The first time you show your work to an audience is a nerve-wracking thing. Suddenly you wonder what exactly you've spent the weeks of rehearsal doing, whether it will be good enough, whether the audience will laugh (and, if they do, at the right things) and whether you'll all make it through. What makes it worse is that, once a performance starts, the director is - essentially - redundant. We are left to look on, feeling vaguely parental towards the actors, crew and production, possibly taking notes, and biting our nails furiously. This is ten times worse when the production you are doing is new writing, and there is no precedent for an audience's reaction.
Today's 'preview'/'open run' was one of the tenser performances I've been a part of. It started off very well - everyone (bar the stage manager) was on time and raring to go. Problem was, the venue was locked. No way in. After an hour of frantic phone calls, and the arrival of both stage manager and audience, we were able to access one half of the venue, and finally the other half thanks to the random happenstance that meant one of the audience members actually had a key to the building. Bizarre but true. Half an hour late, having had no time for a proper warm up, having rushed to set up the room, and having done practically nothing on my 'prep' to-do list, we showed our play to the audience.
And it went well! The cast and crew present rallied and played with conviction, heart, and discipline. Having seen the show in its every incarnation, I was more sensitive to its twangs and pulls, and I was probably able to see nerves that no one else could, but it was thrilling to see others as moved and entertained as I have been by this play.
If this is what they can do in such stressful circumstances, I can't wait to see it on the other side of the tech.