The Performance of A Lifetime
The Performance of a Lifetime “WE NEED TO GET GOING OR WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE!” a loud commanding voice screams. Our director, Julie, never was good at being on time. We were packing up our set into the trailer and getting ready to head to Pequot Lakes where we would compete in the One-Act Section Competition. Usually we don’t have any issue loading up our set, but this one was different, it had much more delicate pieces. Unlike our usual platforms we had a netted rear projection screen that could not be torn, along with drapes and a hefty load of costumes.
All of these items took careful handling. Adding onto the stress, we had to fit our entire stage into a single trailer. I saw all of our stage fly into the trailer. Even then, it took longer than Julie wanted. At least we were on our way.
Lots had come before, to get us to this point. Weeks of practice and anticipation, hours spent refining characters, and dealing with all the technical elements. Finally, there was one very long tech week. Tech week is the week of practice before the first competition. It’s where the show really comes together.
This was my sophomore year, me and all the other members of the cast were extra driven after the heart-breaking defeat we faced the previous year. The seniors were every bit eccentric as they were hard working. Every night during tech week goes to a minimum of nine o’clock. Almost every night, a handful of us would stay after to practice more, especially our lead, Kate Westphal. Our show was called “FREAK” and it was about suicide and hope. Kate Westphal’s character “Monique” attempted to commit suicide (serious I know) and was sent to a world between life and death.
This world was interpreted as a Freak Show. All the characters in the show have their own quirks that caused them to get made fun of. The bullying made them commit suicide, which was why they are members of the freak show. The difference between Monique and the other freaks is that she isn’t completely gone. They have a “thing” in a cage with a white dress on.
It is such a soft white that it looks angelic. They call this thing “IT”. They never let it out. EVER. It eventually helps Monique realize that there are other paths than suicide. As we were on the bus, I looked out the window and saw my reflection.
This made me think of when we first started this play and how far we have come as a cast and as individuals. The hard work can finally pay off. We then arrived at Pequot School. It smelled of the Mcdonalds nearby.
We walked past all the other sets while on the way to our designated dressing room. Each set had its own interesting pieces. “Why is Pequot’s set just chairs?” “That is one big wagon!” As we walked by, we pretended not to notice everyone gawking at our set. We then found our dressing room and began to set up. Each wiry wig had to get put onto its designated foam head. We were a little taken back, not only because the room was huge, but because two sides of it were windows.
We had to change in there. This wasn’t a problem for me, but understandably many of the girls were uncomfortable with that. “Drama kids have no shame!” Screeched Brandon, as he promptly removed his pants. Now that we were settled in, we were to start watching the day’s worth of plays. It had been known for three days that we would be performing last, but we didn’t realize what effect that could actually have. There were eight plays total, four before lunch and four after.
Every play came with its own spiel. “Make sure your cell phones are turned off.” A man in a blue-striped shirt with a brown suit announced. This was an interesting look, like that of many people involved in drama. We watched each play. They all had their own interesting parts just like their sets and the kids performing in them.
That is one of the wonderful things about being in drama, how many unique people there are. None of the plays concerned us that much until the last play before lunch. It was an original piece. It was about the life of Marie Antoinette. “Down with the Queen!!” A rowdy, ragged peasant bellowed.
To which a group of women responded, “OFF WITH HER HEAD!” The play ended with Marie’s body being overtaken by a crowd of peasants. As the lights went black, the crowd erupted. We were silent. It was as if something had died. I hoped it wasn’t our spirit. We were in the dressing room when Brandon attempted to cheer everyone up.
“Our play is really good, guys, don’t worry.” To which Katy responded, “And so was theirs.” I really didn’t want their show to affect how our performance went. I was nervous, but I felt like I couldn’t show it because everyone looked at me to be carefree. I rarely get nervous about anything, but if there were ever a moment in my life when I was scared s***less, this was the time.
I could feel my heart sinking. The terror was especially noticeable in my good friend Madi. She doesn’t get super nervous, but before every play there is always a look of anticipation in her eye. This look was different though. She spent the rest of the day staring at herself in the mirror. I knew she wanted it bad, possibly more than anyone else.
We had all put our hearts into this show, but she had especially. Along with her acting part, she found all of the musical instruments we used, and finished the play singing, “Amazing Grace.” You could hear fear, sadness, and happiness all in her song. That tone was the tone that we all had in our heads. As she stared into the mirror, I could tell she was thinking the way I was thinking on the bus.
How far we have come and how badly we wanted to succeed. Mental preparation was key before such an important performance. We went to lunch and then watched the rest of the afternoon’s plays. We watched up to the second to last play. The time in which that play runs, we use to get ready for our performance. FREAK had an especially large amount of makeup.
By the time we were done with our scary faces, the room smelled like a 30’s beauty parlor. We did our usual pre-performance warm ups; the name game, “riding the pony,” and the birthday dance. All of these activities would horrify a person who wasn’t in drama. These type of odd things we do in drama even repulsed us at first. I remember the first day of One-Act rehearsals, we all nervously stepped onto the stage.
We knew each other, but there is a different aura during One-Acts.There is a difference between putting on a show for our own enjoyment, and competing in a competition. Like football or basketball, it takes determination and work. Once we were ready we all met with Johnny in front of our set. “All right gang, remember the rules, quiet and respectful.
Most importantly have fun.” He shout-whispered to us. In One-Acts, you have ten minutes to get your set onto the stage and fully assembled. This is yet another thing we have to practice for. Every person has his or her role.
I was the screw gun guy, along with Marcus. We put up the rear projection together. As a spectator you can be amazed as you witness everything glide into place. We take the nothingness on the stage and create a whole new world. When we are done, our director tells the timer. We made it, just barely.
Before we took the stage, Julie came in for her usual last minute pep talk/advice. “You guys have a great time and be confident in what you have created. Your show is absolutely fabulous, let everyone see that. Most importantly, have fun.” These words blew through my head as we got into our places for the show.
The lights went black and our entire cast scuttled onto the stage. My mouth was dry from being nervous. We came equipped with flashlights that we used when we spoke to light up our faces like we were around a fire telling ghost stories: “You know me.” Each phrase came with a different sub-text. “You see me.” (Pace picks up) “You look at me.
” “By me.” “Past me.” “Through me.” “But you don’t.” “Know me.
” “See me.” “Look at me.” We start speaking together, softly at first but then increasing in volume. “LOOK AT ME!” “WHAT DO YOU SEE?” All of the flashlights turn on, showing our faces as if they were floating in a sea of nothingness. “FREAK!!” It went perfectly and would set the pace for the rest of our play.
From Katy Spears’s blue crystal ball, to Kate choosing the light, we absolutely killed it. The room exploded as the curtain was drawn. After we packed up our set, we didn’t have time to change. So we had to go into the audience and awards in full costume. When we walked in we received another round of applause. “Oh, God, I hope we win.
” Madi said as she grabbed my shoulder. We sat together in one row. It felt like eternity for the judges to get the scores in. When the MC finally walked up to the stage with a piece of paper, our hearts stood still. “No matter what happens, know that it has been a blast.” Brandon said shakily.
When the time came to announce the winners, we were all squirming in our seats. We grabbed each other’s hands.I sat between Madi and Jimmy. Our hands were all shaking. “4th place goes to the team from Pequot Lakes!” The crowd cheered as the kids looked mildly disappointed.
All that was going through my mind was “Don’t call Park Rapids yet.” “In 3rd place is the school from Eagle Valley!” Again the crowd applauded as the kids looked disappointed. “In second place-” Now, here he may have called Park Rapids and I wouldn’t be telling this story but- “The Team from Wadena-Deer Creek!” Their response was different than that of the other schools. Tears were rolling out of their eyes; I know that feeling. All I was thinking at that point was,”Just call Park Rapids.” Madi was gripping my hand so hard I was starting to lose circulation.
We looked at eachother then I heard- “First place and advancing to the State Festival is FREAK from Park Rapids!” This was also a different reaction. Madi fell to the ground and burst into tears of joy. I was overcome with excitement. People came up hugging me and patting me on the back. It was all a blur.
We would go on to the State Competition, where we would star in excellence, the highest honor a One-Act play can receive. As we loaded the set into the trailer, I looked back one last time to the now empty stage. The stage looked similar to how it looked our first day of practice. Accept we weren’t strangers now, we had become something else. We made memories, and friendships forever.