Dress Rehearsal

There’s something magical about a dress rehearsal. Yesterday, I was invited to Fishamble’s dress rehearsal of ‘Tiny Plays for Ireland’. At the end of last year, Fishamble asked for scripts of no more than 3 minutes from the general public that spoke to the contemporary situation of Ireland. Originally, Fishamble was going to write or commission a new play about the banking crisis themselves (they were going to write a play about Anglo-Irish bank, which in 2007, I think, was described by some important people – great with the facts, Jen – as ‘the best bank in the world’. Its estimated, from a hugely reputable source… oh, ok, just another web page, that Anglo-Irish will cost the Irish taxpayer 90 billion Euro over the next 20 years due to its debts that the Irish nation took over. Hence, Fishamble would call the play, highly ironically,’The Best Bank in the World’, which I think is the BEST NAME EVER for a play). However, they decided that put a bit too much pressure on one playwright (sum up the whole crisis! In two hours! And give us all the details! And make it entertaining! And give it a message! And make it speak to all the different people in the nation! And give us a sense of closure! And give us our voices back! etc.) So, instead, they decided to do this ‘Tiny Play’, which allowed a variety of people to express how they feel about contemporary Ireland in general. They got 1700 scripts (!!!!), which the Literary Manager likened to reading War and Peace. From that, they culled it down to 44 scripts. They were originally only going to do one season of 22 scripts, but there were so many, they’re doing two seasons. The first one is on now, the second will be on later in the year.
Anyway, that’s all the background to the dress rehearsal yesterday. Not that any of it really matters, its just for your interest. The real wonderful thing was just being in a proper theatre again, experiencing a dress rehearsal. I’m all for site-specific and using different spaces in unique ways etc. etc. but I can’t deny how much I love a traditional theatre space. And there’s something really magic about a dress rehearsal in a traditional theatre space. Of course, its very exciting when you’re an actor, and its the first time you get to wear your costume for the first time (probably my favourite thing about acting is getting a costume. I could lie and tell you all sorts of noble reasons why one should act, but, honestly, that was the thing that really always excited me about acting. ‘You mean, I get to play dress-ups even though I’m no longer a kid? How can I get involved with this??’), and the set is there, and the lights are on, and you finally get to go through the whole show and see how many of those lines you actually remember. But, I think it might even be more exciting to be on the outside. Well, it certainly was yesterday. I didn’t have anything to do. I was just a spectator, so that was relaxing. I could sit and watch all the excitement that was going on around me. So many people are involved in a professional theatre production. There was the stage manager, the lighting designer, the set designer, the costume desigers, the lighting assistant, the sound designer, the director, the production manager from the office, the man taking promotional photos, the man making a promotional video and all the writers whose work was chosen. All of them, sitting in the audience, watching intently. Some taking notes on things that had to change, some of them following the script, ‘on the cans’. Everyone focused so intently on the stage, on the actors, making sure everything goes to plan. There’s a buzz in the room, a slight edge, or tension, because its the first time everything is coming together, its the first time you get to see if its all going to work. The first time you see what show you have. By the time the audience is in a few days later, the edge is usually gone. There’s still a buzz, but, by this time, most problems should be ironed out, there’s a routine, people have settled into the show. The designers aren’t around, they’ve finalised their designs, the writers have gone as well, or they’re hidden amongst the rest of the ‘usual’ audience.
Apart from that, attending the dress rehearsal always feels like a privilege, because you would have been chosen as a friendly audience member, someone who won’t mind if things go wrong, or who would be interested in seeing the behind-the-scenes process, or who may be able to give valuable feedback. For all of those reasons, going to the dress makes you feel special, makes you feel like you belong.
I think also, the dress reminds me of all those years in Young People’s Theatre, all those happy hours of sitting in the theatre in Hamilton, of knowing everyone involved in the show, from them lighting designer to the front of house volunteer, from the stage manger to the littlest munchkins. Of considering most of those people as my friends. The dress rehearsal for a show at YPT was usually the start of the school holidays and took most of the weekend. We’d wander down to Hamilton in between runs and get lunch or dinner, pides, Subway, Chinese, chocolate, lollies, whatever. Come back to the theatre singing and dancing and generally annoying the rest of the neighbourhood (though considering we were teenagers and could have been drunked/drugged hooligans if we felt like it, they probably got off easily). Going to a dress reminds me of that happy anticipation: of the school holidays, the start of a show, of spending two weeks in a theatre with friends. There’s nothing like it.
Yes, there’s something really magical about the dress. 

Found at http://dsata.blogspot.com/2011/02/actresses-and-looking-glass-2.html

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