Backstage smells – not particularly unpleasant but specific and familiar. An aromatic symphony of old wood, dusty fabric, hot lights, hairspray, and bodies in motion. The dressing room air conditioner has stopped working and there are too many sticky people jostling for real estate in front of the mirror.
Organized chaos reigns supreme; every available space occupied by kaleidoscopic makeup, hairbrushes, crumpled tissues, and someone’s half eaten sandwich. There’s never enough time for a real meal.
There’s a flurry of fabric – stockings and sequins, turn to zip a friend, making emergency alterations with pins and tape. Costume pieces mysteriously disappear, resurfacing in unexpected places.
Motion seems absolute – a rising tide of activity in the too short eternity before curtain. Time is fluid. Energy runs high as people scurry to make the most of the last minute. Yet small eddies of quiet can be found to take a calming breath, to center, to share an encouraging smile.
Every opening conforms to the customary agenda – mic test, warm ups, the traditional pep-talk preceding a scramble to strategically place props before the house opens. When it does, the buzz as the seats fill is an ostensible reminder that this is real, opening night.
Emotion is palpable, excitement shot through with a flutter of nerves on far too little sleep. Running deeper is an inevitable camaraderie born of shared experience. Fixed in the mind are the frustrations, self doubt, long hours, mistakes, and perceived failures. Yet, it is the successes that are tattooed on the heart – the accomplishments, the laughter, the profound moments of beauty and burgeoning friendships.
That first eerie note pierces the darkness, then the lights slowly brighten. This is the moment, there’s no going back.