It's always like this the day before we open.
That mixture of anxiety and exitement, complete fear and relaxed confidence, the contraditions of performance I always associate with the color orange.
Maybe it's because that's the color of our logo. Maybe it's because of the hot stage lights or the electricity of bright orange. It makes me think of stomach acid, jitters, noisy crowds.
We go into that huge space, that enormous theater, and where it used to feel foreign and gorgeous, out of our frame of reference and intimidating, now it's another theater. Another place we go where we try to make a bunch of people laugh and get to know the people backstage helping to put it together. It's just another home for us, a place where we'll wait for what seems like days backstage for our cues, where we'll stand nervously in the wings before each entrance, where we'll try to do it right, top ourselves, just be funny as we can.
This has been a weird show. We've had a lot of unfocused energy, diffused by the unrelenting summer heat, hindered by conflicting schedules and concurrent projects.
One of our original members is moving to L.A. after this show. Others of us have talked about a phantom "next show" we'll do, but no one really seems sure what that will be. In any case, it won't be until sometime next year, so for 2001, this is it.
Two nights. A beautiful theater. A crowd we hope will be as boisterous and hungry for entertainment as the people I sat with last week when I watched John Leguizamo perform in the very same space.
There are headaches, and rehearsals that never seem to end, no matter how much time we waste. There are sound glitches and the occasional lost line. Sometimes things we think are hilarious fall flat.
But then there are the times when we're rocked by an audience, the force of their reaction a blast back from what we're throwing out there. There was a moment, I don't remember if it was last year or the festival the year before when we were doing our big final dance number in a sketch called "Greasers." There's a place in that where we all hit a pose at the same time, and I remember it locking perfectly in place, eight sets of feet hitting their mark. We ended that skit better than we ever had before and the applause on the final note was deafening. I remember wondering if it could get any better than that or if we'd hit a peak.
The day before a show, the rest of the world seems to go away. You feel like you do when you play hooky from school. Like the rest of the world is still going, playing by its rules, and instead you're eating lunch at an odd hour, killing time between tech rehearsals. You're putting on this show, and for as much sweat and stress that's involved, it's still playtime. It's still dressing up, telling jokes, acting silly, trying to win people over, get them to double over with laughter.
It still feels like a dreamworld where we make the rules. We as a group decide what's funny, what works, where we'll go. We rehearse, film parts of our show to project on a huge screen, lock down the lines, the blocking, the gestures and sound cues, the lights, the props, the tables and chairs to be moved on and off. And when we open, we're letting all these people into our world. It's not ours anymore. The little jokes we've been keeping to ourselves for the last two months now belong to all of them.
Tonight, Thursday evening, I'm looking ahead 18 hours, thinking that it's nice to have this little window, this little space of time, where it still belongs to us. Where no one but us has seen the video introduction that I wrote and Nick shot and edited. Where nobody knows what we're going to say about Jenna Bush. Where only we know what Raul's "Funeral" sketch is about.
Months of work. 18 hours to go.
"Yeah, hi. God here. Just wanted to let you know I'm watching. No, it's cool. Keep doing what you're doing. Don't mind me."