If you’re a longtime reader of The Edit Café, then you know that I’m involved in our local community theater here in small-town Ohio. This week I’ve been in final rehearsals in the role of the mother in “A Christmas Story.” The play, based on the the Red Ryder BB Gun, Leg Lamp, “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!” movie of the same name, is a beloved Christmas cult classic for people of all ages. (If you’ve never seen it, tune into TBS beginning at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve for an annual 24-hour marathon!)
This week has been like most dress rehearsal weeks—terrible. After weeks of learning lines and stage direction, Sunday night we were slammed with light cues, sound cues, new set pieces to work with, a truckload of hand props, quick wardrobe changes that would challenge the likes of superman himself, hair, makeup, and the list goes on. For us seasoned theater veterans, the final rehearsal process is unnerving. For the inexperienced kid actors in the cast, the past few nights have undoubtedly been overwhelming.
All week I’ve found myself in an intense vortex of a schedule: Alarm at 5:30 to get to the gym, at work at 8, at the theater by 5, finally home at 10:30 or 11. (Thankfully, this schedule ceases once we open on Friday.) I’ve found myself conducting mental checklists and running lines in my head every spare second I have at the gym, at work, and especially falling asleep at night… “Before the show, I need to place that prop on stage. I need to make sure my hat is where I left it. Oh, and I missed that cue line last night. I need to make sure I review it before tonight.”
All of this self-inflicted stress is my way, as an actor, to make sure I’m mentally prepared to handle any situation that comes my way when everything is on the line in performances. The deadline I’m facing on Friday night is one that I’m looking forward to with giddy excitement, but it’s also a deadline that I couldn’t successfully hit without hours and hours of advanced work.
Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation as you plot out research and story for your current WIP. Are you an author who mentally prepares the details of your story? Do you spend time letting plot twists marinate in your brain, tweaking them as new ideas come from other areas of life? I’m a BIG proponent of what my high school physics teacher called “incubation time.” The best way to handle a problem or a question, he said, was to consider it, sleep on it, and come back to it the next day.
So where do we stand in rehearsals today? I’m overjoyed to report that on Wednesday night the scattered pieces of the puzzle locked into place. Our director proclaimed that “something magical happened” between Tuesday and Wednesday, and that we have a show! Come Friday at opening curtain, the leg lamp will glow, Flick with get his tongue stuck to the light pole, the Bumpus hounds will harass the Old Man, and Ralphie will shoot his eye out with his Official Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle, with a compass and sundial built right into the stock!
Guest blogger: Annie Tipton is our managing editor.