We had a lively audience, which I couldn't say Friday night. Friday night, they just sat on their hands. It made me feel really dissatisfied after the show was over. I kept thinking to myself, "Is that all there is?"
It's not. Last night, the audience was twice the size and three times the energy.
I have to admit, I may have had something to do with that. At the start, they weren't entirely "warmed up," so I left the lighting booth (I call the show, because I'm such a control freak) and started laughing in the right spots. I have a loud laugh, which you can hear over everyone.
It started to work. People started to join in, then more, then more. it may have been spontaneous, for all I know, but the actors on stage started to feed on their response, and ramped up their game, excited. Before you knew it, I could move back into the lighting booth, and just sit back and enjoy.
Another thing I did last night: I decided to change a bit of blocking mid show. At one point, the gangsters say to Fred, "We'll be watching you, from the front row." Something clicked, and I turned to my assistant Judi and said, "They should be there." And I ran backstage and we worked out a moment for them to enter the auditorium and watch the "Taming of the Shrew" sequences, in the front row. It worked perfectly, especially because they laugh loudly, too. In character, of course.
After the show, we received a standing ovation, and the theater lobby was filled with people, talking excitedly, for a half an hour. Ida Mae, who's about 90 and the matriarch of the group, came out of the theater more animated than I've ever seen her. "This was perfect!" she said (it wasn't; it did contain mistakes, but who cares?) My friend Mike, whose been with the group for 40 years, said it's probably the best production he's ever seen them do.
That night, Corb and I went to Downtown and held court in the "cool room," a darkened area that's somewhat set back from everyone else. Daniel, Judi, Glen, and Judee (the group's President) sat back there with me, and we watched what was going on, and drank heavily. Judee grabbed me by the arm. "This is all your doing" she said. "You really are one hell of a director, you know."
It was really all the validation that I needed. Having gone through last year, feeling so miserable, this year has been a complete turnaround. I am, when I take a look at this from the finish line, so glad that I did this show.