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Backstage Confessions

A production of a play is made more by what you don't see than what you do. When you go see a play (as I'm sure you often do, since all readers of my blog are cultured and intellectual), you don't see the hours and hours and HOURS of rehearsal and discussion and preparation the cast and crew gave to put the show together. You don't see the intricate web of movement and interaction I can only call "the backstage dance." It's made up of all the cast members not currently on stage, as well as stage crew and costumers, moving about to get into position for an upcoming scene, prepare a prop, discuss the progress of the show and the audience's reaction, flirt, or talk about things totally unrelated to the play. As you get comfortable in the routine of the show, you find yourself in the same place with the same people at each point during the play. It's really quite a remarkable feat of collaberation and cooperation. Each person in a group of twenty to thirty people has their part to do in putting on this show, and every single person's part is indispensable. If somebody were to suddenly decide not to do their part, the play would collapse and so we are all acting on trust and faith in each other.

The cast of a play is like a bizzare family. By the time you see a play performed, every member of the cast has developed a relationship with every single other member. Some of those relationships are stronger than others but you can't spend that much time collabarating with somebody and not develop some kind of relationship, even if its a negative one. Tensions and arguments flare up, like in families, but if you've got a good cast you work through those and come out even stronger. You all share a desire to make the performance a good one, and to avoid looking like an idiot. You bond even more when others uninvolved in the process are predicting your failure. What makes the situation all the more complicated, however, is that each cast member has not just one but two relationships with each other cast member. They have their real life actor/actor relationship, and then a totally different on-stage character/character relationship they have been developing to make the show real. These two relationships are often at odds with each other. The two guys with little to no stage interaction may be better friends than the two guys who are best friends on stage. The cute couple who end up together at the end may each actually be attracted to somebody else in the cast. The coolest, most social guy on stage may actually turn out to be, to your surprise, a huge Dungeons & Dragons nerd. The flamboyantly gay character could have a big crush on the leading lady. Only members of the cast know all this information, and only they see this hidden layer behind what is happening on stage.

I don't really know why I'm writing all this, except that it is on my mind. I'm finishing up yet another play, and realizing that, like all the others, in a few weeks it will all just be a memory, and our little family will break apart. We'll all still have special feelings for each other, but it will never be the same. Theater is immediate, it is always in the "now", and when its over it can never be revisited. Recordings never do a production justice. I'll miss the complicated relationships, the strange double personalities, the synergy and collaboration. I'll even miss sitting quietly offstage listening to my cast mates, my family, tell a story; and watching as, hidden from the view of the audience, the leading lady flirts with her lover's best friend's servant in the wings - her feet on his lap, his hand on her leg, laughing softly together until its time to go on.


Anonymous said…
Wow. The intrication. (I don't think thats a word) But I think I figured out who you're talking about... for most of the people. So, erm, who does Katie like, then? Ben? It sounds like you like Katie, too... Oh, the twisted web that is theater. Thats why people should stay away from acting and focus more on the important things in life, such as D&D and Harry Pottery glory. (by the by, rehearsal ended up getting cancelled tonight- grr!)
So... I'm glad at least one person reads your blogs. :)
Happy Thanksgiving, Say Jay
The Bard said…
Wow. Sounds like you didn't figure out who I'm talking about at all. Nice try though. Thanks for reading my blog.
Anonymous said…
But.... the leading lady... thats Silvia... meaning its... and her lover's (you) best friend's (trevor) servant... thats lance...Ben. Oh dang. You have me so confused now. I thought that... I need to stop using so many "..."s. They are getting tiresome. Well... maybe you mean the Hamlet cast perchance? No, no. That wouldn't work. Wait! You wrote that the "flamboyant gay character..." John had a crush on the "leading lady", which is gail. Or at least last time I talked to him he sorta liked her... but shes dating someone else. So, the "leading lady" has to be Katie then. Oh sigh. I think I might just possibly give up on this blog riddle of intrication. Its etherealness is getting to me. Hard to, you know, get a grasp on things properly.
Hope your break is going well enough so far. Hope you're having lots of play/game time. Sayj
PS- I have a riddle for you to help figure out, if you get bored. Because I'm done trying to figure.
The Bard said…
Who said that the hypothetical situations I present in my blog necessarily relate directly to an actual show that I'm in right now? I'm enjoying your attempts to puzzle it out though. Hope you are having a great Thanksgiving break.

Hit me with that riddle sometime.
Anonymous said…
Well, thats certainly not fair now is it?! You aren't allowed to write about shows you are not currently in, I hear its againts the rules. Sigh.
Thanksgiving is good so far. Spent all day today at school, helping my mum (she teaches music). I think its trying to be hinted bluntly at me that I "need to go into music education!"
Riddle is coming... soon! Sayj
Anonymous said…
Never mind with the riddle. I think I've gotten too bored with it to figure it out. Because its not getting figured out. Anywho, hows your break so far? sj
Anonymous said…
Hey Bard,

Beautifully written, with subtle, romantic heartbreak neatly woven in. When is the last time you met with the JLAW?

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