Opening Night- The Final Chapter In The Chronicles of Twelve Angry Men By Christopher Elston

And opening night has finally arrived. This is the moment where we see if all of our hard work and long nights pay off with a successful performance.

I arrive at the theatre at about 6:15 and see some of the other actors are already there. Some are making small talk while others are walking around with an intense look of concentration on their faces. I can tell they are mentally going over their lines and blocking. Opening night gifts are left on a small table for the cast, letting us know that we are appreciated, but also a visceral reminder that the pressure for us to deliver weighs heavily upon our shoulders.

At 6:30, all of the actors have arrived and Lara (our stage manager) calls us into the theatre. Once there, Susan (our director) gives us a pep talk and a few last minute notes. We run the first 14 pages of the show to help build our energy. Then we run the scuffle between Jurors 8 and 3 and fine tune the scene a bit to give it more impact. Susan gives us final words of encouragement and tells us the show is there, but that we need to be certain to continually drive it and fight for our point of view. I echo these sentiments as I simply state to the cast, “Go for the jugular, guys.”

I head down to the dressing room, get into costume, and style my hair for the show. As I gaze at myself in the mirror, I feel myself metamorphosing into the guard. I then head down to the little classroom by the dance studio and begin my pre-show ritual of energy building exercises, vocal warm-ups, and mouth and tongue stretches. Upon completing that, I run through my lines several times with a focus on projection and intention. When I finish that, I glance at my watch and see it is ten minutes to curtain. I leave the classroom and head upstairs to the theatre. I grab my clipboard, pray for a special blessing on the show, wait, and focus. Soon I am joined by other cast members. Very few words are exchanged. We exchange handshakes and a look that says we know what we have to do. The opening introductions are made, the lights dim, and the sonorous voice of the judge opens the show. I take a deep breath, unlock the door, and the magic begins.

In between my scenes, I wait in my dressing room and try to work through a biography of John Lennon, but my ear is constantly attuned to the monitor to hear when my entrance cues are coming up and to check on the overall progress of the show. I wonder if the men are driving things enough. I smile as I hear the audience react to certain points. I give a silent cheer when I hear a particularly well delivered line. And then the ending comes and I race upstairs to speak the final lines of the show. As we make our final exits, I wonder if the audience appreciated the show. When I hear thunderous applause and am greeted with the sight of a standing ovation, I know we did it.

And that’s opening night from the actors' side. I hope you have enjoyed this series and it has given you an appreciation of a show from the point of view of the thespian. It is my hope that these chronicles will give you a greater appreciation of the show and a better understanding of that magical world we call the theatre. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

No comments: