In rep, however, that's a luxury we don't always have. After Saturday night's opening, Henry goes dark for five days; we don't perform it again till this Thursday, and then not again until Sunday. It will be a different challenge, to create the show anew after such a gap, and without a brush-up rehearsal to get our heads back into the world of the play. So it's each actor's personal responsibility to get him- or herself ready to go again. I'm looking forward to it; I think this is a well-disciplined company, most of whom have been working this way all summer long, and they know pretty well what's required of them.
I felt okay about my own performance, but only okay. I'm still feeling a bit tentative in the first act of the show, and don't really feel in the flow until somewhere in Shakespeare's Act II, which culminates in Katherine's trial scene-- and is more than halfway through Wolsey's own character arc. The big downfall scene, Act III scene 2, which people would probably take to be the single greatest challenge of the role, is paradoxically where I've come to feel most confident and at home, so that I look forward to it each night; but I feel I haven't quite nailed the powerful, manipulative, cosmopolitan and utterly self-assured Wolsey of Act I. That's my immediate goal for the next couple of performances.
In the meantime, we're all (no, not the whole company, but there are 33 of us in the cast) dealing with the challenges of The Three Musketeers. Some of the fears I expressed earlier about the ambitious scope of the season are threatening to be well-founded. The scene, costume and prop shops have met the challenge of putting up four different shows on four successive Saturdays, but the technical demands of Musketeers are huge, the tech staff probably exhausted, and we're several days behind as we move into what is supposed to be a first dress rehearsal tonight. We have yet to rehearse on the set, which is still under construction, and much of our blocking only will make sense when we can work with the levels-- there's a whole upper gallery stretching across the rear of the entire stage, and there's sometimes simultaneous action upstairs and down. So I expect a fair amount of chaos and confusion tonight as we try to integrate scene changes, furniture moves, light and music cues in with the swordfights, brawls and dances, all in clothes we've never worn before and in a space some of us have never worked in before (I have, but it's been exactly 34 years and eleven months since the last time). We'll get through it all and pull it off somehow. But it's going to be stressful, and there's not enough time.
Well, the object of the quest has been attained, and now it's time to settle down and just perform the thing. I often feel-- and many other actors feel this way, it seems-- that opening nights, with their parties, hype, cards and gifts, friendly audiences and critics in attendance, are more trying than exciting; that the evening is to an extent something to be got through and put behind you so you can focus on the real work of recreating the play afresh for a new audience every evening. The opening night has so many added distractions that it can distort the actual creation of the art, and though sometimes the crucible of pressure is so intense that it can produce something rich and strange, I'm usually relieved to get it over with and settle into the calmer rhythm of the run.