Live blogging the second preview

7:04 – I arrived at the theater about fifteen minutes ago, after an early dinner with some great friends who stopped by Chicago on their way from New York to a new home in San Francisco. They’ll be in the audience tonight, along with hopefully lots more great people.

All of the actors are here now, and we’re just starting to get ready – putting on makeup, checking props, wandering about aimlessly with the energy of a new show in front of an audience.

I’m off to get ready myself – since my character starts off by emerging from the bathroom where he’s just finished shaving, that’s part of my preparation for this show. I’ll go do that, and get into costume, and then I’ll be back.

This is my first time live blogging – I don’t know quite where this will go. If anyone is reading this in real time and has any questions about what really happens backstage during a performance, leave a comment below.

7:34 – Just got the call from the stage manager – the house is now open. I’m freshly shaved and in costume – well, part of my costume, anyway. I don’t actually go on stage until after intermission (around 9:00), so I’ve got some time.

8:01 – I can hear the murmur of the crowd over the monitors (they’re designed to let us hear the show from the dressing room so we know when our cue is coming up, but they’re good for listening to the audience too, although I can’t make out what anyone is saying). The play should be starting any second now – we must be holding for the audience to make their way in from the lobby. I’ll go check.

8:09 – The show just started. CeCe and JP are on stage now, Ted is waiting for his entrance, and the rest of us are in the dressing room, quietly running lines, doing crossword puzzles, and putting the final touches on makeup. I’m getting used to my new John Lennon sunglasses, which I’ll be using on stage for the first time tonight.

8:14 – The Cubs are up 1-0 in the fifth.

8:26 – Going well so far – the first act is getting some good laughs from the audience, and the energy sounds good. I’m still waiting – in full costume now – for my entrance. I’ll go over the script one more time before I go on, checking some of the lines that I’ve struggled to remember in the last few performances. They’re all in my head somewhere, but it always helps me to look over everything a few minutes before walking out onto the stage.

8:49 – It’s amazing how much this show is still funny for us in the dressing room – we’ve seen it almost every day for the last six weeks, and we can only hear the dialogue over the monitors (no video back here in the dressing room), but we still laugh a lot as we’re listening to the actors on stage.

8:58 – Intermission. I need to go get ready to go on.

9:12 – Wally the bellhop here; Nat and Frances have just started the second act, and the belly laughs are rolling into the aisles. The show tonight is moving along wonderfully, a big, lively house. Just listening to the show from the dressing room, is pure pleasure. This troupe of actors have such a grasp on Simon’s language and an awesome ability to improvise on the words; curving, toying, bouncing the words off the walls. The bellhop duties are large and complicated. Dressing and presenting the room to our lovely guests, seeing to their every whim and need, to anticipate those needs and desires before they even know they want them. For instance, for the Visitor from Hollywood, the room is decorated in divine flowers and fully stocked with the very best liquors we provide. This is to make the guest, the famous Hollywood produce Jesse, with the illusion that he is our finest guest we have ever had here at the Plaza. The truth is most of the vodka, scotch and bourbon that I have supplied him with is from the Truman Capote costume party, reused, but presented with the elegance and professionalism that is the standard here at the Plaza.

9:44 – It’s Nat again – Frances and I just finished our act, and I just learned that the bellhop’s name is Wally. Tonight’s run felt great – the audience seemed to be “delighted,” as one of my fellow cast members described it backstage, and Frances and I both felt good when we got backstage. Our energy was good, our timing was on, and we had a lot of fun. And we still get one more crack at it before we open on Sunday. Act three has started now – Jon and Cheri are just beginning their half-hour journey of frantic absurdity as they try to get their daughter to come out of a locked bathroom on her wedding day.

9:53 – Cubs lost 2-1. The Astros picked up back to back doubles off Bobby Howry in the ninth.

10:02 – We share our dressing room / backstage area with Woody Guthrie’s American Song, and their music filters through (not into the theater itself, thankfully). They’re ripping through This Land is Your Land right now, and it sounds like a real hoe-down back here. They close on Sunday – I hope whoever comes into the studio theater next is as much fun.

10:08 – The stage manager is about to call places for the curtain call – time to go get some love.

10:14 – And that’s our show. Have a good night, everyone. Maybe we’ll try this again later in the run.

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