An Actress’s Image of the Stage
December 12, 2019
Entertainment is a concept that has been spread globally. Entertainment is something we long for as humans, whether it brings laughter or pain, whether it pulls at heartstrings, or if it offers the idea of a cliff hanger. We can find entertainment in a joke, a story, a video on social media, your pet making a strange sound, or the drama that escapes a friend’s lips. In Sag Harbor, an important source of entertainment comes from our own high school and the Baystreet Theatre. It strikes me that the theater brings together families to sit down and watch a show, and then afterward, talk about their favorite (and least favorite, if there were any) moments. Theater tells a story through a series of facial expressions, movements, and words.
My question is: What if you were on the stage?
The house lights are dimmed, the spotlights hit the stage. If I look closely, I can see the faces of the team who are going to put on the show. When this happens, I begin to realize that I’ve been working on a production for almost two months. The moment the spotlights are focused on the stage and the rest of the theater is dark, I truly first realize I’m going to be in a show. Before the final rehearsals begin, you read a script on stage with other actors, go home and study lines, and think about the acting choices you’re going to make. Yet it never really hits you that you are actually doing a show until you’re blinded by the lights.
In many performances I have done, working with other actors can either be difficult or simple. As an actor, I personally always strive to do my best. I have known many talented actors who honestly deserve to be on Broadway, and have worked hard to get where they are. I have a deep respect for those who try their best and aim for perfection, whether they achieve it or not. In acting, you get the golden players, but sometimes, you get an actor that is not as focused or is maybe just in it for the fun. It is wonderful if you are acting just for the joy of it, after all, you shouldn’t participate in theater if you don’t like it. If an actor is neglecting their part, it can make others annoyed. I haven’t been up close with an actor such as that recently, but believe me when I say that it happens. A lot of people say a team is only as good as their weakest player, but in the theater, we say, “Everything always seems to work out in the end.” So far, that statement has been correct.
Tech rehearsals and dress rehearsals are very tiring. They are very long, because that is the time when big mistakes are ironed out. Tech rehearsals scare me, personally. There seem to be a lot of errors that occur in that time frame, which makes me incredibly scared for the actual performance. For every show I’ve done, I’ve gotten very worried about how the show would end up after looking at the progress in the final rehearsals. Some actors have even said I was too paranoid and should calm down (which, I will not deny, is probably true). Normally, in the final rehearsals, lines are tightened up more, but every now and then someone will mess up a line. A lot of things that are focused on in the final rehearsals have to do with scene transitions, microphone repairs, and costume fixes. These are the final rehearsals before opening night.
When it is the day of the performance, my mindset completely changes. My main focus is on perfection. I have to think about my acting skills and what is going to make the audience laugh, how fast I’m going to change from one costume to the other, and the notes my director gave me to better myself on stage. For me, when the show comes up, the pressure is on and my nerves skyrocket. Many actors get nervous, and each one has different coping mechanisms. It’s hard for me to believe there are some actors who don’t get nervous- I don’t know how they manage to remain calm. Opening night is the most terrifying thing for me, but that all seems to change when I step on stage.
When you first walk onto the stage, you can see the faint silhouettes of the audience members. As a fourteen-year-old in a school theater production, of course, I have my family come and watch me perform. Seeing the audience, I remember that my family is out there too, and I want to make them proud. Sometimes, a show can start off with a high amount of energy and the crowd feeds off of the players’ energy, but sometimes, the player feeds off of the audience’s energy. In my most recent show, “Play On”, our cast’s energy was amplified opening night when we realized that some of the jokes in our script that we originally thought weren’t funny, the audience laughed at. When the audience has a good reaction to a section of a show, it makes us, as actors, feel more confident and perform better in the upcoming sections. There are times the audience won’t have a reaction when I expected them to, and when that happens, either the cast pushes through, or you can see a noticeable decline in the energy. A player’s energy is a key part of any show. Without it, the show would not be even half as entertaining as it could and should be.
If a scene is playing out where I’m on stage with not many lines, I’m always conscious of my reactions to the other characters’ lines. Although, sometimes I can’t help letting my mind wander. When it does, I think of what I’m going to do after the show is over, and whether I’ll be going to my father’s house or my mother’s house. It’s funny to think, as an audience member, that I am not only playing the role, but I’m actually thinking about “tonight’s dinner after the show.” Don’t be baffled if you think that I, as an actor, do not get hungry during a show.
At the end of the show, I go out for curtain call and hear the audience clapping for my fellow castmates and I. It brings a sense of feeling and purpose to me and makes the whole thing worth it. Whether or not rehearsals were stressful and I was up late with heaps of homework, it all paid off in the end for a feeling that is so satisfying and hard to describe. Once the final lights dim, the whole cast walks into the audience, greets their family, and receives compliments from close friends and family. Afterward, everyone heads to the dressing rooms to change and remove make-up. When this happens, I feel as though I’m suddenly exiting a life that isn’t my own- my characters life. Yet while I was on stage, somehow, it was my life. I guess in a way, it is. It is what I chose to do, after all. Suddenly, I’m looking in the dressing room mirror and I’m thinking to myself, “Back to reality… until next time.”