What Success Looks Like
I’d be lying if I said everyone didn’t look a little bedraggled. A collective weariness is in the air, but also a sense of accomplishment. At the post-preview meeting, director Melia Bensussen stays positive, while keeping the team always looking ahead. Even though there was an audience tonight, the play is not done.
“That first part of Act II Scene 3 felt wonky to me… the tempo was off,” Melia points out. “When we start shaving time off these transition cues, it’ll be great!”
The assembled crew stays attentive, talking out how to speed up scene changes and keep the pace moving. Doorbell cues will come earlier. Costume changes will be made more routine.
Every theatre production has kinks to work out; what’s different in a world premiere is that no one has ever had to work out these particular kinks before. Ever. Thousands of productions of thousands of plays have had doorbell cues, but this particular doorbell sets up an entrance of a character that, before tonight, had never been seen. Ever. And that entrance launches a heart-stopping scene whose drama had never been witnessed by any audience. Ever. If the team can get that doorbell pacing just right, everything changes. Simple issues take on a certain intrepid quality.
Intrepid seems a fitting word for the evening. “Welcome, intrepid theatregoers," began artistic director Charles Towers’ curtain speech earlier, before the show (yet another snowstorm was moving through the area, and the courageous audience had still shown up). And they had come to see a never-before-seen play, still undergoing change.
The playwright, director, designers all watched from the back of the theatre. They kept one eye on the stage and one eye on the audience, to see their reactions. At intermission, some huddled in the back few seats, eager to share observations.
Later, at the post-show discussion with the audience, Melia would point out that “there were new lines added today. You saw and heard things today that were added two hours ago.” Yes, even the script itself is in the process of changing. Some subplots may be made more prominent before Sunday, some lines are being cut. This evening’s audience was intrepid in many ways.
As the meeting wraps up, people seem a bit more charged up, ready to take on what’s ahead. “I don’t know if we’re finished,” says Melia, “but we’re through.” At least for tonight.
Oceanside has had its first performance! The audience’s feedback was very, very positive. Now there are rows of seats full of dedicated (and sleepy) theatre artists. For a first preview, this is what success looks like.