Neil Gaiman and his friend, actor/TV producer Lenny Henry (co-creator and producer of the Neverwhere BBC miniseries), came to see our production of Neverwhere on Sunday, June 13th. It was a top-secret, stealth situation. Their publicists told us (and we knew from being fans ourselves) that if news of this visit leaked out, we’d be overwhelmed. There would be a few hundred people turning up at Lifeline without tickets to the show, trying to get a glimpse of our celebrity guests. So we told no one: not the artists involved, not even the board and ensemble. It was hard!
Neil and Lenny arrived at 3pm for the 4pm show. Erica and I were trying to fix the broken leg on the couch in the lobby, both of us on the floor with a hammer and flashlight, when Sean Sinitski (Mr. Croup) came sprinting in from his pre-show cigarette, yanked me away from the couch and hissed “Neil’s here!”
“Don’t tell the cast until afterwards,” I threw over my shoulder as I went outside to greet our guests.
My plan had been to take our guests next door to Duke’s so as not to cause a riot in our lobby, but Neil and Lenny already had a plan of their own, having sighted something exciting on our block.
“We’re early, we’ll just disappear for a bit,” suggested Neil.
“YES! To the comic book store!” shouted Lenny gleefully, waving in the direction of Evil Squirrel.
I was delighted by their joy and ease. They spent the next 45 minutes strolling around our ‘hood, returning with a couple coffees and a bag of goodies from Evil Squirrel (which they report to be a really good store, nicely laid out. We agree!)
Okay, now here’s the thing about Lifeline. For a big building, there is nowhere to go if you want to hide people. Everything is public or backstage space. So I kind of pile them into the box office (but carefully out of sight from the box office window). They are now squinched into the space by Erica’s desk for the 15 minutes before the show and the door hits one or the other of them every time a staff person comes in or out. I hit them myself a couple times. But both Neil and Lenny are happy and comfortable. “So tell me more about your theater,” Neil inquires cheerfully, wedged between our xerox machine and a few boxes of season brochures.
After the show, Neil and Lenny stayed to meet with the cast and crew. They were enthusiastic and generous. Each of their specific and detailed compliments about the production will be treasured for our lifetimes. At the close of these conversations, Neil asked if anyone wanted anything signed and there was a mad scramble for books and memorabilia and both he and Lenny cheerfully made time for all who wanted signatures and photographs.
The cast & crew with Neil and Lenny
Director Paul S. Holmquist with Neil
Neil has been tweeting about the show since. His generosity in trying to promote the show for us is remarkable and has been a great help for extension sales.
As Chris Hainsworth (Marquis de Carrebas) posted elsewhere, “It’s so awesome when your heroes turn out to be awesome!”
Yes. Yes it is.