One of the first shows I was in was Kiss Me Kate. The opening lyrics to the musical are “Another op’nin, another show”. I have sung that to myself on every opening night for every show I’ve been in since high school. It’s my own little tradition I have adopted.
But what is so important about opening night (besides presents and cast parties)?
It’s the first time people outside of the production will get to see the production. The first time the show will be performed for an audience, and that is really what the show is about . No matter what, theatre is for the audience.
Theatre needs an audience. It has been that way since the days of the ancient Greek theatre and will continue to be that way until theatre is not longer a relevant art form. Theatre is not theatre until it is a share experience between actors and audience.
Every time I open a show I am reminded of that. During rehearsals and run throughs a show is one thing. When an audience is added the show takes on a different feel. The energy of the audience feeds the cast as they perform, giving the show life beyond what it can achieve in rehearsals. Midsummer’s was no exception. The plateau I thought we had hit in rehearsals was broken during opening night.
That is why I love having an audience. The show becomes something different, something of itself in that time and place.
That is also why every performance of a certain production is different. With a different audience the energy is different, the reaction is different, and the dynamic is different.
I have done shows where one night the audience will be extremely energetic, and that energy will move its way onto the stage. The next night I will swear that the whole audience has gone comatose and the actors will become almost tentative with their performance.
The magic of theatre lies in the the actual being “in the room where it happens”. Theatre does not happen in front of an audience on a screen. The audience and the performers are literally in the same room sharing the same experience in real time.
That is the magic.