Opening Night Nerves

Posted on June 29, 2012


Tonight is opening night.

I’m waiting in the dressing room to go out in less than an hour to play Inspector Hound in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. Some actors are superstitious and like to follow the same rituals before every show. The only tradition I follow is to call the director fifteen minutes before opening night and ask if attendance is mandatory.

I also have the tradition of asking every member of the cast if I can borrow money, but that’s a tradition I begin at the very first rehearsal.

I’ve never been one to get stage fright. Some actors get nervous before going out on stage and thrive on the adrenalin, while others forget their lines. A popular recommendation if you fear going on stage or giving a speech is to imaging the audience is naked. I’m worried if I tried imagining everyone naked and it did make me feel more comfortable, I might start imagining everyone naked all the time.

Because nerves can be helpful, I always try and help the other actors by making them nervous immediately before they go on stage. Tonight I’m going to make the following comments:

I know that’s your cue to enter, but before you go out, can I really, really quickly tell you a long story?

The director told me to tell you he wanted us to kiss at the end of the play. Also after the play.

You’re not working out. I’m going to take all your lines. If anyone in your family is in the audience tonight you can still go on stage but just stand next to me and smile.

I’ve loved working with you; I’m so glad the director’s first choice pulled out.

I thought your wife couldn’t come tonight. Who’s that guy she’s sitting with?

I love how you’ve had the guts to interpret the role completely different than the director. And the writer. And pretty much everyone.

Did the director talk to you about all the stuff she wanted you to change?

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