As eleven horrified student actors peered between cracks of a mediocre set held together by quick-grips, a seemingly infinite flood of people poured into the Blackbox Theater. The eleven boys and girls adorned in red wigs, sequins, jumpsuits and other oddball costume pieces cursed; some under their breath but most of them let the swears escape their lips in the dimly red-lit backstage area. By the time they had unsuccessfully tried to collect themselves and descended into another panic, the patrons of the small theater room had taken their seats. Some sat on chairs, others on bleachers, and even on the ground or standing up. A tangible buzz electrified both sides of the room- in front of the stage and behind it. The time had come for the actors to show what three weeks of work could do.
One actor stood with her back to the flimsy wall as she listened to her slightly crazed acting teacher tell the audience what the show was about. The rest of the cast listened too, everyone breathing heavily. After the teacher finished her pre-show, she trotted off with camera-in-hand in her eggplant-hued, gnome-heeled shoes. The student director, cloistered in by a sea of students and lighting equipment, brought the lights down: it was time. In the blackout, pockets of chattering were still present in the audience and backstage amongst the actors. With the tacky theme song blaring through the dark packed room, one actor entered the stage to take position. As the lights came up and brightened the faces of those on stage, the faces of those in the audience were illuminated as well.
From then on, every facial expression would be seen from both sides of the stage. A feat perhaps even more difficult than acting itself: seeing how people respond to your acting. A feat the teacher had forgotten to mention and one that hadn’t even crossed the students minds. Until now… when their judgmental eyes bore into any movement made on the stage. However, as anyone who’s experienced live theater can testify to, a big audience means big reactions. The actors felt reassured, confident even, when the audience giggled at a corny punchline or funny bit. Yet, the actors felt as though all of their toils were pointless when laughter emerged from a mistake. An audience’s reaction to a show is just as important as the show itself. The cast of Acting 2’s Suite Life of Zack and Cody was never completely assured of how the audience felt and second-guessed themselves continuously, but the steady applause at conclusion of the production was a step in the right direction.
Written By: Emma Zander (Junior)