We opened Friday, and it was good. A small but appreciative audience braved the chill in the air to watch us do our thing out on the green. Our rhythm was good, the show flowed well, and we had some good audience moments. There were a few last-minute hiccups, but there always are, and we survived them all. Then we did it all again Saturday. Looking around Saturday at 4:15 while people are getting into costume backstage as the sun set slowly down on us reminded me of why I do this.
Let me set the scene for you a little bit. We're performing outside, in a found space of sorts. We built our stage in a parking lot facing a greenway on Main Street. So we have Main Street off stage left, and a major road behind us as well, with train tracks running parallel to the upstage line of the stage. The stage is 24' wide by 12' deep, with a canvas backdrop and a few flats for imperfect off-and backstage masking. All of the scenery, lighting and sound equipment, props and costumes store in a 12' trailer that is parked upstage.
Once we set the stage every night, the trailer doubles as our dressing room. I back my Element up beside the trailer and drop the tailgate to create a makeup table. Seating for the audience is bring your own, and we encourage coolers. The bathrooms are Porta-Jons shared by cast and audience alike, so we all try to pee before we get into costume. The steps leading up onto the stage are pilfered cinder blocks, and the backdrop sags a bit in the middle. As I told one kid Friday night "we shoot for ghetto fabulous, and sometimes only get halfway there."
But once the sun goes down (right around time for curtain each night) and the lights go up, none of that matters. It doesn't matter that we don't all have body mics and we're trying to aim our voices a little at the three mics lined up across the stage. It doesn't matter that anybody who has a quick change is gonna be sharing dressing space with someone of the opposite gender. It doesn't matter that we can be seen backstage making entrances and costume adjustments.
All that matters is the words, as we go out to "speak the speech," and follow in a tradition thousands of years old, of creating a new world with nothing more than a few scraps of brightly colored fabric and our own voices and bodies. All that matters is at the end of each performance, we're exhausted, like an athlete that's left it all out on the field. All that matters is that we're doing what people have done since long before there were trains blaring behind us or redneck cadillacs with their loud mufflers blatting alongside us. We're celebrating life and love through art, and it really does elevate us.
So sitting in a camp chair Saturday, outside, in a tux with my iPod on, looking over my script at my castmates goofing off and fussing with their wigs, I remembered. And there was no place in the world I'd have rather been.
And now I only get to do this three more times. Weather permitting.