Peeking Behind the Curtains
The director, cast, and the crew all knew that a brilliant, dramatic performance would help ensure that they earned enough money during the “Evening of Theater” to improve the quality of stage props and costumes for their up-coming spring musical. The pressure was on to do their best.
The nerves began kicking-in for the actors and crew the week prior to the opening night. Junior Jelly Steele, the stage manager, stressed that “two nights before the play the actors had not perfected their lines, and [the stage crew] had too much to get done before opening night.” There were lines to be committed to memory, seams to be mended on costumes, lighting to be perfected, and the stage to be transformed into The Debutante New York fashion office. Junior Melanie Cooper, who played Charity Barnes, admitted “it became difficult to focus on anything but the play.”
Fortunately, during the two months of rehearsals, the cast and crew created an enduring bond. This bond was nurtured by the director, Barry Woodruff who allowed the actors time during rehearsals to improvise their characters and to go off script. This provided the cast and crew with many unexpected, humorous moments. Laughter was the glue that bonded them closely and helped drive them to put on their best performance possible. They often left rehearsals tired, but gratified by the progress they had made in realizing their individual characters and playing off one another.
When the curtains finally lifted on opening night, typewriters, old telephones, and fountain pens graced the eyes of the audience, and took them back to the year 1960. The transformation was completed as the actors entered dressed in the garb of the era.
As the night went on, this comedy with its witty lines and clever sarcasm brought roars of laughter from the audience. However, there was little laughter in the scene backstage. The crew was experiencing nerve-wracking, opening night jitters. They huddled in fear when one of the leading actors tripped and plunged across the stage as he entered his scene, but a sigh of relief went up among the crew when the actor fell in character and remained unharmed. The audience believed the Rock N’ Roll character was just entering the office set in a drunken style which fit his character. It was not until the actors met with the audience, at the end of the play, that they confessed that this was a literal slip-up. This was just one way that Woodside’s actors turned any unplanned happenstances into humorous entertainment.
The larger than life characters had the audience clapping for more and shouting congratulations and praise for a scintillating performance. The actors had to eventually come down from this performance high and exhilaration. With all this unspent energy the boys got quickly changed and blasted rap music while the girls slowly dragged their feet to woefully remove their beautiful costumes.
As the actors wound down, the focus of their conversation shifted from the exhilarating passed performance to anticipation of the next production, the spring musical.
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