Culture Theatre

More to miss than opening nights

Speaking from my lifetime of 20 years, I want to assure you there is no better feeling than the one of accomplishment. Having experienced the backstage process of a theatrical production, saying this mesmerising process leaves one feeling accomplished, would be a serious understatement. Every step on the way seems challenging and every day brings a new surprise, but standing on the stage in a dazzling light after the performance and hearing the audience’s ovation, rewards for every little inconvenience.

In preparation of the play, each role is crucial, but every individual lives through this process differently. My personal experience was strictly linked to the technical and design part of the performance, as a lighting and scenography design assistant/operator. Those fancy words break down into two phases: design a visually appealing image for the stage and build actual objects from this vision in your head. The first part makes you feel like a real artist when you have those sudden concepts that by moving lights on rack three two inches to the right you’ll change misty scenery of a lazy morning to a suspenseful and gloomy evening setup. This process is creative, and developing and it truly broadens the ways you observe the world.

But then comes the second part and you feel more like a construction worker. I got a dozen wooden planks, a drill and a hammer to create a semi- transparent background for the lights to come through. I also got a ladder to do the rigging. As tiring as the process of climbing this ladder up and down to focus all the lights was, it had to be endlessly repeated when the director’s vision was different than the one of the design team. I learnt how important clear communication is, how being assertive can save a lot of troubles, but I also learnt how to fix a socket and that there are at least eight ways to fold a cable.

Moving on, there were test runs, operational system adjustment and many long hours of rehearsals. The acting we see on stage is just the tip of the iceberg. But then came on opening night, and weariness transformed into excitement and frustrations into enormous pride.

Preparation of a play is an intense time. In my case, it was four weeks of very little sleep and hectolitres of coffee. But one thing was certain – I was never alone. We worked as a team because no theatre performance could ever succeed without a disciplined and motivated group of creative and open-minded people. I find the beauty of theatrical experience in this collaboration as well. When you can share your outcome with others who put their hearts and souls into something as much as you did, it gives the greatest satisfaction and is the peak of artistic creation.

image: Becky Spiers