Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Marvels of Opening Night

It wasn't exactly opening night.  We really call it our "Dress for the Press" Preview Night in hopes that my vision of the Daily Reporter, the Indy Star, USA Today, Entertainment Tonight, the Indiana Business Journal, Joan Rivers, and NUVO all showing up to cover and review the show.  As it is, it has evolved into a preview night for the kids' teachers (our best word-of-mouth), a few select guests and of course, our beloved World Class Laugher--Wendy Carson.  It's a great evening of finally getting the show in front of an audience that will enjoy and applaud--to remind us what's funny and to teach us the important performance skill of 'waiting for the laughs'.

This one was a tad shaky going in.  Had a real 'come to Jesus' meeting (as we used to say in IPS) with the kids on Thursday last week.  Reminded then what they were here for; reminded them that all 14 of them were chosen from the 50 who auditioned to carry on the KidsPlay legacy of excellence and quality; reminded them that their audition for the next show began with the read-through for THIS show....  Apparently, it worked.

We survived Long Sunday.  Starting at 8 a.m. dismantling the KidsPlay set in the Dungeon, moving it to the theatre and reassembling it there.  Tape, paint and trim out the set.  Decorating the lobby.  Costumes in the dressing room.  Everything in place.  That was followed by a tech rehearsal at 1:30, a start-and-stop notes rehearsal at 2 p.m., and finally a full run.  It's a stressful day and I always feel the pressure of parents, crew who are ready (sometimes before *I* am) to call it a day and take their kids home.  Amazingly, there was none of that.  I'm very tuned in to it, and I sensed...nothing.  Just parents/crew/kids all committed to the end goal--a tight, well-orchestrated production.  As it was, we left the theatre at about 5 p.m.  Yes, tired, but ready for Monday, another rehearsal, followed by Tuesday--our Dress for the Press.

The kids took the stage last night in front of their teachers, some family and the playwright, Scott Haan.  Under pressure?  Yes, Queen, thank you.

Now, I am NOT a believe in 'it'll all come together in the end'.  In fact, I literally grit my teeth when someone says that (inevitably it's a parent who drops their kid off and leaves with NO IDEA of what it takes to do what we do, but that's another story).  Yes, it WILL all come together in the end, but not just by crossing our fingers and wishing and hoping.  It is NOT just luck.  It IS hard work, and planning, and details, and focus.  It is all of those things. 

Mmmm, yeah.  All those things, so that when you put a show up on the stage that was built on the strong foundation of hard work, details, planning, effort, focus, and rehearsal-rehearsal-rehearsal--on the stage in front of a live audience, you simply can't deny, you can't, that there's, mmm, a little magic in the mix.  There really is.

The performance was absolutely mesmerizing.  I've been trying all morning to put my finger on just what it was.  The brilliant timing of the opening dialogue between Pig and Cow?  The looks exchanged by Lion and Lamb?  Dawg dealing with his parasite problem on stage working like it NEVER worked in rehearsal (in fact, I'd told him to cut it in favor of just scratching fleas)?  Cat was in 'bring in on' mode.  Mouse adorable and totally understandable with her squeaky mouse voice.  Queen and Prince's deadpan and conversational tossing off of song lyrics in the dialogue.  Peter's ba-da-bing lines delivered in the set-'em-up-and-knock-'em down way that only he could do?  Everything, everything worked together--the show was firing on all cylinders and our small appreciative audience loved it.  LOVED it.

There are always challenges to be met and lessons to be learned in theatre--by the cast, the crew, the director.  Some new, some simply reinforced.  This show was no different.  We explored how costumes help the audience understand the character (to the point of restyling Piggy's outfit YESTERDAY to coincide with the character she so brilliantly created).  This show could have been someone's master's thesis in blocking and provided lesson after lesson in stage and spacial awareness for the kids.  We were challenged again and again by the personification of animals--very difficult (and yeah, I think we'll take a break from it for awhile...).  The choreography of crowd scenes, of chaos, of fighting, and chasing.  The timing of puns and one-liners--all challenges that would probably be considered over the heads of 3rd-8th graders.  Hard work, rehearsal, commitment, talent...and yeah, the magic thing, too.  It all comes together--and it's good.  It's all good.

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