Monday, May 05, 2008

Live from Plant City...

The show opened Friday night with much fanfare and little incident. I'm told that traditionally opening night is not a big draw in Plant City but there were about 120 people there. People actually had to be seated in the balcony. If Variety published a Plant City edition, this week's headline would say something like "Beverly 'Billies Boffo Box Office Bonanza!".
Show nights are completely different than rehearsals. You're doing the same material in the same place with the same people but it's amazing what a difference the addition of an audience makes.

Here's a time line of what took place before the curtain went up (note: we don't actually have a curtain).
5:30PM - A light (very light, as in downright "lite") dinner consisting of a crunchy granola bar and a green tea frappucino from Starbucks. Yes, Plant City has a Starbucks. This says something about modern society but I don't know what.
6:00PM - Arrival at the theatre. The reason I arrived at 6 was because it wasn't open earlier. I've mentioned before that I'm pretty obsessive compulsive about being early (being merely on-time is the province of the shiftless and lazy) and when I'm involved in something where I have excess nervous energy, like doing a show, I'm almost completely out of control. How bad is it? If the theatre had been open at noon, I'd have been there at noon. No exaggeration. That's how bad.
6:20PM - I am completely dressed in costume and have already checked all my props at least twice. For this show, that consists of a briefcase, a "contract" (for Jed to sign; I'm the lawyer who pays him for his "earl") and a working pen. I will check them again at least three more times before the show starts. Now is when I find a spot in the back of the theater to put on my iPod and zone out, watching the stage crew get ready and visualizing the performance in front of filled seats. Prince's N.E.W.S. album is perfect for this. I also read my lines again even though I know them by heart. This is probably as close as I come to any kind of zen, meditation or yoga exercises.
7:00PM - The house opens to the public at 7:15 so time to clear out (remember what I said before about being early?). I go backstage and hang out in the dressing room. There are volunteers running around all over the place, setting up concessions, the box office and assorted other tasks. After a month plus, it seems strange to see other people at work in the theatre. As a result, they feel like part of the show and outsiders at the same time.
7:20PM - It's highly unprofessional but I can not resist sneaking peaks from backstage and looking at people in the crowd. I will do this constantly between now and showtime.
7:50PM - Time for one last pep talk from the director. She thanks us for our hard work and assures us we will do a great job. Then we all hold hands and bow our heads in prayer...because you can never really trust what a director tells you. In our case, the prayer is led by one of the people in the cast who is an ordained minister. It's Tom Thoeni, the (male) actor playing Granny during the first two shows. I've had some surreal experiences in my life but being led in group prayer by an ordained minister in drag is probably somewhere in the top ten.
7:55 - We're all in our places waiting to make our entrances waiting for the dreaded curtain speech to end. The curtain speech is where someone stands out in front, welcoming the audience and issuing warnings regarding videotaping and flash photography. For actors, curtain speeches are an annoyance. Picture yourself in this situation:

Now picture the pilot pulling up short of the beach and taking the opportunity to drop a line over the side and do some fishing before taking care of business. That's an overly dramatic example but it's what it feels like to actors.
8:00PM - The house lights go down, the stage lights go up and the ball is rolling. No turning back now. This is where it finally becomes fun, although for some, I have no doubt it feels like that video clip above stretched out over the course of two plus hours. But for me, the night is a blur and it's over before I know it.

The next night was basically the same far as routines go, as will be the rest of the run, but it was an even better night for me because I had about a dozen loved ones in the audience who gave me an embarrassingly enthusiastic ovation during the curtain call. It was a very touching moment for me and made the whole experience worthwhile.

And for those who are unable to attend, or if you just want to treasure the magic forever and ever like a snowglobe, here's the whole show in snapshots. I'm keeping the hat.


Marissa said...

The electricity that is added by an appreciative audience is awesome.

(is Jethro emo?)

Unknown said...

(Yeah, a little bit)