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The Globe and Mail

New York: The Symphony Space perilous passage

October 27: Well, things had been going too well, so the Goddess Fortuna decided to throw a spitball. I arrived in New York, fresh from piles o'fun in Boston, for a read-through with the three actors for the Year of the Flood Event at Symphony Space the next day: Bernadette Dunn, who also reads "Toby" on the Random House audio book; Jonathan Tindle, "Adam One"; and Megan Raye Manzi, "Ren."

After the actors had left, Phoebe Larmore revealed that the glowing reports we'd been getting about ticket sales had in fact been illusory: The promoter engaged to do what promoters are supposed to do - i.e., make it known that the event was taking place - had done very little. True, we were on their website, but as they were an outfit that usually promoted metal bands on harbour cruises - how did THAT happen? - this was not much help. (Hint: different audiences.) Next day we found that it was even worse than we'd thought: Not even the artistic director of Symphony Space had known until the last minute, and there was no poster out front because the promoter had said it wouldn't be necessary. At 4 in the afternoon, bass guitarist Ted Perlman and documaker Ron Mann's friend Oliver and I were sitting in a café planning to obtain 500 smiley-face helium balloons to put in the empty seats.

When faced with the news, the performers - not only Ted Perlman and Orville Stoeber and the actors, but the SONOS Singers and percussionist Ray Marchica (who plays for Mama Mia and Barbara Streisand, among others - were surprisingly sanguine. They were, after all, in showbiz - they'd lived such stories before. "They told us everything was fine," I said. "That's when you worry," said Ted.

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Astonishingly, an audience did show up - not like the sellouts we've been having, but a respectable number of hardcore readers. I made a welcome speech that included the lines, "We'd be very interested in learning how you got here: It must have been by telepathy, or by channeling voices through the fillings in your teeth…. Let's just say this is a learning experience, and tomorrow it will be an anecdote. Tonight, however, it is an intimate, unprecedented, and unrepeatable experience, with wonderful performers who are also - luckily - very good sports.... We have just had a bonding experience, my friends. You can have a space in my lifeboat any time."

Then the kids proceeded to nail it, delivering a stupendous rendition that was caught by Ron Mann on film. Not only the publishing group from Random House - including Nan Talese from Doubleday, LuAnn Walters from Anchor, and Alison Rich, who's been such a help in getting us from place to place - but also all those whose teeth fillings had led them to us seemed very happy. And so was I. There's nothing like a narrow squeak to get the sluggish adrenaline flowing.

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