Last night we opened Richard III in front of a crowd of about 15 "pay what you can" customers. (Turns out that total that gave us 71 bucks which isn't bad.) The show was rough in places, especially the first half, with one or two bigger mistakes and low on energy. The good news is that in the second half energy picked up and flubs decreased. Overall I would call it a success that needs work for the rest of the run. Now that it's been done in front of an audience, I think this production can now begin to excel.
It certainly feels that way with me. I made no major mistakes last night, and in fact am proud to report that the crowd scene went fine for me. I even threw in a few more looks to the audience here and than I have up until this point. Yet I was still somewhat more nervous than usual before coming out for that scene. As I have been saying, it is that scene that has made me feel a bit concerned this week. I know I will continue to feel somewhat worked up right before I begin it over the next three nights, but now that I have performed it in front of an audience without making any major mistakes, my nerves will be lessened from here on out. I have proven now that I can do the scene in front of people without tripping up. That does not by any means inoculate me from the possibility of errors, but it does give my confidence a slight boost, which I needed.
In keeping with my tendency over the last few entries to not go over every scene I am in, I will comment only on selected moments. (Other than to say each of the other scenes were satisfactory.)
Margaret and Buckingham's encounter. I continue to enjoy playing this scene. The actress (whom I have known for years) gives me much to work with in those moments. I look forward to this early moment in the play each night.
I got a single laugh from a friend of mine in the audience during the "counterfeit tragedian" scene. It's one of the only comic moments Buckingham has. (Unless you count the entire crowd scene which in general I am not playing for comedy, though it often is played that way. Or at least played for irony.) At a certain point in the speech I flash an intentionally corny smile, and my friend laughed at that. Though nobody else did.
The "break-up" scene. I felt a bit off during it at first. Just for a moment or two in the second section. Not lost, as I knew where I was, just off. One of those things the actors notice that the audience almost certainly doesn't. Truth be told I may have been the only one to feel it. I didn't ask Richard how he felt about the scene. Once I left and re-entered the scene later, things felt better. I really want to punch the one moment of anger I give Buckingham in the play. ("Made I him king for this?") I think I have been doing so during rehearsals and last night I believed I did as well, though I'd like it to be even more dramatic. There is only so much I can do, though.
Execution scene. I don't know if the intimate setting is having an impact on the audience in the way I had hoped/thought it would. But it was a small audience, and only one night of four. Plus it is a little more difficult to judge dramatic impact than comic impact. All that aside I can say, with all sincerity that last night was one of the most satisfying performances of that speech for me so far. Probably the most satisfying so far, in fact. I was relaxed. My enunciation and projection felt just right. I found the meter well. My pauses were well timed for the dramatic effects I wanted. Duration was pretty good. (Even the backstage noise was not as bad last night. I sure hope that keeps up.)
My inner feelings during the scene were acceptable. I would ideally like to feel it a little deeper than I did last night, and again that may come with the remaining performance. But to get it to where it was last night is an accomplishment in its own right. I want it to be even better from here on out, but if it ends up not being so, the audiences this weekend will be in for a good scene.
Ghost scene. The most pure fun I have in the show, probably. Last night, as always, it went well. I have been able to let myself really get into it now. Last night I could feel some energy from the audience during this creepy scene, and that added to it for me. Not that the audience wasn't invested in other parts of the show, but I think the eerie scene makes it more palpable. But then again I am standing among the audience during that scene anyway, so I am sure that contributes.
To sum up, there was much to be proud of in this first performance, and a few things we'd all rather not think about. I am proud of my own scenes, but know that in most cases they can get even better, and I will attempt to make them so. Yet as I said at the start, perhaps the biggest benefit to us all is that we have now performed this show in front of people. It will not make us invincible, but that novelty of showing outsiders what we have done is now behind us. Hopefully this means we can all now begin to truly weave masterful performances.
The adventure continues tonight at 7:30.