So the dress rehearsal was awful. I barely slept on Tuesday night, and had to get up super early for my seminar on Wednesday morning. I got out of that at 11 and went to the Debating Chamber (DC) where we were performing. I love being in a performance space by myself, where i can potter about with busy work to calm my nerves. I finished setting up chairs, sewed up a hole in one of the actress's skirts, made a cross out of a window frame to hang from the lighting rig and generally tried to keep my mind off the performance.
I decided that the space didn't look right. Almost every play that SUDS put on is in the DC, and it's hard to really own the space. I decided to run in to town to get some white fabric to hang from the ceiling to try and make the space look more like a puritan church. This meant getting the bus in to town (stopping off at home to drop off my books, write the text for the program and send out a last minute remainder to people on the facebook group for the show) and then walking up to the fabric shop, which is about a mile, all uphill, from the nearest bus stop. I bought 10 meters of white fabric, and walked back down, got the bus and zoomed back to campus.
At 2, Mark showed up. Rob, our tech guy, was still too ill to get out of bed, so Mark came in to finish our tech set up and show me how to run the desk. While he was fixing lights I was up the scaffolding tower hanging fabric and trying to make a brick box with black curtains look like a church. Set design soothes me. You can see transformative results so quickly. The set looked good, the lights were sorted (my favourite touch, a last minute idea of mine, was to have a 10 minute slow fade in the last act, as the characters prepare for dawn, projecting the shadow of a cross on the back wall. It looked AWESOME!) and now i just had to wait for the actors to arrive.
I always get horrifically stressed about performances. I love directing, but if it were up to me i don't think I'd show my plays to anyone, or at least I'd not be present while they were being performed. I felt quite bad for my actors, because despite how bad the rehearsal period had gotten, they had never seen me REALLY stressed. I could barely speak. I was running around like a mad thing, finding last minute props and fixing last minute problems, while they were all in high spirits, chatting and getting ready. It was hard keeping everyone in the room, they kept wandering off, and James somehow got thrown up on by a drunk Frisbee player about a minute after he put on his costume. So in keeping with the experience as a whole! At one point I turned around to find all the boys in the cast huddled around the piano singing an improvised musical version of the show. Everyone seemed excited and not at all nervous, which made me even worse.
Once everything was sorted and we had about 20 minutes to go, I led the cast warm-up, and gave them a little pep talk. I then let them get on with their last minute preparations while i tried to calm myself down. We started late, because people seemed to think that the play started at half past 7 instead of 7, which gave me even more time to stress out, but eventually we got underway. The lights dimmed, a hymn started playing, the audience took to their seats and the actors took to the stage.
And it all went perfectly!
I have absolutely no idea how, but all three of the performances were great. Each one better than the last, with no missed lines, no wardrobe malfunctions, no nothing. I was amazed as much as i was delighted, and unbelievably proud of my cast. The really great thing was that after every show they would say they did well, but immediately pick up on what was wrong or lacking and vow to do it better the next night. They were striving for perfection, and i loved them for it. While a lot of casts, after doing a good show, will become complacent, and the next night will lose energy because of that, here each night the cast tried harder, and the effort really showed.
All the stress, all the tears and sleepless nights, all the worrying and moaning and wishing i could just give up; All that exhaustion paid off. I'm not saying I'd want to do it again, or that i don't think the show would have been as good if we hadn't had to go through such hell to get there, but I think that all the pitfalls and problems brought the production group so close, made us such a supportive and caring group, in a way that would never have happened had the play run smoothly from the start. That closeness showed itself on stage. We made audience members cry, and i really can't ask for any more than that.
(Sorry for the poor quality of the video, there's a better one on my facebook but i couldn't embed it. You get the idea though)
I love my cast and i miss them already, but I'm never directing anything with a cast that big again! Now to start work on Antigone.