That sentence is the one that sends the stomach flipping, the adrenalin pumping, the dressing room into hushed tones of nervous silence and the heart racing. This time next week we will have already had our first night, and we will be pacing the 'Green Room' gearing up for show número deux.
'First night nerves' is a funny old expression, it should be 'every night nerves' as far as I am concerned. That feeling of standing in the wings repeating your first line over and over, feeling cold, hot, calm, excited, sick and nervous always raises the question 'why the heck do we do this'? Then the lights go down, you take your opening position and that question fades into oblivion as you settle into the play.
I have an equal passion for acting and directing (actually I think directing is pipping the post of late). Which do I feel more nervous about on opening night? Directing without a shadow of a doubt! Handing the play over to the cast and crew after dress rehearsal is a lonely business. Suddenly you are redundant, and your 'baby' has grown up and flown the nest. As a director I will (more often than not) sit in the auditorium on production nights and nervously watch the audience - yes the audience - to see if our interpretation of the story wins the hearts of our viewers.
Anyone who has acted for me (let's hope none of them read this, or I dread the comments) will attest that I am a notorious 'note giver'. I always have reams of 'actors notes' after each play I have directed. For our current production on next week, I am acting and directing, so my head is torn into two. I have reams of actors notes to myself! My nerves are sliding from actor to director and back again in one fell swoop, and I have a yearning to be Worzel Gummidge and be able to swap heads. I will be intrigued as to which 'head' takes the most nerves next week - I am suspecting my acting one will win the day.
In a production of 'Blood Money', in-between Acts I & II our wonderful props lady was on the set doing a last check that everything was where it should be. Unbeknownst to her, the beginners call had happened, the cast were in place, and the Stage Manager gave the cue to start the second act. Seeing the curtain start to open, she dived behind the sofa (still on stage). The only person who was aware of where she was, was a single cast member on stage who had seen it happen. All the backstage crew were calling her on cans (headphones) wondering where the heck she had disappeared to. There was a knock at the door (onstage), the cast member went to open the door to an actress entering, she hastily whispered "Jill's behind the sofa"! From then on in, everybody had to surreptitiously step over her, or walk around her. All was fine, until a male cast member had to 'die' behind the sofa. Even to this day, the picture of the two of them bundled behind the sofa still makes me laugh!
Let's hope I don't have any theatrical tales of woe to impart after next week!
The Wife, The Mistress, The Chair. April 18th - 20th. The Little Theatre, Eastbourne. Box Office: 01323 479732