Despite how clichéd it sounds, there is a lot of truth to the old adage that the small things matter most.
When I went to a private high school I had to wear a very specific uniform. As did everyone. Yet when the basketball team had a game any given night, they were permitted to wear suits throughout the day. I asked one of them one time why that was. They explained it was just a simple way of standing out, and mentally setting themselves, and the day of the game apart from everything else. “It helps with the mindset,” he told me.
I am not a basketball player, but that notion of getting into a specific mindset via clothing has always stuck with me. And it carried into my theatre experiences.
Every opening night, I dress up a little bit fancier than I otherwise might. I don’t own a suit, so I do not do that, but I do wear nicer shoes, my good slacks, button up shirt. A tie once in a while. Even if I am just going straight to the theatre. Why? The exact same reason those ballers did back in school. To stand out. A sort of metaphorical string around the finger of my mind, to remind me about where my day was going.
It seems like a really small, and to some a really silly thing. Perhaps it is. But anything that can help build energy, anticipation and focus leading into a show can be of benefit. And while I do not do this for every single performance, I find that getting a mental head start into the first night of a show can often have positive consequences for the rest of the run.
Though I do not believe anyone would be hurt by trying this opening night dress up, my main point is to make opening night stand out for you somehow. If you really don’t like dressing up, give yourself something else. Something extra, that can be noticed in some way. Wax the car the night before. Eat fancy that night. (If you can stomach food at that point. I never could.) Anything you can think of that will give the day leading into opening night a bit of polish. When you treat the day as something special in some demonstrative way, the day is more likely to bring extraordinary things.
It’s not about showing off, and it’s not about being more important than other people. It’s about being willing to take extra pride in yourself that day, and by extension, extra pride in the performance you are about to turn in.
Being proud of what you are doing will fend off apathy and even help with fatigue. It shows you are serious, committed, and ready to go.
An audience can always tell which members of a cast feel that way. Wouldn’t you want to make sure they noticed you as much during the show, as everyone else did during the day before it?
(Originally published on Showbizradio.net on April 22, 2009)