Opening night amplified all my pre-show anxiety. As you already know.
Dry mouth, from the moment I stepped on the stage. The three drinks of water I'm permitted — at specific times in the script, because the director is my zookeeper — did me no good. It was as if the mug was filled with salt.
And the shaking. I was shaking uncontrollably. That subsided after ten long minutes.
But the dry mouth. From start to finish. (And, no, I'm not going to try putting Vaseline on my teeth.)
And — for a long, private moment — I was lost — lost — in the flow of the show. Only those who have worked on the show knew it, perhaps, but it was long enough for this little conversation in my head:
Artie [finishes line and moves to another part of the stage, according to the blocking], silently thinking: "O.K. What's the next thing? Dang. What did I just do? Oh, yeah, of course. That's what I just did. The next thing surely follows logically. Hmmm, maybe it's here in the 'prop' script, the one that Doke used to use. No! Of course, it's not. Because the next part comes from me and my legendary memory. Artie, this is no time for self-deprecating sarcasm. Nothing. What would Thich Nhat Hahn do? Breathe. No time for that. Breathe later. Dang, but there sure are a lot of people here for an opening night. I hope they're happy. [Flips a few pages.] Nothing. What the hell am I doing? I have to restart this show. No one can help me. Help me."
I actually gave thought to starting another play. Not later. Right then.
After the show, Matt Slaybaugh offered only one note: tomorrow, do the same, just be more confident.
And last night was very different.
Different from opening day, yesterday was delightful, mainly with meetings with clients on non-show business. And breakfast with the other playwrights, Matt Slaybaugh and Sean Christopher Lewis, who flew in for last night's show.
And I drank a lot of water all day. A lot.
And dinner with Alisa, early. A pile of pasta. Nice.
The nerves were gentle all day. After all, when I dropped a line opening night, nobody died. There were no lawsuits pending.
And so, the second show went so nicely. Smooth. Fun. Disjointed by design. (Place that on my tombstone.)
And a sell-out. Don, the theater manager, came back stage to ask if a chair could be added, making sure that we knew about it, so we wouldn't fall over it in the dark of the show. (The show is well lit from the audience's point of view, but everywhere Jo Anne and I look is dark, dark, dark.)
Adding one chair doesn't sound like a lot. But it meant a full house. And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing.
Jo Anne and I really enjoy our time in the pre-show quarantine.
We sit in our little dressing room, hung with memorabilia about the show, some Christmas lights, pictures of my father and son. And we chat about holidays, theatre, our show, small notes about the blocking — and our lives, our families, and the meaning of it all.
We limber up. We bend our knees. I do 10 jumping jacks and say, "Never, never, never, never…" to loosen my voice. And about five other pre-show (and pre-public-speaking) rituals.
Production manager Dave Wallingford comes through every so often to tell us how many minutes are left.
Finally, Dave comes through one last time and says, simply, "Places." And we step into the wings and wait for our sound cue, the pre-show announcement.
The Low Down
In her online piece, Irene Alvarez (from Experience Columbus) quotes her husband's reaction to the work of Available Light, "It’s unlike any other things I’ve seen. It enlightens you while you’re being entertained."
I long to live up to that standard. That is a goal for my life.
If you want to see this show (oh, please do), tickets are available online through 4 p.m. for today's 8 p.m. show — and through 10 a.m. for tomorrow's 2 p.m. matinee. After those automatic online shutoffs, any remaining available tickets will be sold at the door before the show.
I do hope you join us for this.
After all, it's the Net Cotton Content company office party.