Actually, my son’s drama group calls it hell week: the final days before opening night. Oh, I know why they call it that. It is a whole week of rising before the sun to stumble onto the school bus, a week of classes, homework and tests. Then, with scarcely two hours break, they are back at the school to rehearse until midnight. They will all very likely be bleary eyed zombies by Friday, staff and students alike. But beneath the exhaustion, something else will grow. Quietly at first, but bigger each day.
Costumes will be worn on Monday. Suddenly, you are not the person you have always been. In the mirror, a stranger has taken your place. Yet, not truly a stranger. Over the weeks and months, you have come to know this person. It is a reflection of you, but a you that was unknown until now. You take a deep breath and stare into the eyes of the one you have become. Then you walk on stage into a strange new world.
Hair and makeup will be added on Tuesday. The pit orchestra begins to play. Suddenly it all seems real. Those little butterflies will begin to churn. The spotlights are hot and the smell of greasepaint perfumes the air. Stagehands, dressed head to toe in black, rush back and forth moving props and changing scenes. Voices lifted in song and dramatic speech soar out into the empty theater.
Then . . . opening night. No Broadway theater can compete with the thrills and tingles of that intense pause before the curtain rises. The lights go dark, there is a breathless hush. Then the orchestra begins to play. A precisely the right time, the curtain opens to reveal a scene; a scene that for the next few hours becomes more real than the world waiting outside. There is laughter, tears, then the applause, that glorious applause that makes all the long hours, the aching feet, the tears of frustration and forgotten lines, it is all worth it.
It may be just a local high school, the stage peopled by teens and tweens, but for 2 nights for 3 hours, it is magic.
Break a leg, Sam!