Friday, April 12, 2013

Opening Night Confessions

"How you all doing? " Our stage manager, Chelsey Little, peaked her head through the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the living room.  It was five minutes before the show was about to start and there we were, six female solo performers, hanging out in someone's living-room-turned-green-room at the Downward Dog, the official home venue of All Terrain Theatre's 2013 production of Women In Solodarity: CAT LADIES.

"Fine,"  Martha, one of the actors replied, "You know, it's just the throwing up part."

Isn't that the truth, I thought as I sat at there, at the dining room table, in my cat nanny costume, waiting not so patiently to open the show that first night.  That's right.  I was opening the opening.

Why do we do this to ourselves, I wondered, are we masochistic?  Why on earth would we continue to pursue this routine of: audition, rejection.  audition, acceptance.  memorize, memorize, memorize, and then throw ourselves at the mercy of a live audience for possibly more perceived rejection? Are we mad?

I gazed around the room.  Some women paced back and forth reciting their lines quietly to themselves while others sat meditatively in their chairs.  Idle chit chat from just a few minutes before have given away to focused silence.  Yes, indeed, we were mad.

I looked out the living room window and saw a man walking his dog along the street.  Quick sir,  I thought, trade lives with me.  I mean, what troubles could he possibly have?  I have to go on in less than five minutes and open the opening of a sold out crowd.  What do YOU have to do sir, huh? Yeah, keep walking that stupid dog. 

"Ready, Theresa?"  Chelsey motioned me to take my spot in the wings, and by wings, I mean the top of a spiral staircase in the kitchen that led down to the lower level of the house.. and the stage....and to my impending death.  Spiral staircase,  I thought, how appropriate

Then I hear it. The applause is my cue.  I make my way down the staircase and find my place on the stage.   I look up at the crowd but not really.  I see people, but not any one particular person.  "Sorry for the mess," I start with.  I ramble on for a few minutes before I start recognize a face or two in the audience.  Don't lose your focus, I tell myself, you're the cat nanny.   More rambling.  Then I see a friend videotaping me in the front row with her camera.  That's fine, I assure myself, keep going--be the cat nanny.  More rambling.  I notice another friend of mine arriving late and scooting her way to some middle seats. Oops,  I forgot to tell her I went on first Focus.  More rambling. Then finally, FINALLY after the longest 11 minutes in the world.... my closing line, "I'm a cat nanny!"

Applause.  Pause. Pause.  Hold your look.  Hold it.   Now turn, grab your props and exit.  Exhale.  There. Done.  I make my way back up the spiral staircase and back safely to home base, that is, the kitchen. 


I sit in the kitchen listening intently to each actor's monologue that follows after mine.   I hear a moment of silence, followed by an erruption of laughter.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  As each actor finishes her piece, one more blazes her way back up to the top of the spiral staircase and into the kitchen while letting out a sigh of relief.  Except for Colleen.  She had two monologues to memorize- so she stays focused until her second piece is finished.

Then finally, intermission.  10 minutes.  10 minutes to go hide back in the living room because the bathroom is now open to the audience and is right next to the kitchen.  I play games on my smart phone as our final actor begins to get focused and warms up and preps her props.  Knock 'em dead Maura.

Intermission is over.  Audience takes their seats again.  I play on my phone in the kitchen and listen one more time as the crowd reacts to the final piece.   More laughter, silence and laughter, silence and laughter.  Then I hear Maura's final words and all the actors take their place in the spiral staircase to get ready for the final curtain call.  Lights off.  Applause.  Lights on.  We all take the stage and give our final bow.  I am still not looking at anyone in particular.

I am exhausted.  I give hugs to friends and say hi to people.  I decline on invitations to go out knowing I have a matinee followed by an evening performance the next day.   Then I remember it's the director's birthday and grab some cupcakes I had purchased earlier in the day.  I light candles on them and bring them back down the spiral staircase.  We sing happy birthday to her.  We give final greetings to friends.  I am relieved, but only for a moment, knowing I have to turn around the next day and do it all over again. 

CRAZY CAT LADIES ARE (in order of appearance)

Theresa Donahoe
Colleen Egan
Ramya Vijayan
Heather Kellogg
Martha Rynberg
Maura Halloran


Tracy said...

You're rocking it every night--four for four times so far! It's a lot of pressure being such a big draw for the show ... and I know because I ask everyone who comes in! <3

theresa said...

Aw, thank u!