reposted with permission from the Folger Theatre Blog
“But it’s soooo eeeearly!”
“This is ungodly.”
“Oh, no…I’m going to need a nap!”
“Is there coffee?”
And so it goes…
It’s a student matinee of our Romeo and Juliet at the Folger Theatre and our call is practically the butt crack of dawn. We have to be at the theatre no later than ELEVEN o’clock. I mean, in the MORNING! What?!
What is this, Prison?
See, a bunch of actors naturally gravitate to later and later bedtimes. We don’t crash at the median of the group, we all push our bedtimes later so that we go to bed towards the time the person who goes to bed last goes to bed. For me, that’s a little before 4am. Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds. We come down at 10:30 at night, amped on that show adrenaline, we calm down, have a drink or two, nosh a bit, catch up on sports news, maybe play some cards and then I go upstairs to my room to get a bit of work done. (I’m currently writing an opera and a play.)
Which all works out swimmingly. My earliest call for most matinees is 1:30.
But not STUDENT matinees.
Don’t you totally feel sorry for us actors?
Now, the upside:
Because, I guess, the theatre understands the eye-blearingly earliness of the hour, they provide bagels, croissants and muffins at these matinees. And coffee. There’s always coffee.
And the kids are fantastic.
No, really. Fantastic!
I have been in shows where we had to dodge skittles, M&M’s, spitballs, and (at worst) pennies flying in from the student audience. I have heard slurping sounds coming from the audience during a kiss. I’ve heard two comments from the same kid before and during a sword fight. The first, “They’re just a bunch of sweet boys in tights…” Which, admittedly, entertained not only the audience around him, but the actors as well. The second, after an early head swipe with a rapier, “Nope, they serious…” I have been surrounded by 1,100 students while doing a production of “The Scottish Play” in the round (at 10:30) and when they decided to converse, we had a tough time hearing each other.
But these groups? These groups are heavenly.
I don’t know if it’s the relatively small size of the theatre, the quality of the production, or the intrinsic good manners of these particular students, but they are a joy to play for. And not just because they aren’t making it hard, but because they make it so easy.
These are groups who laugh out loud when something is funny (sometimes adult audiences have to be convinced it’s all right to laugh – after all, this is a tragedy.) The kids are involved in the drama when it arises. (After all, every play is a comedy, until the play can’t hold it anymore. Maybe more on that in a later blog.) These have been my favorite audiences we’ve played to…just joyful and appreciative and open and, let’s be honest, some of them don’t even know how the play turns out.
I have a friend who was going to see a production of All’s Well That Ends Well and he’d never seen it, so he decided to read it first. He’s an actor who’s done a good number of Shakespeare’s plays so I reacted to this news, “Are you crazy?” After all, here he had one of his final chances to see a play written by Shakespeare as if it were a “new” (at least to him) play. Plays, after all, are written to be performed, not read (or at least not read silently). These audiences get to watch Romeo & Juliet, probably for the first time. Now, of course the vast majority of them know the story…but the language spoken by professionals has got to be a first for that same vast majority.
And they have been wonderful.