Growing up, I always had a passion for theatre and the arts. Starting in fourth grade, I participated in community theatre in my hometown. I continued through high school, at which point I even auditioned for (and got into) my high school show. Even though theatre life is no longer a daily occurrence for me, I still have fond memories of growing up in that world. There are some things about theatre life that never leave you.
The first part of any show is obviously auditioning for a role. This is arguably the most nerve-wracking part as well because it's your first experience with that particular show with a specific group of people. You worry constantly about how prepared you are, if you're dressed appropriately, if your vocal warm-ups helped... the list goes on. It's just like trying out for any other activity. No matter how much you prepare, you'll still be nervous.
Remembering To Pack Everything
Once you're cast and rehearsals are underway, you need to make sure you bring all the necessary materials. Scripts and music, as well as appropriate shoes/dance clothes. There's always an off day where you forget something, and while it's frustrating, it helps you be more prepared for next time.
This aspect was always most frustrating when I did my high school show. Yes, there was enough time to go home to get something if necessary, but I didn't want to make that extra trip.
Late Night Rehearsals
This should be a given, but I still feel it should be included. As you get further into production, rehearsals go much later into the evening. Usually, you have downtime in between to do homework and catch up with friends, but there's only so much you can do with people constantly running by.
There were days when I'd get to school at 7 a.m. and would not leave until past 7 p.m.
Trying To Remember The Blocking
With each new rehearsal comes new blocking, staging, and choreography. In addition to new points from the director, he or she may want to modify blocking from a previous scene. As you move along, you'll also have to account for scenery and props being added. This was especially hard when I was an understudy for my senior show. Not only did I have to remember the blocking for my main role, I needed to make sure I knew what to do for the other, much larger role.
When it's finally time to get into costumes, it can be a lengthy process. Firstly, there's a good chance that the first outfit you receive will be modified and changed countless times. During the show, there will be endless quick changes, trying to make sure you're set to run back on stage. These changes are usually 90 seconds or less, so you'd better learn to HUSSLE.
Body Mics/Mic Tape
Body mics are the bane of every actor's existence, for many reasons:
A. There's never a guarantee they'll work.
B. They're constricting and intrusive.
C. They're fragile, so take extra precaution when they're going on/off.
D. Mic tape is the WORST. It never sticks when you need it to, but becomes as strong as steel when it's time to take it off.
The best analogy I can think of for this is Halloween. It's the end of the night, you're dressed up as a character, and all the hair gel and makeup have to come off. It took you forever when you were a 7-year old zombie, and it'll take you forever now. Even male actors need basic face makeup.
Basically, if you think you're done scrubbing the makeup off, you're not. Try again. You're almost there.
Remembering Your Props
If you have multiple props, it can be difficult to remember what you need for each scene that you're in. More than that, you have to remember to put everything back in the proper place when you're done. Doing so will make the stage manager's life so much easier.
Trying to navigate backstage can be a struggle. Many theatres have their backstage spaces filled with necessary scenery, tables of props, and tech equipment. In addition, the stage crew waits backstage to help things go at a smooth pace. Many actors also are backstage, preparing for their next scene (see costume changes) or waiting for a cue line.
If that weren't enough, it's also dark backstage. You're also expected to be quiet, as to not turn attention away from the performance. If you think navigating all the aforementioned obstacles quietly and in the dark is easy, you're simply not human.
New Friendships To Be Formed
As with any group activity, you're bound to make amazing new friends. I met countless new friends while doing community theatre, many of whom I still keep in contact with. Having similar interests will definitely bring people together.
Selling The Show
From the first week of rehearsals, it always seems that the directors are pushing you to sell the show. Flyers are hung all over town, social media is full of photos and "sneak peek" videos, and fundraisers are being planned. It's worth it in the end, though, because your hard work pays off in front of a packed auditorium.
Opening Night Jitters
Aside from auditioning, opening night is the most intense moment for many actors. Even the most seasoned performers will tell you this. When the lights come up and you see hundreds of people watching, you can feel overwhelmed. But, just like every other time, you take a breath and do what you came to do.
So. Many. Photos.
After each show, you can anticipate countless photo-taking opportunities. Friends and family want to celebrate your performance, and the production staff needs photos for the school website. On a more personal level, you're going to want photos for yourself so you can remember all you put into these performances.
Social Media Memories
Considering this is the digital era, it should come to no surprise that many photos end up online. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat all become flood grounds for photos after a show opens. This doesn't only apply to the actual cast members. Many of their friends and families tag them in photos to congratulate them on their performances. These will make for a great trip down memory lane in a few years.
Picture this: it's the end of the final performance. You walk offstage for the final time, knowing that you gave everything you had to this production. As you hang up your costume and leave the dressing room for the last time, tears will be shed. Nobody ever forgets participating in theatre, and performing live on stage is something stays with you for years after the fact.
In the end, I look fondly on my life as a theatre kid. The memories I've made are enough to last a lifetime, and I wouldn't trade those tiring late-night rehearsals for the world. To those who I've met along the way, thanks for making the experience worthwhile. That's something I'll never forget.