From the publisher...

A.S. Waterman

June 2009

Live From Louisville — It's Opening Night!

I recently tried to sneak out of a wedding reception, in agony after unceremoniously wrenching my back. First, I ran into the bride, who wanted to talk. Then the mother of the groom. She wanted to talk, too. Then, on my third and final attempt, I ran into the groom. Yep, ditto. I should add that I don't know these people all that well.

What did they want to talk about? Nothing, really — just the good-natured nonsense, aimed in my general direction, that comes of being nervous. Generalized yammer, except for the groom, who said he had something he really wanted to tell me: how much he wanted to see one of my shows. Young man, you just got married. OF COURSE you are thinking about how much you want to see a show.

But it's okay. As an actor/producer/director, I certainly understand nervous yammer. Indeed, the quality and quantity of it heard in the green room are amazing, especially on opening nights. But noooooooobody is nervous. No indeed.

Which brings us to my topic. Again and again, our reviewers write about opening-night glitches — things they expect will improve with subsequent performances. I have even heard opening night called the final dress rehearsal, but is it, really? Should opening-night weaknesses be forgiven, or is that just an excuse for inadequate preparation?

There are reasons (if not excuses) for some of these glitches. Because of the shortage of performance space, many theatre groups rehearse in one space and perform in another. That unfamiliarity may be part of the equation. It may also mean using someone else's equipment, or even someone else's equipment operators. It may be the first time the entire production team gets together. There may be fatigue left over from "tech week hell," and the crowd response may alter the practiced timing. It certainly will alter the acoustics, along with the comfortable sights and sounds the actors are used to. And, for better or for worse, there may be PEOPLE WE KNOW OUT THERE ... along with ... well, reviewers.

But we knew all of that ahead of time, didn't we? None of it comes as a surprise, and if the director didn't prepare cast members to be taken out of their comfort zone, then that director is remiss. Far more so, if he or she excuses it by saying, "Oh, well ... it was opening night." The first show of a run may never be the best, but there's no justification for treating it as a sacrifice fly.

Opening nights used to be revered. They drew the biggest crowds, and excitement filled the air. People eagerly looked forward to openings, which were glorious and grand. But somehow, over the past few years, all of that changed, and the grandeur gave way to yammer and excuses.

But we don't have to accept that mindset. Let's return to those glory days. After all, for shows like Saturday Night Live, every night is opening night, and we only have one.

Let's play it for all it's worth.

— A.S. Waterman

Copyright © 2009 A.S. Waterman. All rights reserved.





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