Hell Week (or, “why it’s worth it”)

Last of the Red Hot Lovers

In high school, I was a member of a huge, incredible theater department. Our drama teacher/director was trained for the theater. It was her life and her passion. We didn’t do anything halfway. Shows were cast with the best talent available, and the multitudes of us who were slightly less talented with line delivery were there to fill in the technical aspects of producing a show. We built two-story sets, sewed costumes from patterns we designed ourselves, walked the cats and hung the lights… it was amazing.

As the week of production descended upon us, we donned our play-themed t-shirts and paraded around the school, proud of our participation and accomplishment, looking forward to what we dubbed as “Hell Week,” the week we’d be at school until 10:00 every night, practicing and perfecting every final detail. The week would be crowned by the three performances for large audiences which we’d come out of glowing and already getting nostalgic.

So here I am, at the bitter end of Hell Week for a non-high school show and all I feel is totally wiped out. There’s been nothing overwhelmingly arduous about rehearsals this week – we even had last night off – but tonight we’ll have our first real performance and I have no enthusiasm, no energy.

What’s the difference?

For a start, this is the first major role I’ve ever had. Prior to this show, I think I maxed out at 20 lines, and mostly I never had any lines at all. In previous shows, I’ve coasted along on the coattails of the more key players without really having such a huge investment myself. This time, a lot more is riding on me. I feel a little stressed about that.

Next, this just isn’t high school anymore. I don’t spend my days surrounded by a swirling mass of friends, classmates, and teachers who are all just as excited about this as I am. These days, I work in an office where everyone has their own, very separate concerns in life, not to mention work that they’re focusing on for the day. Don’t get me wrong – my office is hugely supportive of the arts – especially the ones our workers are involved in – and they’ll probably all come see the show, but they’re not IN the show. There’s no feeding off each others’ energy the way you would in high school when you sat down in math class and realized that the people wearing Pirates of Penzance t-shirts outnumbered everyone else.

And then, I suppose, there’s the basic fact that I have a job. I work 8-5 every day. None of this getting off at 3:00 business. I’ll run directly from the office to the show, gobbling a peanut butter sandwhich on the way because that’s all I’ll have time for. My hair and makeup for this show takes two and a half hours. I’ve done that every day this week so far, and I can’t seem to muster up the enthusiasm to do it again.

So why? WHY am I doing this??

Because tonight we’re going to have an audience. And they are going to laugh uproariously as poor Barney Cashman tries so desperately to get lucky and fails, over and over again. Because maybe I’ll forget a line or two, but maybe I won’t and the audience will say, “My goodness isn’t that young lady with the long straight hair talented!” Because I love to dress up and step into someone else’s shoes for awhile, and let’s face it – who doesn’t love a little applause? And when it’s over, I’ll wish it had gone on longer. I’ll stick a picture in a frame and think back fondly on the whole experience, forgetting how tired I am today and how many grumpy hours I spent with the straightening iron. And I’ll start to think that maybe it would be a good idea if I gave it another go…

And some time next year, I’ll be posting a note a lot like this one, begging you to come see my show, to make all the struggles and efforts more than worthwhile.

Please come see my show?

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2 thoughts on “Hell Week (or, “why it’s worth it”)

  1. Great post Laura. I definitely hear you about Hell Week. I remember it fondly from my own High School days, well I guess fondly isn’t the best word for it.

    It is definitely different as we get older though. The stress becomes a whole different monster. I’m glad, we have two months before our show goes up, of course I think next month will be Hell Month.

    I really look forward to the show, coming Saturday night. I’ve also got several of my theater kids coming on up to it as well. Should be a great one.

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