that's going to hurt you more in order to not disappoint Sean”.

With the decision made to move forward, there was Sean’s roles to fill in each performance. All of those roles were filled from inside,  with the stage manager for each performance stepping in to help.

"I think we get a little bit farther every single day. It's just kind of extraordinary to me where everybody is. Everybody's got their lines, everybody's got their blocking, some of us are moving a little bit slower but we're there. The shows are 100% and it's just really something”.

Tara said the outpouring of love and support from all over the North Country – and especially greater Schroon – has been overwhelming.

“It just been everywhere we go. People saying: "We're so glad you're OK." Just everybody asking, "Is there anything we can do? We're thinking of you. We're praying for you." It just means so very much. We can't even express how grateful we are to everybody.

Is it tough keeping it together?

“Oh yeah. During the performances, no. I have trouble doing the curtain speech. We've also been doing a poster raffle and it benefits the company. What we decided to do? Sean is so unspeakably disappointed not to be here and he is going to have a lot of bills before everything gets figured out with insurance. We wanted to donate everything from our poster raffle to Sean. The response to that has been amazing.

“When I go out to do the poster raffle, I cry. Then I go up to do the curtain speech, and I cry. Then I finish the curtain speech and I cry some more. Then I come out and say, "Thank you," at the end of the night and then I cry again. That's definitely tough, but I'm not even embarrassed about it. I just weep”.

“We are just so appreciative of every person who walks through the door, and they give us a hug, and they ask how we're doing, and it's just the spirit of community. We've also felt very supported by the community but we've never been through a crisis like this and to have everyone in the community come out and support us at a time like this just means so much”.