From the publisher...
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.
Artwork and text are copyright © 2006 and 2016 A.S. Waterman.
All rights reserved.