Stiff. Sore. Bruised, exhausted, elated, and wholly artistically satisfied. This is what it’s like going from Tech Week into Opening Weekend.
Sunday after Thanksgiving was our first day back after a five day break. Director ‘e’riH HoD sent us repeated friendly-reminder text messages to review our script during the holiday, and Fight Director Zach Livingston gave us video of the fights to review so we wouldn’t backstep during a tryptophan high.
Sunday’s rehearsal was business as usual, but Monday we loaded props, furniture, and other related equipment into the Raven Theatre. Load-in is a whole new level of this is really happening. The show takes one more step out of the theoretical and into the physical world around us. It’s one thing to know the shape of the stage as it was taped out by our stage manager in the rehearsal space; it’s quite another to hear how my bootheels are going to thrum on the performance stage itself. A newfound sense of awe and responsibility and wonder washes over us. Uncontrolled smiles thrive amongst the cast.
At the same time, tech week brings the highest levels of anxiety of any rehearsal process, especially with the challenges unique to this show. Stage lights and costumes are a common one; how to keep wigs and latex prosthetic appendages upon our foreheads is new to most of us. The hours of tech rehearsals are longer, lasting later into the night than regular rehearsals. We’ve done our fighting and furniture moving, but now we’re practicing it wearing three extra layers made of burlap and leather, producing an amount of sweat comparable to your average Olympic basketball team.
Tech week for most any show turns into the dark before the dawn. It’s a point of no return – tickets are being sold, buzz for the show is humming with a steady crescendo, and loving family members are making travel plans. At the same time, the Show Going On is not a foregone conclusion. Some practical details are being faced for the first time, new problems/issues are being discovered, and we have the shortest possible time period to hammer out these details and make them work before the first live audience appears expecting to be entertained.
If it sounds stress inducing, it is. And yet it is the precise sort of stress many artists live for. We wouldn’t want to create our art without such a circumstance. The risk of failure is ever-present, even after the show opens. Nothing goes quite as planned, and this keeps us engaged and interested and alive.
Rehearsing in the performance space teaches us things we didn’t realize, like how much we’d been relying on visual cues for entrances as opposed to moving in on a sound cue, or a line of dialogue. This is particularly poignant when we’re entering blind from the upstage curtain; one actor and I were late for an entrance and nearly had our faces taken off by a bat’leth. Fortunately we both know when to duck.
Another adjustment was the wigs; suddenly everyone has an additional two feet of hair to deal with. Not only does this hair get caught in unexpected places (like fists, for example) it creates blind spots as we flail during the fights. Obscuring my fight partner’s face makes it harder to punch at him and not actually hit him. The same goes for my own wig blocking my vision, and now I need to throw the fist into the gut of my partner without doing any real damage. We trust in one another’s knowledge of the choreography to rescue us, and it works. There are nuances of fight technique that keep things safe while appearing dangerous, and we’re fortunate to have an experienced cast capable of employing them.
The first live audience always changes a show. As with physics, there is an observer effect. You cannot put a thermometer into a pot of soup without changing the temperature of the soup; likewise, you cannot watch a performance without affecting the performers. No matter how many times we rehearse the play, no matter how we hone and perfect every line and every action, we are transformed by your presence. Everyone has a different response to this. Some people get more anxious, some more excited. Laughter crops up in places we didn’t expect, or had forgotten was a joke.
Preview night was a blast. The everyone in the audience was a boisterous Star Trek fan. Their response to every inside joke was immense. We even allowed people (for this performance only) to post to Twitter during the show, sharing their thoughts and pictures as they happened. Half the actors scrambled to our phones every time we went backstage to see what they were posting.
Opening night was a whole other kind of party. The music of Il Troubadore greeted the guests, people bid for items at a silent auction, and cake and champagne was passed around afterwards. People arrived in costumes of Starfleet officers and Klingon warriors alike.
And, of course, many drinks were had at the bar afterwards, occasionally punctuated with nearly two dozen people simultaneously shouting <tlhIngan maH!> (We are Klingons!)
We built this show with our minds, bodies, spirits, talents, and willpower. By the end of the weekend we concluded that yes, we’ve Done This. We’ve put together a fantastic product, and there’s not a single member of the cast nor crew who isn’t elated that we have a whole month to share what we’ve constructed.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a show. Get your tickets now.