Not Phoenix, Philly, OR Baltimo', but Rock Hill, SC. Tonight (weather permitting, the perennial parenthetical of outdoor theatre) we open. After weeks of short-handed rehearsals including a male lead with two other shows to finish up and a conference to go to that forced him (me) to miss two weeks of rehearsal, a female lead with impacted wisdom teeth and emergency oral surgery that caused her to miss rehearsals down the stretch, at least one perennially late supporting actor and a major supporting actor with a throat issue that left us scrambling for an 8th-inning save from the bullpen, we're opening tonight.
It's a good show. It's not a great show, but it's a good show. It has the potential to be a great experience, if the audience is game and comes along with us for the ride. There really is something magical about being able to look up over the lights and see stars as your backdrop. It's far from perfect - the sound is only okay, the lighting is rudimentary at best and the set isn't painted yet, but it's not just a "plucky" show. This isn't Mickey and Judy doing a little show in Dad's barn, this is a group of trained and dedicated professionals tackling the words of the greatest playwright of the English language, and it's a good show.
I'm proud of it. I'm proud that this ragtag group of our theatre community's castaway toys has come together, sucked it up, and put on a hell of a show. Most of us would never be cast in these roles in a larger theatre company. Most of us would never even be auditioned for these roles in a larger company. But here we are, doing it. No, none of us will ever take down a Tony for our work. But tonight, and for five performances after tonight, we'll make Big Will's words come alive again, for us and for the people brave enough to hang out on the grass with us, wait for the "hold for the train to pass" moments, look past the sagging backdrop, and see the beauty of theatre - that anyone can be anything, as long as they can dream it.
If it sounds like this is some kind of religious experience, it's because it is. This is my church. Opening night and closing night are my High Holy Days. There's a moment you get, when you sit in a theatre (or in our case, on the stage on a parking deck) after everyone has left, whether they clapped, cried or didn't care, that's a peace like I've never felt anywhere else. There's a feeling I get when I know I've done it right, or at least as right as my meager talents will allow. I'm exhausted, drained, sore. I feel an empty place inside where all the emotion, sound and fury of the character and the action was, that I left it all out on the stage. I feel a satisfaction all the way down to my toes, a sense of sublime accomplishment, and a yearning for it not be over just yet. That's my holiest moment. If you're around, come visit. You can sit on the stage with me and share it.