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What It’s All About

Pacific Overtures has so far been one of the most challenging shows I’ve ever run. Second only, I think, to the Shakespeare in the woods I SMed this summer. I’ve stated several times throughout the process that this show makes me feel dumb at stage management. There are so many things going on sometimes that my brain doesn’t know where to think or how to look. Commonplace things sometimes get forgotten in service of tackling the much larger questions. Sometimes I can’t even remember exactly which actors are in what scene… which is always an awkward feeling. 

The show has been extraordinarily challenging in new ways for everyone else working on it as well. Just on the design and production side – Props puts finishing touches on pieces right up until the start time of our dress rehearsals. The costumes are multitudinous and tracking tends to be wild. Our automated pallets are finicky, and sometimes get stuck without a clear reason as to why. Cues are sometimes missed, rotating scenery drifts onstage and needs to somehow be adjusted, moving lights randomly crap out on us, costume changes barely made… the list goes on. (Live theatre, folks!)

But in a rare moment of peace backstage, my mind is not actually on any of that. I never  experience that feeling of deflation or frustration of a performance that’s gone to crap. Instead I find myself imbued with a resilient “let’s fix it, or-otherwise just laugh it off” attitude. Small stuff  is small stuff. And I think that’s because when I listen to what’s happening onstage, I remember watching such beautiful constructions of music, acting, and choreography develop and grow in the rehearsal room. I remember those moments of brilliance where everything the actors are doing clicks, and a deeper meaning settles into the structure. I remember how much I love a particular scene, song, or even a dance break, and I think – it’s not about making a technically perfect play. It’s not about the lights, costumes, set, or the sound. It’s about allowing the audience to hear this story. It’s about allowing the audience to fall in love with the things that I love so much about our show. It’s about theatre – its true meaning, which we talk about only in the hypothetical sense much too often.

And it’s about the love of the play. The actors could perform our show and tell the truth of their story on a bare stage under work light. I love that we have so many other tools at our disposal to help the telling of that story, but if all of that were to fail, we wouldn’t need it. The actors and directors have filled each moment with depth, wit, humor, surprise, and pathos, and joy. We have woven together a fabric of storytelling that inspires me each time I experience it.

I want nothing more than to share the story we’ve conjured with our audience.

Come see the play.

Pacific Overtures by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, Boston University College of Fine Arts, CFA, School of Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion

Rachel Rees as Commodore Matthew Perry in Pacific Overtures.

Pacific Overtures runs Friday, December 13, through Thursday, December 19, (no performance Monday, December 16) at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston. Tickets are $12 for the general public, $10 for BU alumni, WGBH members, Huntington Theatre Company subscribers, students, senior citizens, and groups of 10 or more; members of the BU community can receive one free ticket with BU ID at the door on the day of the performance, subject to availability.

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