Last night I opened my first ever one-man show. And of course, the first ever play I myself wrote. It was in many ways a unique experience.
There are many ways to talk about opening night, but I'll start with the most honest; almost nobody was in the audience. Five people total, only one of whom did not work for the venue itself.
If you've done any theatre at all, you know that performing for a handful of people can be an indescribably mixture between sick and worried, or depressing and dull. It saps an actor's energy not only faster than a larger audience would, but in a different way. A more palpable way that one can feel during a performance, as opposed to during a break or after the show is over.
Combine this with the fact that a one man show by its nature is more tiring than most other types of shows, and you have the makings of an exhausting evening.
I will say, however, that I made no attempts to conserve energy by holding back on my performance. I still gave it as much as I had, and from a performance angle, I am for the most part satisfied. It felt like it went faster than rehearsals tended to go, but I'm not sure because I didn't time it. Perhaps it only seemed faster because at times I was in a different zone; some moments and scenes seemed to begin and end before I was fully aware of them. That may make it sound like I wasn't paying attention, but I was. I just found that some moments were more automatic (not flat) than others. I will need more distance from the experience before I can judge whether or not this is a positive or negative.
I stumbled in a few places during the performance, but I was able to correct the mistakes quickly. My small audience probably did not notice, but of course I did, and I tend to be hard on myself. Hopefully, there will be fewer such errors tonight.
Despite the lack of audience, and the fact that I am the only one on stage, it did at times feel like an opening night. I wish I could say that the excitement and anticipation level were as high as normal, but without anyone to bounce those feelings off of, or to share them with, it wasn't quite like that. Nevertheless, an opening night is an opening night, and the actor bits of me deep inside my psyche could still tell.
Honesty has always been my policy here on this blog, and I won't pretend it was an exhilarating way to get started on this project of mine. It was in more way than one, a disappointing opening. Plus, as writer, actor and producer of the show, I bare the brunt of most of that disappointment alone. In some ways the let down has been so sudden and potent that last night, and today I've felt more numb than anything else, and therefore cannot elaborate on the evening's impact with as much detail as I might normally report on a performance. Once again, with time and distance, I may be able to offer more on this experience, but for now I'm still in the middle of it.
I can say, without any doubt, that I successfully presented something on which I alone have been working for over a year. From concept to presentation, I did, on my end, about 90% of what I set out to do so far. And I must also remember that this is simply the beginning. I intend to take this show elsewhere over the years...to keep it in my theatre arsenal as an offering when other opportunities arise. "The King is But a Man" is something for the long haul of my creative life, not merely something to fill the time this weekend. With a little luck and some work on my part, it will have different incarnations and many different times. It will be different things to different audiences in different venues as time goes by. Last night was merely the world premiere.
And of course, I have two performances remaining in this initial run, during which things may improve drastically. I have no idea how many people will come tonight, but I do know I will summon the best I have to offer again.
A few more people in the seats who enjoy the show would be nice, however, I will admit.