Actors are always nervous before a performance. Backstage at this theater is no different. It’s also still the pit I remember when I worked there years ago. It’s a narrow space with a clutter of assorted tools at one end and an assortment of painting equipment at the other. The floor looks like a rejected Jackson Pollock and the walls are a dungeon black. Lovely. In the middle of this mess is a long counter with mirrors for the actors to primp and fuss over their make up and costume. My stuff is neatly hung in a corner of the closet. When I come in I park myself on a blue metal folding chair and look over the script or run lines with Bruce my cohort in theatrics.
The backstage has no separate dressing rooms so everyone finds a spot for their stuff and changes right there. We are not a modest group but no one minds. When you spend time in front of an audience baring your soul undressing in front of fellow comrades is nothing. Because of the weirdly sensitive acoustics we must be absolutely quiet during the show as the sound carries everywhere. Everyone moves around softly and converse in whispers. It’s like being in Anne Frank’s attic -with about the same amount of tension.
For this production the actors do their own set up i.e. move furniture and props into place (there are eight short plays). This business helps dissipate any nervousness as I take my place behind a wall and wait my entrance cue.
Every actor’s worse fear is forgetting their lines. I have a good memory that usually allows me to relax a bit during a play but this piece requires a level of concentration that gives me no rest. As I feared I forget a line during rehearsal and sat there with a blank look on my face waiting for something to happen. Good thing Bruce figured this out and kept on going. Well that won’t happen again I decided, horrified. Oh well these things happen, such is life in the theater and like real life when you screw up, you just move on.