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ActorQuest - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Bway 9

In November, Kristin Huffman made her Broadway debut as Sarah (flute, piccolo and sax) in John Doyle's production of Company.  The actress continues her collection of stories about a 15-year career that has led her to the door of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

This is actually the very first story I ever wrote years ago.  My friend, Steven, was in a real funk about being in the theatre biz.   He was depressed about auditions and just the wear and tear that this business provides to those of us who stay in it a while.  I started writing to him to cheer him up and to show him that crazy things happen to all of us.  There just seem to be even crazier things that happen to me.  It helped him to laugh and it became therapy for me. The stories also became a way for me to inform my parents and close friends about the trails of my career. I  never stopped writing after this.  The parade was probably a good six years ago and this particular parade has not been repeated since. You will see why.  Since it involves instrumentalists, like we are in COMPANY, I also thought it was appropriate to share with you!


Entertaining a Chicago mother-in-law in New England can be a challenge. Thank goodness for one of the many festivals in New Haven!  For the start of this particular festival someone had the great idea of organizing a gaggle of musical groups into a parade that would just continually march around the Green. At first it was delightful---every group playing their signatures tunes and having fun.  Because the streets around the Green are two way streets, some of the groups that had started playing on one side of the Green eventually had to cross the groups on the other side. The choirs that were following the loud bands had trouble hearing themselves sing and we thought that the placement of the Little Boy's Choir next to the Tuba Band was a sign of poor planning. Even that might have worked if something hadn't gone horribly wrong. We took up a post on the corner of Chapel and Elm near the stationary Steel Drum Band across from the Aztec Indian String Group and watched in horror as the festival parade began to disintegrate.  

Coming from the South, the Methodist Church Choir rounded the corner just as the Old English Horn Band, in tall black fuzzy hats and red coats, came round from the North. As the noise grew and they passed each other, I saw the big Soprano Diva from the choir turn red in the face. She couldn't hear anyone else singing, let alone herself, so she hauled off and took a swat at the Trombone Player in the Old English Horn Band with her choir folder. His big black fuzzy hat flew off his head and landed on the nearest Aztec Indian playing an instrument made from the shell of an armadillo. With strings. Most of the Horn Band became aware that the Trombone Player was embroiled in a fight for his life with the Methodist Church Choir Soprano and started retaliating on the rest of the choir. They were winning because they had brass weapons and the choir only had little black church folders.

Meanwhile, the Aztec Indians, tired of being oppressed for all these years and heartily aware that New Haven was one of the first White settlements, came down off the steps to make those Red Coats regret the insult of the fuzzy hat which had become stuck in the armadillo instrument. Then, who should round the corner but a Lone Bagpiper. He was loud but outnumbered and quickly turned around and went back the other way.

The excitement was building.  From another direction came the Kazoo Band followed by the Little Boy's Choir with their nerdy director waving his arms to keep them together. Unaware of the brouhaha up ahead, the Kazoo Band barreled right into the Red Coat/Aztec Indian/Methodist Church Choir snarl. If you have ever seen kazoos flying into the air, stuck in peoples noses, and jammed down people's throats, it's not a sight you will soon forget. The Little Boy's Choir pulled up short and continued to sing "This little light of mine". We just couldn't HEAR them. The Steel Drum Band was too loud. They were really good...but extremely loud. No one even knew there was a fight going on until they finished playing the Mission Impossible theme, paused, and then moved on to Hawaii Five O.

It all began noncompetitively between the groups, but as the cacophony of sound grew it soon degenerated into just noise. The choirs suffered the most. a rush that seemed premeditated we watched the Seventh Day Adventists, the Main Street Presbyterians, The Christ the King Lutherans and the St. Adolph's Catholics make a mad rush at the Steel Drum Band. Naturally the sopranos were the most aggressive while the tenors lagged behind worrying about their voices "with all this screaming!" I never realized there were that many uses for steel drum mallets. They can be dangerous. So can church choir sopranos. They may have wide vibratos, but they also have also dangerous right hooks. I am not sure who came out ahead in that brawl.

After about 15 minutes of chaos there was a sudden eerie silence. Most of the spectators had taken cover in the surrounding coffee shops but we had remained still, hoping to look like accountants and not fellow artists. I was absolutely enthralled. I am sure most of the directors of these groups would have liked this kind of passion in their actual concerts instead of on the streets of New Haven. But the silence was suddenly interrupted by the Lone Bagpiper who had started playing "Amazing Grace" in the middle of the Green. It was a lovely version. Simple and true in pitch and composition. The sound of the bagpipe wafted up through the still air catching the ear of everyone in a five block area. People in the coffee shops stopped sipping their lattes and the musicians, who had stopped the pounding they were giving that poor little boy choir alto, all lifted their heads and turned to face in to the Green and the Lone Bagpiper. It was something to see. Rather inspiring really. Then, as one, the musical groups...the Old English Horn Band, The Aztec Indians String Group, the church choirs, the Kettle Band, and the Kazoo Band......rushed the Bagpiper in the center of the Green and pounded the crap out of him.

Photo of Kristin Huffman taken at a recent COMPANY CD signing/performance at Barnes & Noble


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