Make-up, lights, set, rehearsal, house: stage. Words that convey things to those with theatre in their blood and things very different to the rest of the world.
Friday night before the curtain felt like an opening. I was nervous. I thought back to my first play at DB: Blythe Spirit. In my first scene my character sipped a martini. On opening night, I was so nervous that the water’s surface looked like what I what later see from the bridge of a submarine: rolling waves breaking into white caps. Sweat dripped off my eye browse and seared my cheeks, threatening the spirit gum that affixed my crepe moustache.
“Maybe I shouldn’t do this,” I thought.
My first musical was Pippin two months later. Again, on opening night, I was scared and doubtful. I stood high on a six foot platform alone while Betty Groete sang woos. I wait for a spotlight to illuminate Jeremy Nauert who stood frozen downstage left. In that production, the players entered during Magic To Do, but I was hung out to dry on a platform. I can still remember the dance Christy Steinhoffel choreographed for me alone up there: kick, ball-change, pivot step; kick ball-change pivot step. chasse left, chasse left; chasse right, chasse right; and repeat.
Then something odd happened. I didn’t have a description for it until the 1999 Ram’s season when Kurt Warner said that as soon as the ball was snapped, everything around him seemed to slow down as if the game were in slow motion and only he moved at normal speed. That’s exactly it.
Eighteen years without stepping onto a stage, that effect stayed with me. When the show starts, everything around me seems to go slowly. I feel like I can move about the stage and around the other actors at will, while they are limited to a much a slower pace. It’s so different from rehearsal, when dances and lines come too fast.
But there’s a price to pay. The universal chronograph cranks on at a perfect beat–it’s my perception that’s skewed. And that master clock is about to strike the midnight hour for our little new family’s first production. The end too soon.
I fantasize that tonight is not closing. I dream that so many people will be denied entry that Leibrecht will have no choice but to add a second weekend. Then, again, what of it? There’s always a close.
What will live on forever are memories and, I hope, the new friends. Into the ghost light go Lewis and Fastrada, Berthe, Charles, Pippin, Catherine, Theo, and the players. The actors leave the stage and their characters behind.
Make-up, lights, set, house. Theatre’s terms remind the uninducted of phoniness. Actors put on masks and take on roles. I won’t bother to tell them how wrong they are. The forty or so people who’ve shared lives since April are among the most solid, grounded, and sincere human beings I’ve ever met. Can anyone tell me that Jim Leibrecht is a phony because he paints his face and moves about the stage? Isn’t there a profound honesty in lending your body and mind to a playwright’s imagination and exposing yourself before friends and strangers?
The world slows down for me on stage, not because I’m hidden under Natural No. 2 and a toga, but because there, bathed in pink lights and waving my sword, I am most myself. I, who will not dance in clubs out of self-conscious paranoia, emerge on stage. For a few hours, I finally get to be myself and the smell of that liberty is intoxicating.
Farewell, brothers and sisters. I love you all.