We've been rehearsing for weeks. We've gone through the script. We've memorized (hopefully) the script. We've mapped out our intentions and our blocking. We've gone to photoshoots and costume fittings.
And now it's here. The opening night performance of "Byhalia, MS."
And this may be (closing in on) my hundredth show, but the pre-show jitters are always the same.
You get to the theatre either A) Way too early because you had nothing taking up your time before the show and you figured, "Hey, I could be here not doing anything because I'm nervous, OR I could be at the theatre not doing anything because I'm nervous, but at least at the theatre I'm there in case there's a sudden emergency and we have to immediately re-cast or re-write or re-costume the entire show..." or B) Way too close to call time/late because you're involved in three other shows and it's been weeks since you've had actual dinner and tonight was the night you just KNEW you'd have time to grab something after jazz class. Wrong.
So you've got about an hour before places, and it's a balancing act between getting dressed, warming up, and peeing. You have a specific ritual you follow, but tonight of all nights, your sweating palms and racing heart give you selective amnesia and you feel like a chicken with your head cut off running around the dressing room.
You run through the same mental monologue: "Should I put my make up on before my costume? No, because the cake foundation will get all over the fabric and (insert name of costumer) will kill me. But if I try to get dressed now and I have to pee--because I know I will--I'll be screwed because I'm wearing seven layers/tights/leotard/pregnant belly/corset/whatever! But if I wait too long to get dressed, then I won't have time to do my makeup. Fuck it. I'll do my hair, pee, do my makeup, pee again, put on the damn costume, and touch up whatever I mess up."
So while you're doing all this, you're cramming those last couple of lines you keep flubbing into your exploding cranium, muttering the words through clenched teeth holding a minimum of four bobby pins. You look down the counter and see a row of castmates all doing the same thing, making silly "O" faces as they apply lipstick and mascara and taking selfies of their #finallook.
You finally get into your costume and are now pacing between the dressing room and the backstage, muttering those same stupid lines that just won't stick, when the stage manager comes to you and says "Five till places!"
"Thank you five!" comes out of your mouth while your bowels and your bladder simultaneously send signals to your brain saying, "NOW!! I HAVE TO PEE/POOP NOW!!! I KNOW I DIDN'T FIVE MINUTES AGO, BUT THAT WAS FIVE MINUTES AGO! PLLEEEEEAAASSSEEE!!! I'M GONNA DIE IF WE DON'T GET TO A BATHROOM NOW!"
So now you're pacing has become more like frantic hobbling as you try to guage whether you ACTUALLY have to pee or if it's just the nerves and whether you have time or not and whether you can just hold it or not.
Too late. Stage manager just called places.
You head backstage and can hear just beyond the set and curtains the low mumblings of a packed house. Mood-setting pre-show music is playing and your heart seems to be auditioning for a role as Bass Drummer #4 as you calm your breathing and slow your breath.
Your palms are sweating. You check your breath again. You race through your opening scene lines. And just when you feel you can't take the anticipation anymore, the curtain speech begins, the lights dim, and the show opens.