My First Matinee

Jennifer Butler

There was so much that I had to get used to as a first-time actor in a main stage community theatre production. It was pretty nerve-wracking because I was not in on things right from the start and realized that I could be seen on the stage when the lights come up. I was getting measured for costumes instead of being the one doing the measuring. I had to figure out and actually learn the music and the choreography. 

After 2 months of rehearsals and countless run-throughs of the show, nothing prepared me for our last performance, which happened to be a matinee. And it was the word matinee that threw me off. This particular show ran for only one weekend and all of our rehearsals and tech week took place in the evenings. At the start of opening night, I was not nervous about the performance itself, I was instead fearful about being able to see into the audience and recognize the faces that I knew. 

After the first performance, I thought I had it all figured out. I knew what blackouts I needed to cross the stage in and relieved that the stage lights were bright enough that I could not see into the audience. So, when it came to the Sunday matinee and the stage lights came up, the house was still bright enough for me to see into the audience. I freaked out, especially once I stepped onto the stage and quickly realized that I knew the faces in the entire front row. This theatre company in particular holds their performances at a church and although they tried their best to darken the house, it was a bright sunny day in August and the sun came in around the edges of the windows anyway.

Initially, I did not think that performing in a matinee would be all that different than performing in the evening but now I have the experience to know that that is not the case. Being an actor in a matinee was one of those things that hit me with the “oh I am an actor now and this changes the way I think about the production and this particular performance”. During the show itself, it was so hard to know if the blackout was actually occurring. We as actors knew that it was supposed to be there but because of the sunlight it was hard to tell If it was okay to cross the stage because no matter when we went, we were going to be visible to the audience. I don’t think the hesitation and the delay interrupted the story being told too much but it did add to the timing and length of the performance.

For some of the seasoned actors that I was working with, I am sure they did not have the same issue that I did. It probably did not phase them too much. I freaked out because it was one more thing that I had to worry about as a first-time actor but it just goes to show that with experience you can do so much more with ease.

Photo: LA Opera