Opening night jitters

Nervous? Of course! And I won’t even be on stage. Tuesday is opening night for the play I wrote for my daughter’s middle school.

The opening night jitters I feel as a playwright are different from those I felt when I performed in plays at school. As an actor, I only had to worry about my performance. Do I know my lines? My cues? My stage directions? Do I know my songs? Dance steps? As a playwright, I have to worry about the play as a whole. Will the audience like it? Will they be offended?

It’s a great responsibility when I provide the words for someone else to say. When I give my own speech, I know I’m in control, and I’m the one to take the fall if my speech doesn’t work. (And I’ve given a few that haven’t.) But if an actor is given a bad script, who takes the fall? How many times have Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, and Sharon Stone been trashed in a review because they performed in a poorly written movie? (Although I have to wonder about the type of movies Samuel L. Jackson has been doing lately.)

I know my jitters as a playwright will fade at the same time the performers do: When the curtain rises, and we can focus on the performance. The waiting drives us crazy. We have to suppress the doubt, the anticipation, and the fears that comes as the hours and minutes tick to curtain time.

What excites and thrills people about the theater is its uncertainty. The best written and rehearsed plays can become flops, while plays that seem to be slapped together and fought over become legend. You never know which way it will go until opening night.

Sure, it’s just a middle school play, but the excitement is no less intense – especially for the young men and women who will perform in it. I have great confidence in these students, and I know they’ll do a great job. We’ll see how it all works out Tuesday night.