Opening Night for Ms. Figg-Franzoi

My opening night dress… it has been worn every opening since I started at Homestead High School.

Opening Night… ah another opening another show… for me opening night is the most stressful. I’ve spent the day preparing for that evening (when I’m not teaching). During the day I have to pick up the programs and tickets and right after school I run to the bank to get money for the tickets, $200 of one and five dollar bills. By this point it’s probably 4pm and I might be able to run to Panara or Fiddleheads to grab dinner to go. Once back at Homestead the students start to arrive. I might take a couple of bites of my meal before running up to the dressing room to do someone’s hair or finish the costume I had yet to complete. By this point the cast and crew has gathered. If we have fighting in the show the cast gathers for fight call, where I watch and try to fix problems before the show. This also allows me to eat food while I watch. It’s now 5pm and our stage crew takes over the stage to sweep and mop. They ask last minute questions about set pieces or when a cue is called as I walk back to the Black Box to print off ticket forms and hand tickets to students for numbering.

194658_4642775397365_1816933355_oGetting the students settled on numbering tickets, I get all the cash boxes ready for the parent volunteers as they will start to arrive at any second. 5:30pm rolls around and parents start to show up. Something inevitably goes wrong with the lobby doors, lights or table situation so I have to get Wayne to fix it while trying to answer questions from students and parents. Someone comes down with a ripped costume which I pass off to a costumer, or questions about hair and make-up arise. It’s 6:15 now and the student ushers have started to arrive. We shove them in the auditorium as the cast assembles for pre-show. An assistant director instructs the ushers on their duties as a senior lines the cast up in the audience. Pre-Show happens… I open the house and people start to arrive to watch the show… surprising I know!

Wandering back into the Black Box I’m now told that five different people were looking for me so I go find the first person on the list. Warm-ups have begun in the Black Box with the actors stretching and speaking tongue twisters. I wander in and out at this time checking the audience and checking costumes. It is at this moment that an actor will come up to remind me that I needed to fix “fill in the blank” their hair, pants, make-up, shirt… the list is endless. It is now 6:45 and speeches start. I leave to check on the audience and stage crew, traditionally all is well, sometimes disaster has struck. Once finished I return to the Black Box where the actors are waiting for the opening night tradition… my tradition… I hand the show over to them. Scooping my hands up my stomach and chest I fling the invisible energy that consumed me during rehearsals and throw it at them, or offer it to them… whichever visual you like better. They own the show now, I just sit back and watch. From here I join the circle and start a chant that Red Hot Chili Peppers have in one of their songs. It is time to start the show. Energy is passed, a huddle is made and broken as 2 minutes to places arrive. It’s time for last minute adjustments before going to the stage. I take the long walk to the lobby and up the stairs to the light and sound booth where my stage manager is waiting for me.

“Flash the house lights,” I calmly speak as the button is pushed and they speak into the headset readying the crew and actors.

“Are the actors in their places?”

The stage manager repeats my question into their headset and gets an all clear. We wait for the last audience member to sit and flash the house lights as we wait.

7pm arrives, the house lights go dark and the show starts. Waiting a few lines and light cues in, I stand in the booth and watch our stage manager in action. Once they have the hang of the show, they nod, giving me the cue that I can bow out, it’s their show now.

It’s finally time to sit down and watch the show. This sometimes happens, most Opening Nights I spend my time back stage watching the students work and figure out problems for themselves. It’s magical.

By the time Sunday rolls around all the running around has ceased and the production is a well oiled machine. This is the day I traditionally sit around with a burger and eat while I watch everyone else get the production ready. It is beautiful.

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