Inspired by an acquaintance who just had an appendectomy, I thought I would share my Appendix Moment. On stage. Before an audience. Flooded by lights and singing.
At the precise moment that my appendix said, “Get me out of here NOW!" I happened to be in full Kabuki make-up lit by bright stage fresnels.
I was 22 years old, singing in the chorus of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado in a sold-out matinee on U.C, Davis’ Main Stage. I hadn’t been feeling all that well in the morning. Gas, I thought, not wanting to share that issue with anyone. Anyway, the stomach pain lightened on the drive to the theatre. And I’d always subscribed to a “show must go on” attitude, having once played Celia in Shakespeare’s As You Like It with a stomach flu. Unable to do the rehearsed blocking, I sat weak on stage delivering my lines with focused expression to Rosalind. Between scenes, I threw up into a bucket backstage held by Orlando, my boyfriend at the time.
But I hardly thought of that as we shuffled on for the fourth scene of the Mikado, our introduction, a dozen women in identical kimonos and wooden sandals and painted white faces. “Three little maids from school are we…” we sang, when the pain in my stomach rose to unbearable. I’d never felt anything like it. I squeezed the hand of the woman next to me and whispered, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”
The knife inside my belly blurred my vision as I held on, squeezed tighter, and waited for the last line of the song that ended the scene and brought on the characters Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah. The last note played. Then everything disappeared.
I opened my eyes, felt hard wood beneath me. In the dark, two black-masked ninjas stared down at me. “Are you okay?” asked one of the cleverly-dressed stagehands who had dragged me from the stage after I fainted.
I spent the rest of the show recovering in the green room until intermission when a friend in the audience came backstage and said, “We should get you to the Health Center.”
Feeling much better after a doctor examined me, I told my friend how I looked forward to the cast party that evening. Then the friendly doctor came back in. “You’re staying,” he said.
“Hi Mom! Hi Dad,” I spoke with a lilt into the hospital phone, “Just a quick question. Do I have health insurance?” This was not perhaps what a parent likes to hear.
Within the hour, I was fading into anesthetized sleep, complimenting the doctor on his colorful tie, before he took out my greatly enlarged appendix.
Afterwards, I was told the timing of my fainting at the scene’s end looked staged and got a good laugh from the audience. I was quite proud of that.