I’ve been into theatre for seven years now, yet each time I engage in a new production, there’s a brief span of days prior to an opening during in which I’m filled with anxiety and excitement. However, I’ve never quite felt much of either compared to the days before the opening of When We Grow Up.
There’s a certain comfort in doing a normal play: there’s a complete script to follow, blocking is detailed, and you can normally count on events to occur in a fairly consistent fashion. WWGU has been a whole other animal–a devised show–meaning we have a framework, some scripted scenes, a small amount of blocking, and the rest is up in the air. The audience chooses the direction of each performance and we, the actors, must use the tools we’ve materialized from months of work to facilitate each decision. It’s been marvelous to spend as much time with a character–developing the backstory, discovering the personality and physicality–and building a relationship with the members of the WWGU ensemble to really find a great connection in improvised moments.
It built up a lot of excitement in me, but the anxiety came most from the unknown. I’ve grown so used to the normal play structure of rehearsal and performance, making this the biggest leap I’ve made in years. The new, great challenge with this production is not to keep each performance fresh, but to keep each performance true and keep each performance going. We’ve spent time on these characters, and the improvisation opens them to the audience; therefore, they must be able to lend themselves to any situation within the boundaries of their identity. Additionally, when we reach a point beyond all scripted moments, it is important we fill the air and time with our characters–without stuffing it, so as to allow a vast space for audience input.
These challenges weighed heavy on my mind leading up to our opening night at Capital Fringe, but I felt ready under our direction and with my ensemble members at my side. We shared a great performance that night, and I’m certainly excited (with a healthier anxiety) for future performances to come. I will continue to be challenged by this piece of theatre, and it invigorates me more and more to be able to say I’ve learned a lot and I can’t wait to learn more.