Viewpoints and impacts

by Caitlin O’Neill

Opening night will be upon us in a few hours. After three dress rehearsals, I think I can say we are ready. Let the audiences come in.

I will be backstage during the show, connected via headset to Taylor and the other vital crew in the tech booth. The best of all worlds, as I see it. I watch as the cast readies for their entrances. I stand by the musicians as they play, weaving together the characters’ stories and punctuating the losses and gains. And then I listen to the people speaking into my left ear, and the show comes full circle. I experience it all, slightly confused as the interactions sometimes are, like when I answer a voice from my headset and get a puzzled look from someone next to me who must think I’ve forgotten the natural progression of normal conversation.

The only aspect I cannot see is the audience, that most variable and important factor, whose nightly collective energy subtly affects the play’s composition. Their amusement can slow light cues, while their attentiveness can heighten or quicken or measure out an actor’s interactions and tones. This variability keeps the material fresh and continually engrossing.

As a stage manager, I’ve often found that some tasks just are so much different than I expect. The simple is more complicated than ever imagined and the complicated ends up being the easiest and most entertaining to complete. Time drips patiently and speeds heedlessly, all at once. I know we’ve been preparing for quite a while now—I’ve even got many of the lines memorized to prove it. Yet, didn’t we just have the first rehearsal last week, September? Weren’t those dress rehearsals supposed to happen sometime in November? We’re here already?Gestures learned, cues inputted, entrances timed, stage constructed, props located, costumes sewed, video completed, musicians practiced.

As I said, let the audiences come in. We’re ready for their impact, and to make one of our own.

1 Comment

  • Jules Odendahl-James says:


    Funny how it seems like we’ll never get to opening and then when it’s here we think how can it be show time already?! I had that thought as we sat down for Saturday night’s talk-back. Didn’t we just sit down to discuss Emma Goldman’s article about *Doll’s House*? Wasn’t it just the other day when everyone was running around the rehearsal room, tossing the ‘furniture’ on the set while Torvald/Michael pushed it back/away? So many of those little moments of discovery and study are so deeply embedded in the show, when I watch it I remember them and then sit so happy at the way they’ve grown and expanded in these performances.

    I really noticed the number of folks leaning forward in their seats during Saturday night’s performance. Ellen has mentioned the “thriller” aspect of the piece and that particular audience seemed very keyed in on the suspense, the realization that these characters were going to experience tremendous change and being on pins and needles about how they’d handle it. For a play that’s about 130 years old, it was so heartening to feel, with the audience, how new and tense it felt to them.

    I wonder, you mentioned not being able to see the audience but have you been “feeling” them too? I’ll be curious to hear how you notice the ebb and flow of response over the course of the run.

    Oh, and terrific job, you and Taylor. There are many many intricacies to calling and running this show and you both have handled them like pros. Thanks and happy 2nd week!