Friday, July 14, 2006

our first performance

First of all, I want to thank those of you who are adding those wonderful, encouraging comments on my posts. This theater first-timer needs all the encouragement she can get, and you guys are fabulous! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We had probably 300 senior citizens in the audience last night as we ran through our final "dress rehearsal." I guess we call it that to lower expectations for our first night, as well as to have an excuse to do the show for free for these wonderful folks, who probably saw Singin in the Rain when it first came out as a movie. The photo at left is a shot of the interior of the hall; isn't it wonderful? It's a little hard to tell from the picture, but there's a wide center section and then two narrower side sections. It seats 800 if you include the balcony; we don't expect to need it. There really aren't any bad seats in the house. I wouldn't want to be too close to the front because the orchestra could be a bit too loud, but even those seats aren't bad.

No opening night jitters for me, I'm happy to report! It's not surprising, considering how little of the show's success depends on me, but you never know how you're going to respond when you step onto a stage in front of an audience, until you've done it. My little mystery theater experience was very different from this. We had maybe 80 people there, and we were right on the floor in the midst of the tables. In some respects, that made it more difficult. But, obviously, we weren't expected to be professionals in that situation. While this theater is labeled "community" for a reason --- they don't hire professional actors for the productions --- nonetheless that distinction is a fuzzy one in the audience's minds. We're in the Opera House, they're paying $20 per ticket, and we need to make it worth their while.

Bottom line is, we did OK! There were no big glitches. The scenes all came together appropriately except for one rough spot where the wait for a scene change was too long and the audience was left wondering what the heck just happened and why isn't something else happening now. I'm not onstage the whole time, of course, but I didn't see any awkward pauses while people had to think of their lines (of which there were plenty during rehearsals!). I had an autograph-hound scene (where I speak my one assigned line: "Oh, my GOSH! It IS Don Lockwood!") where my pencil was knocked out of my hand as we all pursued Don off the stage, but I ad-libbed "my pencil!" and scurried back for it and the director complimented me afterward. She said there are people (and she's one of them) who will focus on the dropped prop until someone picks it up, wondering if anyone's going to step on it, was it dropped on purpose, etc., so she was glad I got it off the stage.

But I'm saving the big zinger for the last, for those of you who have stuck with this little monologue this long (thank you!).

The only scene where I'm on stage with just one other person comes in the first scene of the first act of the play. Don Lockwood is being interviewed about his history, and he's telling bald-faced lies about his supposed cultured background and how his parents gave him and his pal Cosmo the finest education at conservatories, etc. Meantime, in the background, the truth is being acted out. First we see them as children, hanging out in taverns and dancing for nickels. Then everyone leaves the stage and we see the young adult Don and Cosmo doing a not-very-good clown act as Flick and Flack. Lastly, the adult Don and Cosmo come onstage and do a silly vaudeville act to "Fit as A Fiddle."

During the clown act, the Don and Cosmo actors run backstage to get into plaid suits for the vaudeville act. The clown act is basically buying them time to do that, and I'm one of the clowns! We're onstage for somewhere between one and two minutes, depending on how quickly the actors can get into their plaid suits. It's probably my favorite scene in the show, speaking as an actor and not as an audience member; I'm sure there are much more memorable scenes for the audience. But for me, not only is the spotlight on me (and my partner, of course), but also I get to indulge my inner ham with way over-large gestures and hee-haw knee slapping and general over-the-topness. It's just plain fun!

Well, just before I left for the theater at 5:15 last night, I got an email from our church prayer chain saying that Doug C had gone into the hospital with chest pains.

Doug C is the other clown.

It's 5:15 before a 7:30 appointment with the audience.

Gulp.

I'm a little embarrassed to tell you that my first reaction wasn't concern for Doug. (By the way, he's apparently OK. I don't have the whole story, but someone spoke with him and he thought he could come perform tonight.) My first thought was, how on earth am I going to get someone else trained in the time we have left? I can't do it alone; it has to be Don (me) & Cosmo (Doug). Doug and I have rehearsed our shtick many, many times, and it includes him doing juggling and me harassing him in a fairly rigorously choreographed act. Were we going to have to chuck that whole thing and come up with something different?

I went straight to the director, Linda, when I arrived, and apparently nobody on the production staff had been notified yet. She was very calm, and began thinking through who could pinch-hit on short notice. "Who can be funny?" she asked. Of course, I haven't a clue! I went around talking to a few folks about the situation, and our hairdresser suggested Dan F, who is locally well-known and has starred in a few of these productions but who chose to take a smaller role this time to reduce his time commitment. Because I was there so early, I spent quite a few anxious minutes waiting for him to arrive so I could ask him if he would be a clown on such short notice. Bless him, he was amenable. And also very calm. (I have a feeling calmness is a hugely important characteristic for folks who want to be in plays!) He could fit into Doug's costume, and was willing to do a bumbling juggle so we could keep the same routine, and very vigorously filled in for Doug and it was, as far as I can tell, great! He even figured out a way to fit a rubber chicken into the act.

Whew!

Here's hoping for a less eventful evening tonight! One of these days when I have a little more energy and time, I'll share some thoughts about what it's like backstage and in "the green room" where we all hang out between face time onstage.

Meantime, one last note ... what's that I hear? ... beautiful sound ... my dishwasher is running for the first time in weeks! Huzzah!!

1 comment:

Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

And to think we can look back on this years from now and say, Yes, we knew Pat way back when she was only doing local theatre.......