How to...Survive Opening Night (A lost high school essay)
Current mood: bouncy
Hi kids. I was back home yesterday for my cousins Bar-b-que and visiting friends and discovered my best friend Jenn still had this sarcastic how to paper I wrote for college writing our senior year. So...I took it home and put it on myspace. I've left it mostly in tact...just dropping a few sentences and making some shorter. It's still long..for a blog at least. I didn't change much, even though I wanted to. ..now for the main event...
HOW TO SURVIVE OPENING NIGHT....
So your in a play? You've memorized lines, blocked your scenes and gave up all your free time to rehearse under the diriction of a slave driving perfectionist? Good. Follow me as we go step by step through the sado-masochistic ritual known as Opening Night!
As a rule, I like to arrive at the theater either very early or "you might as well forget about it" late. Since it is your first time you should plan on coming early, about a good six hours before the performance. This shows commitment. Being locked outside(since the director hasn't bothered to follow your example) gives you a chance to put everything else out of your mind and focus on your character. Meditating is a good way to accomplish this. After about , say, seven minutes this task will seem incredibly tedious and the bitter cold may start to get to you. Frostbitten toes may be a good sign you should probably get inside.
You may be contemplating breaking in to the theater. I say Do it! ?Whats the worst that could happen? A trigger happy cop could "make your day!" Its all in the name of art.
Lets jump ahead a few hours. The director has arrived and assuming you were fortunate enough to avoid any serious interactions with the law its time to get ready.
After sending out for something to eat (FYI- go vegetarian, all actors have their little quirks and causes, this can be one of yours!) you preform the delicate task of enjoying your food while getting into your costume. You'll undoubtedly fail. As luck would have it your choice of dinner will be something guaranteed to stain. So now you have vegetarian tofu ravioli all over your virgin white costume! Of course it won't come out, and you are running out of time to put on your makeup.
A good actor never trusts the theater to have the right make up on hand. But you did. You will just have to do with what is available. The base is so different from your own skin color that you could pass for another race. Your growing nervousness leads to over one too many applications until you look like your playing the part of Kunta Kinta from Roots. The only lipstick available is hot pink and your mascara is a pretty shade of green. Not bad. Go get the directors stamp of approval and you'll be ready.
Your incredibly stunning appearance was enough to move the director to tears and she had to be escorted to the nearest seat. Don't forget to check your props while theres still time.
Everything is in place except for the apples for your big juggling scene. Alas, when you finally find the apples it appears they haven't been replaced by new ones in weeks. Hopefully the stage manager will have done their job and brought some.
10 minutes 'till show time!! Get upstairs with the rest of the cast. Everywhere from the greenroom to dressing rooms are in utter chaos, the way it should be. Look, the female lead has relieved an abundance of beautiful roses from all her many admirers- in other words Mom, Dad and Uncle Jack. Unfortunately it seems like shes allergic to them from the tears, runny nose and hideous gasping for breath. It must be a magical time to be her understudy.
In the corner an actor is holding his left foot while hopping in a circle muttering Yiddish profanities under his breath. What in God's green Earth is the problem? Take a look at the giant balloon floating above him with the words "GOOD LUCK!" Of course! He is preforming his own personal ritual for warding off the bad luck of saying Good Luck. You see, in the theater good luck is bad luck and bad luck is good luck. In other words "Good Luck" carries an awful demonic message while "Break a leg" is music to an actors ears.Confused? Get used to it.
Wondering away from that doomed soul, your secure in the fact that something like that could never happen to you. Everything changes when some completely foolish, selfish and ignorant in the ways of the theater non actor passes wishing you "Good Luck!" Oh NO!! After throwing her down and mercilessly kicking, biting and hitting her you must preform your own ritual!This can be a little saying or a complicated dance number that makes the evil go away
Its time to join the rest of the cast for a pep talk.
Once that is over its a great time to ask the stage manager about your apples. She responds by completely blowing up at you because apparently you should have asked at dress rehearsal. With another battle lost make your way to your mark ready to begin.
This is it! Your about to make your stage debut! As the countdown to your appearance draws you'll undoubtedly realize that you have forgotten all of your lines!What do you do? First thing to remember is Don't Panic! Calm down... Relax. NO!Don't Meditate!!There's no time for that crap. This is an obvious emergency..Treat it as One!! Quickly spill your problems to a fellow actor backstage and if he is typical he will give you your first line,( Everybody knows the rest of the cast's lines except their own). and you can take it from there.
Was that your cue? Go out there! Go on...Do It! I SAID GO OUT THERE! Good. Of course as you are saying your first line you trip across your own shadow and the audience roar with laughter. Don't despair. Make it a part of the story. Excellent. Your fellow thespians marvel at your brilliance.
Your doing great. Just don't--OH NO! You just dd it. You looked into the audience! Your stunned. You have STAGE FRIGHT. Lets take a break for a moment. Have you ever seen that episode of "The Brady Bunch" where Cindy went on a game show and she couldn't stop staring at one of the lights and nobody could snap her out of it? Well that's what you look like now you Idiot! Everybody is waiting for your next line! If you don't open your mouth and say something they will seriously tar and feather you. They'll laugh you off the stage. You'll never get a date with that good looking extra--- phew! That did it.Your off and rearin' to go!
Things are going well until the crucial scene where you need to use your prop gun. Before the play started did you remember to set all your props? Are you sure? You don't know? Well I do! This is the one you forgot to set out and now your standing here with egg on your face, without a gun, trying to shoot the villain with your fingers! Oh my heck! That feeling your experiencing is stupidity as the audience dies with laughter. They aren't laughing with you, they are laughing at you. Theres a difference.
Of course as you exit the stage for intermission you invariably trip over the same shadow you had trouble with on the way in. Perfect.
As you relate your tales of horror to fellow cast mates just behind the curtain during intermission disaster strikes! Again! Some audience members can see you from their seats, and in case you aren't aware it is very bad luck for them to see you when you aren't on stage. One guess to how the rest of the evening will go.
After accidentally not paying attention and missing the opening of Act II you rush on stage at the wrong cue and as fate would have it you step on that cute extras dress as she walks away, ultimately ripping it off exposing her in just her underwear. Kiss a date with her goodbye as she runs crying offstage.
When this happens take no notice of your impending doom. Just keep going. When the time comes for you to juggle those rotting apples, try not to make any more mistakes. Judging by the nights track record its no surprise when you drop a couple (which are so old several generations of flies got their starts in them) and they explode on the stage.
Quick! Find Something to clean that up with! In character! (why would your character use the torn dress to mop of rotten apples? whats his motivation?) What you perceive to be method acting, the audience only sees a crazy person mopping up applesauce with a dress he ripped right off a poor girls body and is now muttering to himself in the spotlight. Finally the curtain drips bringing an end to your torture.
Don't expect any applause during your curtain call (only rotten tomatoes if the audience was insightful enough to bring them).
As you prepare to make your escape from the hordes of anrgy, screaming audience members bearing pitchforks and torches,
let me leave you with these words of advice.
Don't quit your day job.
Better luck on your next 12 performances.
Break a leg.