Opening Night. These words are iconic in their meaning. How many centuries of plays have been performed with all of the time and work rehearsing and practicing until finally, that fateful night is reached when it is time to hit the stage ready or not, and to stand in front of an audience and deliver the goods for the first time? I am sure some historian must know but for me it was a unique experience to be a part of. As an observer and as a participant I am riding two sides of the fence. What I felt was that after it was done, there was a huge relief to have it safely under the belt and that now there was more breathing room. It, can be done, and done very well, not perfect yet, but damn good.
Dress rehearsal night was filled with a bit more energy than I had anticipated due to the unexpected, to me, crowd of invited guests there to sit in as a guinea pig audience. The feeling back stage was more tense and buzzy. All things considered it went well enough, with mistakes thrown in by nearly all, but the benevolent crowd was pleased and loudly clapped and hollered their appreciation for our efforts. It got some of the pent up energy spent and more things ironed out, another version of a practice but under some degree of scrutiny and with feedback.
Last night was Valentines Night and the house was brimming with faces and all of the seats were full. At long last, behind the Berlin Wall, the stage set wall that separates the band and back stage movement from the audience, we waited. The actors stood before me each into their own mental places delving into their characters, remembering lines, most of them prancing slightly like Thoroughbreds in the gate, and then the cue was given to begin.
I have never had much chance to worry with drum rudiments and things like learning to drum rolls. They just aren’t called for much in my usual stock of twelve bar blues and rock. So when I first tentatively stuck my foot into the shark infested waters of trying to learn the parts for this play, the drum roll was the first thing I felt I had to get down. Practicing fast and wrong has just as much input into your brain and coordination as slow, so slow it was to begin. “Momma, daddy, momma, daddy” is one of the mantras I was told helps get the pattern. If you say this as you let the stick hit the skin and let it bounce in natural course before lifting with each word, gradually you can speed it up until it buzzes and becomes the roll. It is not something you attack. You have to have a relaxation in your hand and in your mind for it to work well. With a breath, I began the roll..........then, the crash to the cymbal, and the play was on.
Once rolling it was like a train that is not stopping until the very end. It is amazing to me the perception of time during a gig, or in this case especially, the play, that I glanced at my cell phone to check the time and we were already into the play an hour when I felt we had only just begun. The opening number was a big hit, and the audience laughed, clapped, and cheered through the rest of the first act. Over all it flew pretty darned well. Intermission was called and then it was back to work.
The second act begins with a musical medley that drags stragglers back to their chairs out front and the story continues. The story gets a darker side and so the music reflects this militaristic push and so my drumming has to follow suit. Again a part of a drumming style I have never had to use, not being a product of a high school marching band, and yet another of the places I needed to begin at the bottom of a leaning curve.
This whole project has been absolutely terrifying to me and yet somehow, the stupid competitor in me kept going only to see how far I could push myself to learn new skills in a very short time. I am glad that I did in many areas. I have for one, learned new drumming skills, but I have met and have gotten to watch some marvelously talented people sing and dance and act in ways that have blown me away in awe. It is infinitely more fun to be a part of something than to simply watch, and the people involved with this have been so nice and supportive to my bumbling around back stage and I thank them for letting me be there.
Having never been through a series of the same performance before it will be interesting to see how it will evolve over the course of its run. It is a sad thing to think that the production will probably get really tight and even much better, and then it will be just a memory, when all said and done. Some of the actors will leave town, most move on to new plays, new projects, the entity of this group will go poof like a soap bubble popping when it can shine no more.
Opening night, done. Reception had, and the night was toasted. Tonight, we do it again, then again next night, until the matinee on Sunday afternoon. Repeat same thing next week for a total of seven more shows. Tickets for the remaining shows are at total sell out now, this with no advertising and no critic to laud our efforts. This is no doubt due to the high standard folks are already coming to expect from this playhouse, that, and every one, loves a “Cabaret”. The house is opening the opportunity for folks to see brush up rehearsal night on Wednesday, with donations as ticket price.
So, “What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play...”
What fun this ride, this life, is.
What fun this ride, this life, is.