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''30 Rock'' Takes the Stage

Tina Fey and cast performed live to benefit the production staff of their cult show

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Call it a strike-com: On Nov. 19, more than 200 fans crammed into an underground New York City improv theater for 30 Rock Live!, a benefit performance of NBC’s cult comedy. Getting into the show — staged to raise money for 30 Rock production staff who’ve been laid off due to the writers’ walkout — proved nearly impossible, and star Tina Fey opened the evening by thanking those lucky enough to score the $20 ticket. ”If you paid more than that on Craigslist, you are a sucker,” she told the crowd. ”This is going to be on TV for free in a few weeks.”

All of the Rock stars — including Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Krakowski (whose parents were in the audience) — were on hand to perform ”Secrets and Lies,” which will air on Dec. 6. While Fey asked the audience to keep plot details mum (”Our show is kind of like Heroes”), we can tell you this: ”Secrets” involves the romance between Jack Donaghy (Baldwin) and Democratic congresswoman C.C. (the absent Edie Falco, whose role was performed by SNL writer Paula Pell), GE’s ”bros before ho’s” policy, and a popular Japanese street prank called the ”shark attack.”

When they weren’t reading their dialogue, the cast sat in chairs around the edge of the tiny stage, holding their scripts and stifling giggles. And if the pacing seemed a bit off, it was only because Fey and company had to pause so that the audience could howl with glee. Even the ”commercials” — i.e., improvised bits by McBrayer and castmate John Lutz — killed: A basketball-themed tampon spot had Baldwin laughing so hard he turned crimson.

”It was really fun,” a relieved Fey told EW after the show. But she hopes the upcoming negotiations between writers and producers — slated to resume on Nov. 26 — will render 30 Rock Live! a one-night-only event. ”It’s such a solvable issue. Not only would I prefer to be working, but I would really like our crew to be working.” Preferably, she added, in a theater that’s not packed to safety-hazard proportions: ”I did the maternal thing to make a mental note of where my fire-escape route was.”