I’m writing some of these in reverse and I was initially saving this topic and write out what literal rules I have for closing night of my production. I don’t know why I was waiting–it made my writing life sad. I have so many drafts set up but they are pending for my production… well, the show isn’t until, at the earliest, March 2019. Why couldn’t I use some of these ideas for shows I’m working on right now (or transitioning from)?
No reason. Internal ridiculousness.
Closing night for Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike is today! Funnily enough, it’s technically the evening as it closes at 4:30 pm but it’s not technically night–at least not in these spring months, maybe in the winter. The show, written by a local Bucks county author, had a great run in our community and received standing ovations across multiple nights. A comedic turn of events (coffee, dwarves, and a molecule) impacts a family resulting in the best outcome possible for every one involved in the production.
It’s a small cast–six people. To build a set–which includes walls, doors, stairs, painting–move furniture to and fro, and memorizing lines with blocking simultaneously. With maybe, each of them, having one additional individual available to assist with set construction and set strike. And as of almost a month ago, one of our cast members obtained a broken leg. How fun is that?
A set can take days to build, usually takes a dedicated work staff (read: retired former construction or wood shop gurus) a few weeks to make a set feel like home. There’s no guarantee, either, that they’ll be able to accomplish sometimes. But I digress, the above was meant to be background and this post is going to refocus on set strike. As a recap, you have a cast of six people who are expected to deconstruct a set that is sometimes built to actually inspection quality.
How do you ask your actors, one of which has a broken leg, to deconstruct a set made by master builders? You really can’t, you have to have a team in your arsenal prepared to come and assist your actors. And you need to have the upcoming show, who’s going on stage next, be there and ready to get their set built. There’s almost always this cyclical build and strike–pieces, huge walls and platforms, are moved from being someones home to become an alleyway for hookers (think Oliver!).
A strike is not always necessarily a destruction zone. Sometimes a set background and underlying dynamics can remain generally the same depending on how convoluted the design change is between the leaving and upcoming show. It is almost as if you take away the border of a completed puzzle and attempt to arrange a new puzzle. The more people and hands the better to rebuild and create a new home for the upcoming show (even if that home is an alleyway). You know I focused super much on what happens on what happens during a transition of shows but this is a vital aspect of a closing night.
Closing night isn’t just about the final bows, standing ovation from the audience, costumes and cues. Actors and staff are responsible for returning everything that was theirs back to how they found it, in it’s ‘natural,’ black box state. So one of the most unknown and most important rules of closing night is to return back to your natural state as a person. The show is over but the memories will live on, ’til next time.