Opening Night: A Director's Turmoil and An Actor's Triumph

Lara Williams

  • OnStage Texas Columnist

As of the final dress rehearsal, the show was completely out of my hands. We had rehearsed for 7 weeks and it was time to show the audience what we had learned. So there we were, opening night...and then it happened; a missed cue. But the cast kept going and I don't think the audience noticed. Then a microphone gave some feedback. Uh oh, the audience would definitely notice that. Luckily that character didn't have many lines in that scene and the tech booth was able to make adjustments on the fly. But as we kept going, things kept happening to make me cringe. Someone missed a dance step, someone else came in too early on the chorus, the lights skipped a cue and went to the next scene. And there was absolutely nothing I could do. 

At intermission, my husband and the tech director tried to calm me down by reminding me that these were things I had no control over. But the most important thing they said to talk me down off the ledge was how well the cast was adapting. They were taking it all in stride and persevering. But I was too caught up in what was totally out of my control to enjoy it. In fact I got so frustrated, that I walked out of the auditorium to the lobby half way through the second act because I couldn't bear it anymore. 

In the lobby, the producers reminded me of the same things. The cast was handling it and they would be fine. But I guess it was my maternal instinct kicking in. I don't expect anyone who isn't a parent to understand, but there is this feeling when you see something going wrong for your child and you are powerless to help. That's what was happening with this cast. Some of these performers were still new to theatre. I was afraid that these little glitches were going to get into their heads and make them start doubting themselves and their capabilities. But this cast proved me wrong. They powered through all the slip-ups and technical errors and when the audience came out of the auditorium, I heard a little girl yell, "That was awesome," as she ran by to go get her picture taken with some of the cast members. That's when the spell was broken for me. That's when I realized this cast is ready to do this on their own. 

There is a reason a director's job ends when the show opens. Once there is an audience, the cast have to start problem-solving on their own. How silly would it look for me to stop a scene and fix it with an audience sitting around me? I have to trust that with everything we covered in our rehearsals, they are prepared for whatever comes their way. What started out as my own personal hell, turned out to be a victory for the cast of this show. I know now that all of our hard work over the past month and a half has paid off. They have taken ownership of this show and I could not be prouder.

Photo: Eric Y. Exit