From Page To Stage: The birth of Artless Charlie – Part 26

4/10/03

It looks like all this hard work actually paid off. Our first performance went about as well as I could’ve possibly expected.  The cast seemed to soak up the audience energy and apply it to their performances.  I gave some last-minute reminders about keeping the action moving throughout the show, particularly for Dan and Evelyn in the first scene, and apparently they listened.  The cast came out with guns blazing and tore through the entire show with a vibrant energy.  Even I felt engaged by the show for the first time in over a month.  It was perhaps the first time I was able to objectively watch the show and enjoy the performances.

I must admit that I was extremely nervous before the performance.  I find myself getting much more nervous before a show that I’ve directed goes up than one I’m actually performing in myself.  I suppose that’s because as an actor, you still have control over what you’re about to do – it’s a much more “active” position, obviously.  As a director, I feel like I’m letting go of the child I’ve been raising for the past few months into the care of total strangers.  In performance, the control freak finally has to let go and that is not always easy.

Though I was incredibly pleased with our first show, there were some missteps and mistakes in the performance. In 1.3A, Dan forgot to set the props for the Dr.’s office scene before he left the stage, but he covered it later when he entered in 1.4.  It was a minor flub, and didn’t seem to throw the actors much at all.  Other than that, the only other real mistakes were some minor line flubs, just re-wordings mostly, and those surely weren’t noticeable to anyone other than Adam, the cast and myself.  Some things that really stuck out about the performance were the two big speeches by Madeleine and Grace.  For the first time in a while, I was truly moved by their performances, and touched by Adam’s words. I  attribute this not only to the fact that both Kirsten and Evelyn gave outstanding performances, but also to the fact that I was simply watching the show for the first time.  This made the night very special for me and really made me feel good about the work that all of us had done over the past two months.

As the show ended and the last blackout was called, Adam and I sat in silence waiting for the curtain call.  After a few seconds, I started to get a little worried because there were no applause, so Adam and I decided to give the audience a little jumpstart by discreetly starting the applause ourselves.  I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming response from the audience.  The level of ovation from all in attendance was a real boost of confidence for me, as I’m sure it was for Adam and the cast.  Even after the cast had made their curtain call and left the stage, the audience was still going strong.  I sincerely believe that they would’ve kept going if Erin hadn’t brought up the house lights.  So, needless to say I was pleased with the way that people responded to the show.  I wasn’t exactly sure how it would be received, and my confidence in the show was blurred by the fact that I couldn’t see it from an objective standpoint up until that performance, so I wasn’t sure exactly what people would see.

After the performance, Adam, the cast, crew and myself all gathered onstage for our Post-mortem/Q&A led by SFAB representative J. Kelly.  Though only about half of the audience stayed for the session, I still feel like it was worthwhile for both us and those in attendance.  The entire meeting lasted only about twenty minutes, but a lot of interesting questions about the process were raised.  People seemed most interested in how exactly Adam and I worked together to achieve our final product.  We talked about working together in rehearsal to address things in the text that we felt needed to be changed for one reason or another, as well as the cast’s participation in those changes. I really wanted to stress how much everyone in this production was involved in the creative process.  The cast had a lot to say about those changes during the rehearsal process, and I wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of that.  I felt that the questions asked by J. Kelly and the audience were beneficial in the sense that the issues that were raised and the answers that were given went beyond the simple masturbatory make-up of a typical post mortem.  Talking about the process out loud and being put on the spot to answer those questions in front of a group was also helpful for me in preparing to write my thesis. Afterwards, I spoke with Royston about the Q&A, and he thought it to be a positive addition.   In fact, he said he would talk to the Department Chair about encouraging and possibly requiring such sessions for future thesis projects.

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