The sound of hushed whispered intermingles with the rustle of bodies rushing back and forth, while figures dressed all in black pace the floor as they spit out anxious directions into their headsets. The tension seems almost palpable tonight; months of sleepless nights, sweat, tears and injuries have brought everyone to this moment; Opening Night.
“Shhhh! The house is open.”, hisses the stage manager, Kelly, as the actors rush to their
places, trying to finish up their earlier conversations, and mumbling their apologies as
they go. “And stay out of sight lines!”
The actors file into their places behind the black curtains, often called legs or teasers, that line the side edges of the stage. It is important for the actors to stay close to these curtains in order to remain hidden from the view of the audience. This is standard procedure in the theater, but a particular pet peeve of the director, who has been hassling the actors about is for weeks now.
The walk back through the wing is like navigating a maze filled with various pieces of furniture and members of cast and crew, and doing so by the glow of a solitary blue lightbulb. The atmosphere seems to inspire the rise in heart rate beating inside everyone’s chest. Everything must go perfectly tonight; there is no room for error, no time for mistakes.
An audible gasp echoes down through the wing, followed by exclamations of shock and surprise from the bystanders in the wings.
“Shit!” whispers Matt, watching as the wardrobe fails to open apart on stage.
“What happened?” Kelly shouts into her headset, from which Evan’s reply can be heard.
“The clasp on the inside of the one wall was still locked. Whoever was supposed to unlock it must have forgotten.”
“Well that’s just perfect,” Kelly clips back, her response dripping with sarcasm.
Backstage the green room is already buzzing with the news as clusters of people throughout the room talked excitedly in hushed tones. Harrison, Rachel, RJ and Leigh Anna, who play the Pevensie children, hurriedly rush through the green room obviously frazzled by the mishap out on stage.
Later on Sydney asks Rachel, “Hey, so what was it like out there when that all happened?”
Rachel recounts the the feelings of anxiety that ensued inside the wardrobe saying, “It was nerve wracking because none of us knew what was going on, but the crew moving the wardrobe was obviously freaking out because something had gone wrong.”
While the stress from onstage was starting to get to everyone, the offstage stresses weren’t helpful either. The atmosphere of the green room was suffocating; jam packed with people filling every open space; chairs squeezed in between tables and into corners, a couch piled high with actors in furry costumes, and blankets, backpacks and the bodies of sleepy seatless individuals filling the floor.
Everyone has been instructed to remain as quiet as possible throughout the show, however, silence can only be kept for so long, especially when two particularly rambunctious ten year olds are involved.
“Harrison! Stop poking me!” Leigh Anna squeals amid her giggles. Harrison continues
poking at her, laughing all the while. “I’m going to get you.” she cries, turning around to
chase after him.
“Never!” Harrison shouts back, scampering away, barely missing her grasp.
Suddenly the all heads turn towards the two as a third, and far less enthusiastic, member joins the party. Hannah, a costumer, who works alongside the crew; leans towards the children. “You two need to shut up!” she shouts, seethingly , “I have told you a million times to be quiet. I am not your babysitter. I am not your mom. I will not tell you again. Stop talking!”
At that the volume of the room plummets to complete silence. No one dares to speak out of shock to what has all taken place, and fear that they too might incite the wrathful reprimanding of Hannah. Some in the cast, however, sought solitude upstairs; away from the madness, in the dressing rooms. Between these four, tiny mirrored walls many interesting, and potentially offensive conversations began.
“I swear if I hear her talk about feakin’ Manga one more time I’m going to lose it.” Marion
whines, “I just cannot even stand to be around all these people.”
“Yeah, seriously.” Kristin replies, “And also, being around these little kids is driving me crazy. I’ve never really wanted to kids, but this just makes me sure that I don’t want them.”
“Hey can someone zip me up?” Sydney hollers from across the room.
“Sure thing.” says Marion as she strides towards her.
The intercom system that runs from the stage to the green room and dressing rooms crackles on. The fuzzy sounds of the actors talking on stage echoes through the speaker. “Ration books if you please.” demands Annette, who portrays Mrs. McCready, in a strained British accent.
“Oh gosh, we’re up soon.” gasps Sydney as she looks towards Kristin. The two turn quickly on their heels and scurry out the door.
Back in the wings Emily, who plays the White Witch, prepares to make her grand entrance on stage on a impressive black sleigh, covered in hot glue drippings that mimic icicles. Hidden in a secret compartment on the sleigh are a tray of Turkish Delight and a goblet filled with dry ice, which will look quite cool from the perspective of the audience.
It is nearly time to go out on stage, but a crucial piece is missing; Trey, the actor who plays the role of the Witch’s dwarf, Grumpskin. The panic is evident in Emily’s voice as she tries desperately to get the attention of one of the crew members.
“Kelly! Gabby!” she whispers as loudly as possibly, “Go find Trey. He’s not here and we’re about to go on!”
“He does this every time,” moans Kelly in frustration, “I swear if he does this one more time I’m going to beat his ass.”
Meanwhile Gabby had run backstage, and was returning with Trey, a Narnian dwarf with a long beard, speckled grey like salt and pepper, dressed in leather pants and boots, with a blue shirt belted with a thick piece of leather strung with mink pelts. He hurriedly waddles along towards the sleigh, while tugging at his pants trying to keep them from falling down.
“Trey, you cannot keep doing that.” Emily scolds, “You need to be here in time. You’re stressing me out.”
“I’m sorry. I will.” he replies solemnly
“It’s all good dude, just pay attention,” she says, then the tone in her voice heightens “Get ready, we need to be out on stage.”
Onstage there is a strange sense of adrenaline. The monotony of lines rehearsed and repeated for weeks is suddenly sparked by the responsiveness of the audience. The sweat, tears and exhaustion that led up to this point are now purposeful as they helped to achieve something far greater. Feeding off the energy of the audience the actor’s passion for their craft is reignited.
“Crack!” The sound impact between hand and cheek as the White Witch brings a slap across Edmund’s face. An audible gasp echoes through the audience mingled with several shrieks of surprise and murmurings of awe. Hearing the crowd react so noticeably to a cleverly crafted optical illusion nearly brings a smile of satisfaction to Emily’s face. However, she quickly regains her composure, tightening her facial muscles and tensing her jaw; snapping back into character, hopefully before anyone will notice her slip-up.
Mistakes are being hidden both onstage and off. In the girls dressing room the topics of conversation are the altercations of last night’s “unofficial cast party.” Two particular stories are circulating throughout the entire cast.
“Marion did you hear about Evan?” giggles Sydney.
“No. What happened?” she asks curiously.
“Well, let’s just say he was caught tongue in cheek with the French TA Marie, you know the one with the long, copper colored hair, who works with the costumes?”
“Oh my gosh, really? That’s so gross.”
“I guess you could say she was teaching him how to French kiss,” snickers Kristin.
“Ew!” They all squeal.
The door hinges creak as the heavy solid wood door is slowly opened, and then out from behind it peeks Kelly’s head, covered in richly colored red and strawberry blond. She steps into the room quietly pressing the door shut behind her.
“Are you guys talking about the party last night?”
“Yeah, we were,” chuckles Sydney, “Why, what’s up?”
“Is anyone in there?” Asks Kelly, motioning towards the bathroom. Sydney walks over and peers inside.
“Nope, no one in here just us.”
“Okay, I’ve gotta tell you guys this then. So you know how Matt and Kendall were out of it.”
“Yeah, but Matt is always wasted, and high.” Marion chimes in.
“Well that’s not all they were. Matt took ecstasy too, and Kendall did coke.”
“Oh my god, are you serious?” Shouts Kristin, “That’s freakin’ stupid. Why the hell would they do that?”
“I have no idea. Just don’t say anything to anyone else.” And with that Kelly turns on her heels and strides back out through the door.
“Gosh, I can’t believe that they would do something so dumb. I mean maybe Matt, but Kendall doing coke…that’s crazy.” Sydney sighs. The other girls murmur in agreement. The intercom system crackles to life again carrying the sounds from downstairs through the room. “We’ve got to be down there for the next scene.” The clicking of high heels taps across the cement floor as the three girls shuffle down the hallway.