The old show business phrase “the show must go on” was put into action for the Langley Players Drama Club the last couple weeks, as one of their members had to adapt his role three times due to a turn of events including a serious car accident.
With just weeks before the show starts, Reginald Pillay–who is new to Langley, but not new to community theatre– has gone from assistant stage manager, to on-stage character, to backstage assistant and audience member in the upcoming production of John Mighton’s Half Life.
“The show takes place in a care facility for the elderly. Clara meets Patrick, a new resident, and they fall in love. They may have met before it is uncertain. Difficulty ensues as their relationship is scrutinized by their children,” explained Pillay, who moved from Surrey to Langley in November.
Originally Pillay was set to be the assistant stage manager, but was asked to take over the role of Angus last-minute.
After stepping into the role of Angus, who Pillay described as “an old man who on the surface is a cute curmudgeon but deep down is quite vulnerable,” Pillay had to learn brand new lines in a matter of weeks before the show’s opening date on Jan. 17.
He wasn’t phased though, and said the new role was “doable.”
“It’ll be a challenge taking on a role with only weeks before we open. There’s little time to learn lines and build a character but it’s doable.”
But soon after rehearsing his new role, Pillay got into a car accident and had to step down from his role of Angus in order to recover.
“On Jan. 4th, I lost control of my car on a highway and veered off into a ditch. I was told by first responders that I travelled about 20 feet down and took out a few trees along the way,” explained Pillay, who spent a few hours in the hospital afterwards to get stitches and deal with pain in his neck, back, and ribs.
Pillay said his car flipped upside down and was crushed. He was bleeding from his ear and had back pain. After honking his car horn, first responders found Pillay, cut open the car door, and pulled him out.
“I don’t know how I survived and I’m struggling with the idea. Before I go out on stage, I’m nervous but I quickly find a way to dig deep, flip that switch and just get out there and perform – it was the same thing when I had to get out of that car – it just wasn’t time for my final bow.”
Since Pillay struggles with prior mental and physical health issues, he said he felt bad about adding more to his “list of stuff.”
“I’m stubborn and a part of me wanted to just push through the physical and mental pain and continue with the show. But knowing how hard everyone has worked on the show, they really deserve better. And I owe it to myself to focus on my health.”
One of Pillay’s best friends who he met through community theatre ten years ago kept him company at the hospital.
“Taking part in community theatre is like having a second family,” said Pillay.
“We’re always looking out for each other; it’s ‘community’ first, ‘theatre’ second. Just as they were confident in me when I stepped in, I have no doubt that my replacement will do a great job. I’ll be in the audience cheering everyone on.”
Pillay’s now set to assist backstage if he’s feeling up to it, and the role of Angus has been taken over by Raymond Hatton.
Pillay’s favorite part of the show is “being part of a team.”
“There are people here that I’ve worked with before while others are new to me. It’s nice to rekindle old friendships while fostering new ones,” he added.
Pillay has been involved with community theatre for more than ten years, and Half Life is his fourth show with the Langley Players Club.
According to Pillay, the show is appropriate for all ages, and the performances will be “memorable.”
“The actors in this show are very talented and dedicated.”
Half Life runs Thursdays to Sundays from Jan. 17 to Feb. 16 at the Langley Playhouse on 4307 200 St.
Show times are at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Tickets for all performances are $20 and can be purchased online through Brown Paper Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3426401