a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
The musical was South Pacific and I was playing Captain Brackett. One particular scene in the show begins with a meeting in Brackett’s office between Brackett and three other characters. As the lights came up on the scene that night it was clear that someone was not at the meeting. It happened to be the gentleman playing Commander Harbison, Captain Bracket’s next in command. There are few experiences more terrifying to actors on stage than when someone misses his or her entrance. My fellow actors, aware that something was desperately wrong, held their focus well, but I could see in their eyes that they were having the same “Oh shit” moment that I was.
So, I did what military officers do. I started screaming. I stood, slammed my hand on my desk, and went into a full out crusty sailor rant.
“Where’s Harbison?! WHERE THE HELL IS HARBISON!?”
I knew that Dayrel Gates, who played my admin Yeoman Quale, was standing just off stage because I’d passed him during the scene change.
“QUALE?! QUALE GET IN HERE!!”
Dayrel immediately ran in and stood at attention like a terrified sailor.
“FIND HARBISON AND GET HIM IN HERE NOW!!”
Dayrel was brilliant. He picked right up on what I was doing, gave me an “Aye Captain!” salute and exited. As soon as he exited the stage he started yelling in the wings. “Commander Harbison!? FIND COMMANDER HARBISON!” Others cast members who realized what was happening started yelling for Commander Harbison as well and you could hear their screams in the hallway outside the auditorium as if an entire platoon of personnel were scrambling around the camp looking for the tardy Commander. It didn’t take long before the actor playing Commander Harbison came running on stage. He was out of breath, sweating profusely, and in a full panic. It turned out he had stepped out between scenes for a smoke and didn’t realize it was his cue.
When you’re on stage you learn that one of the fundamental essentials is to hit your cue and make your entrance on time. It’s critical to the success of the show. Bad things happen when you miss your cue.
Solomon’s words are brilliant and powerful in the simplicity of the truth he communicates. Timing is critical to almost every season and to every element of life. There is a time for everything. I have learned, however, that attention, observation, introspection, and wisdom are required to discern the time you are in and to respond accordingly.
All the world is a stage, as the Bard said, and we are all players in it. It’s fundamentally critical to success that we hit our cues in life. Bad things happen when we don’t.