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Friday, April 10, 2015

OPENING NIGHT

The Marquee

For the last seven weeks or so, my energies have been largely given to directing a production of "The Jungle Book", an adaptation by Vera Morris (one of the many pseudonyms for the prolific Tim Kelly), available through Pioneer.  Tonight is opening night.

I don't know about other directors, but, for me, a rehearsal process can feel like a lifetime, but, no matter what, when we get to opening night, it always seems to have blown by. Opening night really is a night for directors to freak out--- after all, aside from a few last notes and a pep talk, there is absolutely nothing we can do.  

The venue for this production is in my hometown of Dover-Foxcroft, ME, at a lovely place called the Center Theatre.  SOCP, the group attached to the theater that produces plays in-house, is an abbreviation for "Slightly Off-Center Players".  And this production is put on specifically for children performers to be a part of.  No adults in the cast whatsoever (though, one of the teenagers in the group is very close to eighteen).  I have children from the ages of 3-17 in the show, with most being in 9-12 area.  I've never done a play with that had one as young as three (as well as a five year old in the cast, too), and this play has presented new and interesting learning opportunities for me.  

I am, of course, proud of the kiddos hard work throughout this process.  It's not always easy being in a play, sitting still for direction, and focusing energy on the task at hand as opposed to letting fly in all directions.  In a sense, I have watched the play go from chaos, and evolve into the shape of what a play should be.

And here we are at opening night, and there are about a million and a half more things I would like to impart to the cast, but, given the opportunity, probably couldn't think of more than a handful.  Remember not to turn your back to the audience.  Don't block one another in the group scenes.  Don't upstage your fellow actors or yourself.  Keep your hands out of any pockets.  Keep your feet still.  Keep the volume up.  No matter what, STAY IN CHARACTER.  Things I have told them many times already, with varying levels of success, but still want to keep reminding them before an audience sits down to watch them.  

I will give them a pep talk tonight to tell them how proud I am of them, and how if they keep their energy up and believe in themselves and the hard work they've done, then they will soar.  And all of this is true.  And then, they will go backstage, I will be in the auditorium or talking to people in the lobby, or going outside and freaking out a bit.  I'll most likely stand at the back of the auditorium as the play is going on, and try not to pace, because I don't want to distract the kids, and as soon as the lights go up, part of me will have a nervous breakdown.  Not because I don't believe in the kids.  But because I know that there is nothing for me to possibly do any more to help them.  And that's a hard thing to let go of.  

The nervous breakdown will subside in a minute or two, and, before you know it, the show will be over, and I'll be telling the kids what a great job they did, yet warning them not to get over-confident because we still have a lot of performances.  I will look at the other adults on the crew, and I'm sure we'll all smile and say, "They did it," and then, "We did it." 

At every point in a rehearsal process, a director most likely asks themselves, "Why do I put myself through this."  And after tonight, after opening night, that questions is immediately forgotten.

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