It seems to me that performing arts – theatre most particularly – are ruled by two directly opposed maxims. One: everything will go wrong, especially if it seems like it can’t possibly. And two: it’ll be alright on the night.
The first rule means what it says. People will miss important rehearsals (or sometimes important shows), props will go missing or break, lights will blow out just before you open the doors to the public, the set might even start falling apart. So really the only way anybody gets anything done is because of the second one.
I think everyone who works anywhere near theatre or performance has heard somebody say “it’ll be alright on the night.” It sounds like nonsense, like simple reassurance, but it really does all work out. When people are up on stage – or finally watching an episode of their series on YouTube, as it might be – everything seems to go fine and you can’t even tell the things that didn’t work or had to be scrapped or are just barely holding together.
I used to think this was just short of magic. Then, as I learned more, I thought it was due to the audience being willing to not notice things like that if they’re enjoying themselves, and that’s perhaps part of the truth. But the real reason that things don’t just fall in a heap is because of the people involved. It’s because they are skilled enough and invested enough in what they’re doing that no matter what – whether it’s their pants tearing almost in two just before the end of the first act, or a vital prop not being on stage so that everybody has to mime, or a minor character appearing half a scene early and unknowingly throwing the whole scene out of order – it is good enough, artful enough, that the audience love it anyway, and a lot of the time don’t even realise there was a problem in the first place.
That’s one of the things I enjoy most about acting. Everybody has this will to make it happen, a drive. The show has to go on, after all, so no matter what happens we’ll all grit our teeth and smile for the crowds and act like that’s what was meant to happen, because the alternative is…well, there isn’t one, as far as we’re concerned.
It all seems to work out.
- Charles (David/Wizard)