The play closed several days ago. There were a lot of crying actors during the final curtain call. I managed to refrain from crying until my first bow, and then my tear ducts refused to dry. When we took the cast bow, I got to watch one big, fat tear fall to the ground from the end of my nose. Looked pretty cool, actually. I cried again when they started dismantling the abbey and mountain.
Overall, the second weekend went better than the first, I’d say. There were fewer hitches in the performances, since we’d worked out a lot of the problems we’d had.
We also had bigger audiences — word got around. For Saturday’s matinée (during which we were competing with both a radically sunny day and the library’s Reading Rendezvous) the theatre was about 3/4 full; for the final performance, Megan and her helpers crammed extra chairs into every nook and cranny they could get away with and still had to turn 40-50 people away.
The audiences were more responsive, too, on average. For those of you who have little to no experience with performing, let me explain why that matters.
Actors are Trills
Performers have a symbiotic relationship with their audiences — the performers provide entertainment and work off the energy that the audience’s reactions return to them. A dead-quiet audience is harder to perform for than one which comes into the theatre inclined to laugh at all the jokes and cry in all the right places.
Every audience has its own character, and that character colors the performance. Generally, matinée audiences are quieter and more reserved; audiences for evening performances usually laugh and clap more freely; and the school performances feature kids aged 6-19, so their reactions are impossible to guess at ahead of time.
Audience reactions can take many forms. You can think of some, I’m sure — clapping, laughing, gasping, etc. There are variations within those basic types, as well. Take laughter, for instance: you can separate laughter into giggles, chuckles, sniggers, snorts, belly laughs, nervous laughs, laughing silently, and many others. But there are other possible reactions, as well. Dead silence with no whispering in the audience at all is just as much a reaction.
Sometimes, especially during the school performances, we get unexpected audience reactions. One boy whose class has been studying WWII recently saluted back at the Nazis during one of our shows. During another school performance, when I was holding the list of music festival winners out from behind the curtain and shaking it in an attempt to get Max’s attention, a few kids near the front yelled out, “Behind you! It’s behind you!” At the beginning of one of the public performances, when I was hurrying out the back of the audience with the other nuns, nattering about finding Maria and where did we see her last and where oh where oh where could she be, I heard an audience member mutter, “Maybe she’s in the bathroom.”
The cast party was held Saturday after our evening performance at Shane & Erin’s [lovely] house. Erin remarked at one point that there were enough people in each area (several rooms on the main floor and out by the fire pit) to be its own party. And indeed, it was packed. Most of the cast and crew were there, some with spouses and children. Shane spent a lot of time out at the grill cooking meat — hamburgers and hot dogs — for everybody. Bonnie, mother of one of my fellow nuns, decorated a cake for us, too, which was delicious.
I took asparagus and bacon and prepared bacon-wrapped asparagus on sticks for Shane to add to the flame. They were a big hit. I had told a couple of people who professed a love of turkey bacon that I would get some of that, too, so some of them were turkey-bacon-wrapped asparagus on a stick. I felt really bad buying the turkey bacon — it was just turkey sandwich meat, cut into strips and colored to look like bacon. Heresy! I didn’t try any of those ones myself, but they were the only ones left by the end. The ones wrapped in real bacon disappeared as fast as they came off the grill.
It was an evening of chatting, and laughing at pictures taken both of the play and backstage, and more chatting. It was what Thanksgiving would be like if your family had 50 people in it. I ended up being one of the last to leave. Had some good conversations with the other people whose brains work well late at night.
And I found out that Erin collects stuffed animals the way Shane & Wayne collect Pez dispensers — by the hundreds. She has three teddy bears that would be six or seven feet tall if you stood them on their legs. Dana had to bribe Grace (who played the second youngest Von Trapp child) with cuddles to get her out of her burrow in the pile of giant teddy bears to go home, even though Grace was only hanging on to consciousness by a thread.
Strike is the process of dismantling the set and putting the set pieces, costumes, and props away. In community theatre, everyone helps with striking. We don’t have a paid set crew who do it for a living. It’s a short process with everyone’s help, though. Well, a shorter process.
People dropped out after varying lengths of time, starting with little Anna (the adorable 6 year-old who played little Gretl). I was there ’til about 9 PM, if I recall correctly. At first I worked on props, then moved to a power drill to take apart sections of the set. I had a few odd jobs in between. By the time I left there were a dozen people left at the most. I’d have stayed later, but the only job left to do at that point was repaint the stage… and I was wearing pants I use for work. The pants were the same color as the paint, but it’s still bad principle to get paint on your work pants. (Unless you’re a painter, of course.)
P.S. No really… :'( I miss everyone already, even though it hasn’t been a week yet and I have most of them on Facebook now.