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On Which Night Should You Attend a Play?

A reader wrote with an interesting question. They’re planning on going to see a play this month–Robert Lepage’s “The Blue Dragon”, and wondered “do I go to opening night? I’m sure they had months to rehearse, but maybe there’s jitters?”

And here’s what I said. If you’re looking for the best artistic experience, I wouldn’t go on opening night. There are always jitters among the performers, and that can result in an uneven or less nuanced performance. Also–this is particularly the case with Lepage’s highly-complex work–the risk of a technical issue declines with each performance. Last year, I know somebody who attended an opening night at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria and the lighting basically failed. The very-professional actress had to do her entire one-woman show under house lights.

I’d also avoid the closing night show, for some of the same reasons. The ideal show might be a Friday night in the second-half of the run. There are often matinees on Saturday, and I figure the actors may be pacing themselves to handle the demands of doing the show twice in the same day.

I’m going to see that Lepage play this month as well, and I’m pretty psyched. What night do you like to go to a play?

2 Responses to “On Which Night Should You Attend a Play?”

  1. Meryl

    I like to attend a play toward the end of the 2nd week after opening night. i hope by then the actors and support team are comfortable in their roles, yet not potentially stale from repeat performances.
    Gord

  2. JohnB

    So many possibilities …

    if it’s a touring company then opening night is just another night.

    If it’s a professional company then they’ve been working on the play for about a year with the actors already knowing their lines before showing up and they’re there to learn blocking and hone their delivery.

    If it’s an “event” (Les Mis, Cats, Lion King) where the production will be in the theatre forever then they’re pros and they had better deliver on opening night and the cast will change periodically so you never know if a second tier character is debuting that night.

    If it’s a local theatre company (Soulpepper, Buddies in Bad Times) then you’ll have a cast that will have opening night jitters but they’ll also have jitters every night.

    If it’s opera then the principals were booked 2-3 years ago, the principals have probably sung the roles hundreds of times in dozens of productions and they go all-out every performance because the runs are short and the intervals between runs lets them recover.

    If it’s a one-man/woman show then the show and delivery was honed on “off-off-off Broadway” before moving to “off-off” and, with luck, “off” and, in a rare moment, on to ‘Broadway’.

    It’s nice to think that actors psych themselves up before going on stage. The reality is that it’s a job and they will work very hard to not be psyched up just because too much adrenaline will not let them deliver a nuanced performance.

    And then there are people like William Hutt who never seemed to act but did seem to inherit the role and inhabit the character in a way that every performance was special.

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