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Cleaning up after "Buried Child" at Firehouse Theatre 

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During a performance of "Buried Child," actors throw a porcelain cup and saucer, cornhusks, carrots and broken beer bottles around the stage. "By the end of Act III, the set is pretty much trashed," says stage manager Douglas Johnson, whose job it is to clean up the mess. "It's a pain in the butt!" he adds, good-naturedly. "The corn cleans up pretty quickly. It gets shucked during Act I, and we clean it up during intermission. The broken glass, on the other hand …"

The beer bottles — recycled from the cast's opening night reception — are flung around the porch by Justin Dray's character, Vince, midway through the third act. To ensure good sound effects, Dray hurls the bottles into a bin, hidden from the audience's view, which is full of broken glass and stones. The bin keeps the glass somewhat contained, Johnson says, though shattered bottle shards still end up everywhere. "Before we got the [porch] screens in place, it went all over the stage. Now it's contained by the screen." Still, he says, "After-show cleanup is a long, laborious process. It gets everywhere." The full beer that Dray's Vince sprays around the stage adds to the morning-after-a-frat-party feeling: "There's the ever-growing stench of stale beer backstage," Johnson says.

But "Buried Child" isn't the hardest show Johnson has had to clean up, he says: "In 'Padded Cells,' Bill Gordon took blackberry pie and smeared it all over himself. Every night I'd have to use my fingernails and a towel to scrape it all up. That was harder. But this one's close. Very close."

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