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Hightower Delivers On Opening Night

Mar 05, 2016 10:40AM ● Published by Ron Wilkie


The jitters are gone. Opening night for The Hightower Detective Agency at the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre has come and gone. The costumes looked great, the actors were spot on, the pace was lively and the crowd was great.

This director’s jitters ended within moments of lights up last night. Sam fainted into Jason’s arms, he set her on the love seat and she flopped face down; enter a good healthy laugh by the patron audience and away we go. Last night’s audience laughed at every one liner and every funny moment written into the script. Opening night tends to be a ‘theater’ group. Former or current actors, directors, crew and longtime patrons of the performing arts. They got it, and that was satisfying.

If the opening night audience reacts the way your mind’s eye expected, success. There really should have been no doubt about the success of this show. Dan sent me the script to peruse almost 2 years ago, the rough draft was funny and every subsequent edition to the final product got funnier and more precise. The cast is solid. We chose actors that have a history of shining brightly when the theater lights up with butts in the seats and the new people were a pleasant surprise from beginning to end.

Loving this story is easy. It is written by local talent Dan Landsness. There are no wasted scenes or dialogue. Every scene builds to the next scene and culminates in the climatic discovery of who done it. There are protagonists who win over unscrupulous antagonists, there are quirky bit characters to laugh at, there is a self-deprecating hero, a loyal yet developing side kick, a benefactor that keeps the ship afloat and the boy gets the girl.

My role for this one is Director, one I’ve assumed many times in the last 3 years. Directing a show is akin to parenthood. From conception to infancy, toddler, primary education and eventually to self-sustaining adult. A theater production takes on a life of its own and the director worries about their baby for the entire life of the production.

Conception, it is a story or script, the black empty stage that your imagination must fill in the look of the set, the positioning or blocking of the cast and what kind of properties will need to be begged borrowed and bought. Included in conception is recruiting your support crew. Producer, Stage Manager, House Manager, Set Builder, Prop Master, etc. Unlike real life where conception occurs suddenly, and with any luck a climactic moment, the conception of a good play takes weeks or months to occur.

Infancy to adulthood however, is not 18 to 24 years it is about a 3month process. It begins with choosing a cast to tell the story and ends with letting go on opening night. The process of looking for talent either developed or raw and everything in between comes in multiple forms; cattle calls, recruiting, and begging mainly. The hard part is not finding the perfect person to play a part, the hard part is the balance between coaching the actor your vision for a character and letting them developed the character on their own. Some are great at it, others want to be directed and most fall somewhere in the middle. It is like raising a child, except this for 3 months verses a life time.

Be it only for 3 months or for a lifetime, letting your actors go on opening night is akin to watching your kids leave the nest. You are hopeful that they are prepared and capable, but you are nervous until success is assured.

Opening night jitters is a real thing, whether it is for actors, or stage hands, technicians or Directors jitters stay with you until the lights come up, then they magically disappear. Personally, I think jitters are a good thing. The adrenalin creates energy, and without energy a performance is less appealing. Directing the energy received from a little fear can enhance a performance. The only time it does not, is if a performer allows the fear to consume or paralyze them. You’ve most likely seen it before, the deer in the headlights look. Preparation and repetition are the best ways to cure the jitters, but nothing beats the sound of an approving audience.

This is the World Premiere of a wonderful story, we are truly blessed that Dan chose our theatre to debut his baby and I’m proud to have had the opportunity with Diane Rabehl to direct this classic funny Who Done It.

Great seats are available for the remainder of the run.

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