Thursday, April 12, 2007

Opening Night

Wow. Just wow. I must confess, after the sputtering starts of the first two previews, I was not expecting the show to click into gear so quickly, so thoroughly. After the performance, I intercepted several actors grousing about very minor things that went wrong -- mostly line glitches here and there. But that's what actors do; they focus on the things that went wrong, and somehow fail to miss the vast tapestry of things that went right.

So, what went right? Well, tech, for one thing. I didn't catch a single late cue. And the show's pace was amazing; transitions were sharp and tight, and energy rarely flagged within the scenes themselves. I did not hear much shuffling from the audience, even towards the end of the 2 hour running time. The ASMs got all the actors stuffed into their costumes, and all the props in their hands. And when the whip broke onstage (very thoughtfully waiting until the last moment of the last scene in which it's used), the actors grinned, went with it, and then worked together to cover it over.

But these are all the technical things. What went right in Shakespeare-land? It's difficult to quantify, but what I found was that the words and the movements always had meaning, specificity; and that the meanings were clearly and cleanly connected to the energy onstage; and that the energy was shared, it was collective, it got passed back and forth fluidly, like the rugby ball that Kieran brings to warm-ups.

You can do Shakespeare with meaning, but no energy. And you can definitely do Shakespeare with lots of energy, but very little meaning. But the pairing of the two is rare; and to have it continue throughout an entire show -- especially one with this many transitions, shifts, ups and downs -- is truly extraordinary. Considering the sheer volume of words and shapes this cast has to deliver, the fact that everything felt clear and meaningful? Miraculous.

Now, I'm not the best judge of clarity of meaning, since I've been living with the play for many months. But the feedback and the impressions that I got from the audience supported my feelings about the show. I can always tell when an audience feels delightfully surprised that they actually understood Shakespeare. They feel like they've been introduced to a whole new world of possibilities. And so they have.

So, wow. I'm hyped. I expect the energy will flag tonight -- it always does -- but by the weekend, and certainly towards the end of the run, it will be back, and probably bigger than ever. The actors will surprise themselves by going places verbally and physically that they didn't think themselves capable of. And word of mouth (not to mention the lovely spread in the Edmonton Journal yesterday) will help bring in great big audiences to share the magic.

There are aspects of this process that I'm already second-guessing. But when the product comes out looking and sounding this good, it's hard not to rest on your laurels for a bit. So that is what I'll do.

3 comments:

Finster said...

Scott, what a great show. I particularly liked the fact that all your cast seemed comfortable with the language. Where did you find all those non-professional men who can actually deliver Shakespeare. Not a weak link in the entire show! I loved the use of Tableau and the Shadow puppetry. Too often that kind of thing can seem "stagey" but it worked so well with the set and the cast really sold it. Nice work.

Melanie said...

Hurrah!

I've been following along from afar since the beginning and what a fascinating journey it has been. I'm so glad to hear you are happy with the final product, and wish I could be there to see it. It sounds amazing!

Jason said...

Congrats Scott! (and company)

I hear it is a great show! I wish I could see it. I just opened a show in toronto, but won't be able to make it back to Edmonton til June. I hope you are in town when I come through.

Jgolinsky