Is He Dead: Behind the Scenes


By Bailey Julian

People started coming into Highlander Hall around 6:30 p.m. on the evening of November 16. Our friends and families were sitting, chatting about the play, calm and collected. Backstage, however chaos was unfolding for the performers. The performance starts at 5:15 p.m. for us, our call time. We go with the routine schedule: do your hair, then go into Highlander Hall wearing your undershirt and leggings or pants and get your mic put on, then go backstage and put on your costume, lastly do your makeup.  After about an hour, it’s mic check time. Everyone with a microphone is called on stage and projects a few lines to make sure all microphones can be heard throughout the hall.

Then it’s 6:30 p.m., time has passed in an instant. All 20 actors and actresses gathered in a big standing circle. Our drama teacher Stuart Fingeret started our pre-performance warm-ups in the teacher cafeteria to get us excited and ready for the two act play we were going to be starting in 15 minutes.

Fingeret gave his usual speech, which consisted of telling us how great we would be, how hard we worked and how we should have fun rather than be nervous. Yet, our nerves were still there.

We ended the circle with Fingeret saying,  “Dead rocks on 3. 1, 2, 3.” Then we all yelled “Dead Rocks” as loud as we possibly could.

Finally, it was time for places.

People ran to their places, backstage on the left, some backstage on the right, some running outside to the left door and some staying in the teacher cafeteria. Six other performers and myself stood outside the door to Highlander Hall, listening closely for our cue to go on. Everyone stayed quiet because in theater, you never miss a cue.

Two went on stage, leaving four of us. I would be going on next. We shook out our nerves and tapped into our characters, running through lines with each other, remembering where we put our props, and all the stage directions for the scene to come. Then we entered. Once we walked on stage, we weren’t ourselves anymore, rather we were our character. For that scene the world didn’t exist outside of Highlander Hall. We breathed and lived in the moments of the play.

Then we exited and time resumed because we had to get ready for the next scene. There were costume changes, fixes to our hair and make-up, last minute studying of lines, getting props from backstage, constantly checking in with stage-crew on what scene we were on.

Time flew by and then it was time to go back on, grab props and go back outside. We walked to the door and listened closely for our cue. Time stood still again while we delivered our lines and told Twain’s story.  

We completed the big finish to Act 1, and the lights went off. The stage was completely black, with no one able to see, and the remaining actors had to run off before the lights came back on. The ten of us scattered to run off either side of the stage to the back. It was everything but smooth, everyone ran into something. The actresses playing Madame Bathilda and Madame Caron spilled their tea all over each other and nearly slipped in the tea they spilled. The actress playing Marie and myself knocked into the easel and couch. The actors and actress playing the three best friends knocked over the easel and bench. Luckily no one was hurt, but it was an adventure trying to get off the stage.

During intermission, there were more costume changes, make-up changes, going-over lines and hunting-down missing props. Backstage is chaotic all over again with set changes and everyone trying to make sure everything’s in place for the start of Act 2.

Then audience got to their seats, as the stage-crew yells for us to get into our places. We ran with script in hand to backstage and got ready for our entrances, reading lines and listening carefully. We messed around with each other backstage, reciting lines in a funny fashion, speaking with accents or laughing at what was happening on stage. We watch the play from backstage too and still laugh even though we all have seen the entire play performed by these same actors about seven times.

Finally, during the big ending, the last page of the play, everyone waited backstage for the cue of the whistle, then we hustled on stage. We completed our last scene, took our bows, and ran off stage so we could get out of our costumes and go home.

We all ran into the teacher cafeteria screaming and cheering that opening night was over and we had done an incredible job. After a few minutes of changing and removing microphones, we exited the teachers cafeteria, to the student cafeteria where friends and family cheered as we come out. People are handed flowers, told how amazing they did, all while pictures were being taken and everyone said their goodbyes.

It seemed like such a whirlwind, an event that could never be replaced, until the next night that is, when we came back at 5:15 p.m. to do it all again.

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