By Grethel Muralles
The name of the play was announced, and then the stage went black. In the dark, as performers we took our place on the platform that extended beyond the stage. Then, the stage lights turned on; there was a fingersnap; and the very first lines of the play came out in unison.
From the beginning, I knew what I was getting myself into. To say the least, walking into the audition in early January was nerve wracking. I was auditioning for a role in a play with a language that was foreign to my ears and tongue. This was “Romeo and Juliet” after all, I’d never read it, or any other of William Shakespeare’s work.
In the room were drama teacher and director Stuart Fingeret, English teacher and assistant director Maureen Grandchamp, and special education assistant Lora Blessing. I then gave them a paper stating my general background: my theatrical experience, what extracurriculars could affect my attendance with rehearsals, and such. I then stated my name and performed a minute-long monologue with similar language to that of “Romeo and Juliet.”
The next morning was the day of callbacks. I can’t quite describe the feeling of looking at my name on the list, but I can remember that I had to do a double take. I felt a surge of excitement and disbelief. I had done it, I had gotten myself a callback.
That same day, I had to stay after school. I remember calling my mom still not believing that I was on the callbacks list, to inform her that I would have to be picked up later.
Walking into the same room as the auditions caused a whole other level of anxiety.
During the callbacks, we were given small monologues and scenes to prepare, then perform. The day that followed, our roles were announced. I remember feeling a little discouraged, if not frustrated, that the character I had gotten didn’t actually have a name, other than Chief Serving Woman.
It took me a couple days to realize that the fact that I had auditioned was actually a really big step for me. Not to mention that getting a part with lines was a huge accomplishment considering it was only my second year of being in a drama class. Before that, I wasn’t one for taking risks, much less speaking in front of big crowds.
At first, rehearsals were quite short for me, generally lasting only 15 minutes. We would go over ways I could work to make my character and part stronger.
About a week or two into February, rehearsals became longer, going from 3:30 p.m. to around 5:00 p.m. It was then that we started rehearsing the dance scene.
We tried out different ways to dance and different ways to figure out the tempo of the music. It was definitely interesting, considering I’m not much of a dancer.
In these rehearsals we had small moments to interact with the rest of the cast, make jokes, or just relax for a bit. It was during these times that I realized that my fellow cast members were starting to really impact and enhance my experience.
The week before the week of the performances, we all gathered to piece everything together. We completed one scene after another and saw what could be polished and what could be taken out without affecting the story.
It wasn’t until we hit tech week that rehearsals began to feel like true rehearsals to me. The first day of tech week, Monday March 5, we began get ready for what felt like the longest week of my life, during which rehearsals lasted from 3:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
We were also introduced to the tech crew, but we didn’t interact with them much at first because they had to mark down the cues for lighting and for when to move in certain props.
That week, we also started to wear our costumes and makeup as if it were the day of the performance. The transitions were slow at first because we were still getting used to working with the tech crew and incorporating the notes Fingeret and Grandchamp gave us at the end of each rehearsal.
The first night of the performance was a little bit of a blur. We were all happy, ready and ecstatic to go onstage. We went through warm-ups and articulation drills. It actually felt similar to a speech competition, except we were wearing costumes instead of suits.
The performance went by quickly. Before we knew it, the first show had finished and we were left to get ready for the next night’s performance.
On the night of our final performance, I could tell that, just as the night before, we were all excited to perform. But unlike the previous night, there was something different in the atmosphere. There was the acknowledgement that it was indeed the last show. For me, it was my first and last show of my high school career.
Before going on stage, we gathered together again. We did our drills and our vocal warm-ups. And then that’s when it happened. Fingeret gave a speech. In that moment, he spoke about the great amount of passion that we all exerted by being in the play. He explained that whether our roles were big or small, we were there, and that it was that passion that made him proud to be a teacher. Most of us, still holding hands with our eyes closed, cried. It was exciting and heartbreaking all at once. Grandchamp, too, gave thanks to us for the experience with helping direct the play.
Fingeret reminded us that whatever happened onstage, we had to live in the moment, to allow ourselves to have fun, while still performing our parts.
In the moments that followed, we fixed whatever was left. We gave each other hugs. Backstage, we still wiping off tears as we heard Fingeret introduce the play. We waited for the lights to turn off, ready to rush onto the stage. And for the last time, we delivered our lines, in unison, as monologues, along with other actors, as the 2018 cast of “Romeo and Juliet.”