Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Opening Day/Night

It is always rewarding to see your work come to life. From page to stage, the costumes have breathed life into the actor's characters. It is rewarding but exhausting. I always feel as though I have just been struck by a train on opening day. It doesn't matter if the show is slightly behind and we are scrambling with the details on the costumes or we are casually cleaning the costume shop, I will always be exhausted.

I am not going to say that the show hasn't had its hitches. For the most part, these hitches haven't been on the part of the costumes. The Grapes of Wrath is a dark show--I MEAN DARK. Not the writing but the lights. Our lighting designer was a student and it was his first design. New designers, any designer--me as well, will always go whole hog and create some visually artistic crap and justify our choices with self serving bull----. (A friend of mine calls it mental masturbation. A disturbing phrase but it gets the point across.) This may or may not be our intent but it can get in the way of the story itself. When that happens, look out because those newbies will fight tooth and nail to preserve their work. The fight is a noble one but often times the greater good is overlooked: Making the audience believe.

So our first dress rolls around and I am fairly confident in what we have done. I know there will be more to do but you can always add costume elements in but you can not always remove them. The lights came up and I couldn't see a single bit of distressing on the costumes let alone see the actors' faces. "This", I say to myself, "is bad." And so more distressing goes on for the second dress rehearsal. Who knew that Vaseline could make sweat stains more believable? Now this dress rehearsal goes well with one exception--The set contains a 45 degree rake! Not only a rake but one the actors are blocked to walk up after "dippin" in the river. Yes, real water. One actor falls, then another and finally someone else slips. I am beyond freaking out. The director is not calling a "HOLD" and neither is the stage manager. I vocalize, rather loudly, that we need to stop but either no one heard me or I was being ignored. We as designers, directors and crew need to make sure that the actors are always kept safe. So much rides on these actors.They stand at a unique precipice where they invite the audience in and ask them to believe in the magic that has been created by a handfull of designers and technicians. Truly, the success of a show is won or lost by how the audience reacts to them. If one of them is hurt during a performance, it can ultimately hurt the show. It not only takes the audience out of the world that was created by reminding them they are in a theatre but the actor may have to be replaced. When that happens it changes the entire dynamic of the play because different actors act and react in very different ways. It is essentially a different show.

I have come to accept over the years that there can be NO riff between actors and technicians. Everyone's job is dependent on the other's--we must always have the same goals and do it safely. Yes, there are some actors who are more demanding backstage than others but their job takes them to a very vulnerable place and they trust that everything is safe--even if it may not be.

Final dress was better. A little paint on the costumes because the poor set designer doesn't have enough help to complete what he would like to do in the amount of time he would like to accomplish it. And so the paint wasn't sealed and it got on the costumes--a few I could care less about but one wound up with a creative dirt mark I hope the adjudicator will think is brilliant.

It is done and it doesn't belong to me anymore. It is theirs...and yours...and eventually, it will be a memory. For me the memory begins tomorrow at 5 a.m. when I head to the airport.