By Annabelle Terry
Sunday 30th January 2022
“I know we shall have reveling tonight” – Don Pedro 1.1
We have officially opened the show!
Our opening three performances at Notre Dame were electric. For all the stress, challenges and adversity that stood in our way, it was all worth it as soon as we stepped out onto that stage. To see an audience in real life again after 2 years was emotional to say the least, and they were so generous.
But before I get carried away with telling you about the performances, here’s a little about the show week prep. On Monday we moved down into Washington Hall and onto the main stage. It’s a gorgeous space with a big capacity and we spent the day adjusting vocally and physically to the space and setting up the stage with our props. For those that have never seen an AFTLS show before, you have one large suitcase to fit the whole show into; that means costumes, props, any set pieces and scripts etc. This might seem impossible, but it’s all about being savvy. For example, walking sticks that can collapse right down, boxes that can flat pack, bunting and washing lines that can coil away – with these few items alone you can change a space or a character completely. Our biggest prop is probably the ukulele I play as Balthasar – it’s bubble wrapped within an inch of its life and so far has been all good on its travels.
We spent the last few days before opening night (Wednesday) refining the show and tech-ing. All sound is made by the actors on stage so the only thing to tech is lights. Again, the simplest lighting really compliments the stripped back nature of working in this way, and so we really only have two lighting states: light and bright for Leonato’s residence and the party, and dark and moody for Don John and the villains. We also run a singing call each day to keep the music in the show in good form. Apart from a few songs on the ukulele, the rest is totally sung acapella and by this point, we are really in sync with one another. It’s really challenging singing with no accompaniment or start note, but it’s in our muscle memories now and we know the songs well enough to hear if they are a little off etc.
And then Wednesday comes around. We are all nervous and excited, still in slight shock we have made it, and above all else: we are ready. There always comes a point in rehearsal where either the cast or creatives say ‘I’m ready for an audience’ or ‘you guys just need the audience to see it now’ and they’re right – the audience is the final part of the puzzle when performing theatre. Having an audience is what makes live theatre – having their attention and time to listen to the story we are telling. And, as I mentioned earlier, it was amazing. Bearing in mind we hadn’t shown the show to anyone except once through to Scott, to hear them laughing and equally silent when they were listening was incredible.
Did things go wrong? Yes. Were they major? No. Did we have fun? Absolutely. All of the hard work, emotion, surprises and playfulness that we had stored up over the past 5 weeks was finally released to the world. We really felt that the audience were as happy to be back in a theatre watching a live performance as we were to be performing it. So much so that they leapt to their feet at the end. I will never forget that moment.
Thursday became slicker and by Friday it felt like we were really in the driver’s seat. There were many moments where I was watching the other 4 on stage and feeling overwhelmingly proud of them and to be part of this company.
This weekend we have been in Chicago before we fly to Pennsylvania on Monday to head to Bloomsburg University. Chicago is wonderful and, yes, I did get to try pizza pie which I’m sure my Italian family will either applaud or boo at when I tell them…