Since September, I’ve been rehearsing the role of “Mrs. Potts” for a local community theatre production of Beauty and the Beast. It’s been an exhilarating and eye-opening journey. I’d done shows before this, but only as a chorus member. This was my first experience creating a character, memorizing dialogue, or having to sing on my own. It was a terrifying prospect at first, but as I got more comfortable with the role and with my fellow cast mates, it got a lot easier.
Our show opened last Friday, after a grueling tech week. Time is strange when you’re rehearsing and performing a show. We had three months of rehearsal. The first two months went by so slowly, it felt like we would never reach our performance dates. Then, suddenly, we only had a month left. Our set went up, our costumes came in, and time started to fly. It felt like we would never get everything done in time for opening night.
Then tech week came. This week, which is not-so-affectionately known by theatre people as “hell week,” is always long and involves a lot of work as the finer points of the show—lighting, sound, scenery, props—come together. But in a show like Beauty and the Beast, with its enormous set pieces, special effects, pyrotechnics, and mountains of fog, it’s truly hellish. A 10-hour Sunday rehearsal—where we only managed to get all the way through the show once—was followed by three nights of dress rehearsals, a preview, and then three opening-weekend performances.
Tech week dragged. I work full-time as an editor in an office that takes about an hour to get to with rush-hour traffic, so I spent the week getting up two hours earlier than usual in order to leave work at 5:00 pm, drive straight to the theater, and rehearse until 11, 11:30, midnight. And then I’d have to get up early the next morning and do it all over again. By the time opening night arrived, I was utterly exhausted and felt like I’d run a marathon.
We had a performance Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon. And would you believe it—they flew by. I still can’t believe we’ve already performed this thing three times. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. Just like that, our opening weekend is behind us and we’re three performances closer to the end of our run.
And then, would you believe it—this week is going by even more slowly than last week seemed to. This week—an easy week, where we have no rehearsals and nothing theatre-related until Friday night’s show—is seemingly endless. The thing is, throughout all of the grueling tech rehearsals and subsequent performances, the cast really bonded and became something of a family. So to not be surrounded by all those wonderful people this week is actually pretty tough.
It’s proof that this is, by far, the most amazing and magical production I’ve ever been a part of. I’m so happy to have seven performances (plus an additional “school” performance) left.
What’s your favorite hell week story?