Week 1 Cast

Week 1 Cast

Week 1 of Stories from the 428 was a really amazing experience… and I was amazed primarilly at the dedication and ability of so many people to step up and make things happen- to push through all the incidental disappointments, and momentary lapses of memory and awkwardness and to keep going- after all… the show must go on.

For anyone who understands an opening night deadline- this was a doozy!

Like many (every) theatre I have worked at – (18 different venues in 9 years) this venue certainly has its quirks… Not only is the venue hire geared to the load in of a rock show (you get 6 hours of bump in time- anything more than that you are charged to have the venue tech there at an hourly rate) but a ghost that has a sense of humour about tech equipment, interesting public toilets, gate curfew lock up and a host of other surprises.

Miles and Ali during Dress Rehearsal   Photo: Leah McGirr

Miles and Ali during Dress Rehearsal Photo: Leah McGirr

After a rigg and a focus by the ever efficient Miles Thomas- it was discovered that the lighting board didn’t record states… Monday night last week was a paper plot with 4 directors huddled around paper on the floor, skimming back all expectations to the basic bare essentials. Miles and PJ jumped in the car, and two hours later due to the kindness of Belvoir and the STC had returned with a desk to programme and plot with. Hurray!

Miles set to work and replaced the board, only to discover the incombatibility of this technology with the dimmers. No lighting desk. No lighting plot and 24 hours until dress rehearsal. The show must go on.

Tym and PJ  Photo: Leah McGirr

Tym and PJ Photo: Leah McGirr

We plotted through- directors abandonned tech expectations and embraced the K.I.S.S principal. Miles and I would come in to tech the show the next day once the new lighting desk was made available.

18 hours later still no lighting desk Miles visited his mates at the Seymour Centre who helped him out with a DMX converter and over the course of 2 hours 3 venue techs were sent (the first two were self-professed sound guys and were there to drop off equipment) with incompatible desks… again nothing worked. At 2.30pm when finally we had a lighting board that could programme states. Miles and I plotted all 15 pieces (with transitions) from 3pm-5.30pm… just in time for the actors to arrive.

Then the delicate art of chair arrangement- blocking backstage and onstage traffic- newspapers… creating an opening sequence and running the show… which all went fine except the gates closing at 10.30pm meant we had to abandon the dress rehearsal 2 shows out from the end so we could make it out of the complex in time. The show must go on.

Felix and Amy

Felix and Amy

The day of opening night we finished the dress rehearsal at 5.30pm, ran through the opening sequence. The actors embraced their stage managerial responsibility… they took care of themselves- they hit their marks… they performed… they were focused, dedicated and energetic. They helped each other with set changes, rehearsed on the grass, shared limited dressing room space. The show was going on- whether we liked it or not…

Anna Lise

Anna Lise

Two hours later, everyone turned up. Artistic Directors, reviewers, media, literary managers, sponsors, playwrights, artistic associates, filmmakers- EVERYONE.

Now, I am not going to list all the technical mishaps, or the regrets or misadventures. Because frankly- they don’t matter one bit. What I am going to do is sing the praises of The Stories from the 428 team. Because the show must go on, each and everyone of the team stepped up. PJ and Miles (the wonder duo) moved heaven and earth to find desks- to ask favours and the industry came to support- other theatres offered help, equipment, advice. Alison M-O the stagemanager handled a lighting desk she had only had touched for a total of 4 hours prior… kept cheery, helped actors, sewed costumes, operated the show- and took care of the cast- the directors and the designers. Zoe Carides regailed me stories of her Sidetrack Theatre experiences when she was first starting out as an actor (pre- GP) – and I confessed my longtime love of her work. Ian Zammit sourced newspapers and dispensed hugs and soothing words of support and encouragement… the actors sorted themselves and each other and thanked everyone for their help…

Ian, Michelle, Louise and Suz

Ian, Michelle, Louise and Suz

Fifteen minutes after the curtain call on opening night when my furrowed brow appeared amid the sea of heads … the industry came to my rescue again- an enormous hug from James Winter who smothered me with encouragement… robust hugs from Sam Chester, soothing words from Fringe Festival Director Kris Stewart, congratulations from Polly Rowe, Brenna Hobson, John AD Fraser… a handshake and well done from Play Writing Australia’s Artistic Director Chris Mead… and there was James Waites buzzing with enthusiasm and his signature “well done, doll!”

My three wise men  Photo: Leah McGirr

My three wise men Photo: Leah McGirr

With theatre- the art is keeping the the misadventures minimized… the live event mercurial and strange, ellusive and transient, wild and unpredictable. The show must go on. As life must go on… as it all continues whether we like it or not… it doesn’t matter how perfect it is- sometimes what matters most is not the show itself. What matters most is the people who make the art- and what humbles me, what makes me proud and what keeps me looking ahead, what keeps me excited is the bravery, the passion and artists who support artists.

What mattered more to me than the show itself was the overwhelming support of all involved- onstage and backstage… the production crew and the cast worked together. There was never a word of blame, never a tantrum, never a harsh word- there was only support. The industry turned up, offered advice, equipment, hugs, feedback… and last Wednesday night I couldn’t be more proud of those beautiful writers, directors, actors and our amazing colleagues that make up the Sydney theatre community.

Bridgette Sneddon & Felix Gentle    Photo: Leah McGirr

Bridgette Sneddon & Felix Gentle Photo: Leah McGirr