Thesis: The Performance
Last night, over two years of work was presented to an audience. After five hours of rehearsal over two days, my thesis play was performed. It was truly incredible.
Despite being a writer, I am lost for words. It was just unbelievable. I was ridiculously nervous. The reading took place in the fancy dining room in the castle on campus. I chose a seat in the most private corner I could find, but couldn’t sit down. All day, I was exhausted and running around gathering refreshments, creating playlists (that I later forgot at home), orchestrating the dropping off of music stands, and folding programs. Everyone kept saying, “Are you excited?!” and I would mumble, “Uh, yeah, sure,” eyes still fixed on my task.
I miss my second class of the day to attend the second rehearsal. The director was stopping scenes here and there to give some instruction, and for the most part, we were completely on the same page with what each scene and character needed. Also, the actors were fantastic. They ranged in age from eighteen to twenty-eight, and they were all wonderful at all of their parts (each actor played at least two characters, and in some cases, three.) They all had different voices and accents for whomever they were playing at the moment, and even sitting in a small conference room, they were performing as though for a crowd. It was great, and it was amazing to have people treating my work like it was a real play. All of the people involved were volunteers, but that didn’t mean they were any less enthusiastic and I just watched in gratitude as they read my words with their incredible skill.
At eight, we headed over to the dining room to set up. My parents were there already with some extra refreshments, as well as thank-you trinkets for my cast and director. People started coming in and I started getting nervous. I only knew some of them; others were the parents or friends or significant others of my cast.
At 8:35, my thesis professor came to the front of the room and introduced the piece (I had asked not to.) And then it began. From the start, the actors were even more amazing than they were in rehearsals. It was so exciting.
The best part were the reactions. People laughed at the parts I had meant to be funny (and some that I suppose were, too) and when it got intense, I could feel people listening. I’ve never had that reaction to my writing, and it was amazing.
Because I’ve heard these words so often, either in my head or read by the actors, I was really paranoid that the play was boring. I was so convinced of this that when intermission was announced at the end of Act I, I was on the verge of tears. But then people started coming up to me and telling me how much they liked it so far. I felt much better as the second act commenced and the audience was responding again. I took a lot of notes- things that worked, things that didn’t, things that could be cut, etc.
When the reading ended, both the cast and I got a big round of applause. Then came the actual worst part for me: since all of these people had come for me, I needed to thank all of them. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to everyone. Those I did get to were quite enthusiastic, though. My friend Lindsay came all the way from my hometown, nearly two hours away, to see the show, and when I went to see her, she exclaimed, “It was so funny!”
I’ve gotten this comment more than once on the script, but it always startles me. While I enjoy writing comedies, and I did write certain scenes to be funny, I never considered my play- in which, at one point, my main character is sent to an insane asylum and is threatened with lobotomy- to be a comedy. But I think what this reading in particular taught me is that both comedy and intense drama can exist in the same work. Funnily enough, I have observed this in other plays, but somehow never considered it for mine. However, I don’t have a problem with it being comedic so long as the drama can exist, as well. I just want people to enjoy my work.
Now, a day after its performance, I’ve gotten great feedback. A few of my classmates have commented on mentioning their wish to do the play at our university, which would be great; my school has done quite a few new pieces since 2007, and having been in one just last semester, I know that these pieces are treated with extreme respect and care. One of my professors- the one who actually gave me the assignment that birthed this project and who is a playwright herself- said that she would give me her feedback if I wanted it. I did, because she is brilliant, and she gave me some awesome comments, both complimentary and constructive.
And here’s another amazing part: as I said good-bye to my director, he hugged me, then smiled and said, “We’re not done.”
I hope not 🙂