I’ve always been in awe of those actors who are the first on the stage. The people who open the show and set the tone. What a job, I would think, to be the first person the audience sees. To be their introduction to new world and to be there alone. Those people had balls and I was glad I wasn’t them.
Of course, when I was cast in my schools’ play, I was that person. Of course I was.
I haven’t acted since I was in middle school, and very few of my roles had very many lines. I was the silly chorus girl who mimed her way through the show. It was fun. I was good at it. But ultimately, I felt I had better things to do with my time than sit in the wings for most of a show, waiting for the two or three scenes I was needed in to fly by. As a budding teenager, there were more interesting things to do on a Saturday night.
When my friend approached me about auditioning for a play she wanted to do, I agreed, half excited, half hesitant. It had been about ten years since the last time I was on stage, and while I had once been pretty good at it, I had no clue if I still was. I’m not sure how much the bicycle analogy applies to talent. But because I had at one point been good at it, I wanted to try my hand at it, and with a talented friend directing, in a school I was comfortable at, working with crew whom I knew and (mostly) trusted, it was as safe an environment for experimenting with a talent as I was going to find.
The play was Five Women Wearing the Same Dress; a two act ensemble piece written by the guy who currently writes for Trueblood. It’s about five bridesmaids hiding from the wedding reception in the Maid of Honors’ bedroom. Four of the women hate the bride for reasons of their own, most of which boil down to her being a consummate bitch. The last woman, a young, naive evangelist, is just happy to be included and hides with the others in some vague and probably misguided attempt to make friends. There are secrets, sexual encounters, and possible psycho killers. It’s very southern and very explicit and was a hell of a lot of fun to be in.
Of course, I was cast as Frances, the naive evangelist. Y’all can laugh now if you want. I won’t be offended.
And of course, Frances is the first character on stage. Yup.
The hardest part, I realized, is not being on stage. Once you’re up there and the lights are on you, it’s almost easy.Certainly not nerve-wracking. No the hardest part is the transition. Getting yourself to knock on the door, say those first lines from offstage, and walk on to a waiting audience – that’s the hardest part. The memorizing of lines, the frustration of working out the blocking, the poking and prodding and evaluation of body size for costumes and staging (though admittedly, there was very little of that in this show) – all of that was easy compared to taking that first step onto the stage.
In that moment, you have the ability to set people’s expectations for the rest of the show. And if you don’t have a good cast coming in behind you, if you mess up, it may take the rest of an act to get it back on track. Luckily, my cast was amazing, and what muck-ups we had were covered with nary a notice.
In a move of uncharacteristic ballsiness, I took the roll, I learned my lines, and five times in a row, I went on stage first, once without knowing when my castmate would show up behind me (costume mishap and a stage manager dropping the ball for calling time).
Last night was our last show, and to be perfectly frank, we rocked it. Since you couldn’t be there to see, here’s a picture. I’m the one in the middle. Aren’t I cute? I’m sooo cute!