Views From the Curtain

Gritted teeth, flexed legs, my arms ready to pull on the count of three, after the words “Check Please”. My hands start to grip the rope as I yield the rope up and down until it came to a halt. I pulled the rope successfully.

Yes, I’m writing about being a curtain girl, out of all the roles that could be more significant. Yes, it isn’t the most crucial part of the play. But it gave me a perspective to appreciate the different sides of the stage, whether in the front, or behind.

Being the curtain girl was a hard job for different reasons:

1) I had never ever been part of the backstage crew officially before

2) Who even knew the ropes had to be pulled? I know what you’re thinking: seriously?

So here is the “behind the scenes” look on what I learned from being in Check Please.

There was a much smaller cast in Check Please than in the previous production of Hairspray. There were only 14 cast members and 11 people responsible for costumes, props, publicity, lights and sound, along with a director and assistant director. This was quite a close knit show. After only a few fleeting months of rehearsals, the show came together as we hoped it would. I discovered there are a few differences that come with being in a smaller production, both good and bad.

When you are cast as a major role in a play, or when you get the part you were truly dreamed about, the way you view yourself as a potential “Hollywood starlet” comes across in your tone and the way you communicate with the rest of the cast. Dealing with the limelight can be a huge boost to one’s self esteem. Let me burst the bubble by giving the shocking but bitter truth: every role is just as valuable as the other. This was evident in the distribution of parts and how Ms. Caster would reiterate the importance of treating the character like a real life person and the only way to truly embody that was by believing in the significance of the role. It was an eye opener to watch this from the sidelines, in a position to watch errors being made and seeing how her advice would improve the errors.

After many occasions of me running up and down from the ticket sales booth to the theatre, I sometimes got a spare twenty minutes to observe rehearsals, and to see the actors UNIS is gifted with, who have the ability to treat every scene like it is brand new. That is a skill I admire for so many reasons. Despite hearing that joke a million times, you still get the reaction of shock or grief, delivered so perfectly, so that the audience giggles every time. This is when you can differentiate the admirers from the lovers, the people who admire the art of acting from the ones who love acting and embrace it.

Last but not least, is the reason why we do all this: for the thrill of it! The atmosphere when you’re onstage, or even backstage: doing your makeup, singing bad pop songs and ‘breaking legs’ is what makes it worthwhile. Hearing people laugh and comment about your performance, entertaining people is what makes the whole experience magical. Hearing about how people messed up their lines or props, stressing out about transitions, lighting not lighting up when you’re on stage or when you accidentally skip someone else’s cue – it all adds to a tremendous learning experience and these are the things I learned from being behind the scenes of a production. This is not necessarily your typical diary entry but has lessons that many of you hopefully relate to! And if you want to be spontaneous or if you’re secretly a theatre nerd, join the experience at the next available opportunity!