Opening Night

I love this time of year. The only thing that usurps my wistfulness at hearing the cicadas of deep summer is the 10-day par-tay known as the Minnesota Fringe Festival. It seems awkward to be so romantically melancholy about summer at the core, yet so thrilled for the experiences of performing and watching performance at the same time, but there it is. The paradoxes never end, folks.


Anyway - Thursday night was the opening of The Unbearable Lightness of Being American. The performance, aside from a rather substantial personal disappointment, went really well. And thus far, the audience response has been quite positive – you can go to our show page on the Fringe site and scroll down to the end to see some of the feedback we’ve been getting (or to write your own! – yes, do!). I also heard my favorite reviewer was in the house, too, so we’ll see what comes of that.


So about this personal disappointment - I need to back up just a little to Tuesday night’s tech rehearsal to give the full exposition: We ran six minutes over in our tech rehearsal. This was problematic, so we had to figure out what to cut. It ended up being a video clip of “Who’s on Iraq” (our version of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First”), the absence of which effectively removed any quality time I had to change costumes from a monologue into the final scene, which is just me accompanied by the stellar Dan Sarka on guitar; a scene in which I sing sporadically throughout the whole thing. This made me uneasy - quick-changes are not good for breath-control.


On Thursday things went beautifully, up until that very last quick-change. The house was full (about three seats shy of sold-out), responsive, and Nathan and I had good, positive exchange with each other and the audience. Yet there I was backstage before the last scene, frantically trying to right the series of wrongs that had unfolded - I accidentally removed my layered tops all the way down to my camisole (decided to not find the shirt to put back on over the top), while trying to either rip out (didn’t work) or shove-in (eventually did) the insole that was blocking my foot from entering my shoe. I finally entered the stage late with lights up and guitarist waiting – and I was completely out of breath.


Really, really bad for having to sing after just one line of dialogue.


And I sucked. Within the first stanza my voice cracked. I spent half the monologue having no idea what I was even saying as I was competing with the running dialogue in my head, “Focus, Leigha. BREATHE. BREATHE SLOWLY. Focus. Yes, you’re saying the right lines, but slow down. BREATHE.” About halfway through the monologue I felt like I got my bearings back and was able to actually perform the monologue and sing modestly well.


Honestly, I was just so disappointed in myself. This singing-well onstage thing is a new concept for me, and throughout the rehearsal process I’ve been getting really positive compliments. Hell, a couple of people said it was so good that it gave them goosebumps. By the end of rehearsals I had confidence and trained skill to back it up - so if I got flustered or self-conscious, I could take refuge in the fact that I am trained to do this. And I had every intention to demonstrate that to the audience, but it just wasn’t happening that way. And there was nothing I could do about it.


Live and learn, I guess. Although I don’t know what to take from this so that I can fix it if it happens again. Perhaps today I’ll practice that quick-change and succeeding monologue so I can figure out how to tackle it vocally for the rest of the run.


Okay – enough self-abuse for now. Back to getting pumped for tomorrow’s performance! Despite my disappointment, it really is a great show, and there is much to be proud of.