Phoebe Peel, actor at the Little Theatre, talks about her recent experiences and the people she has met that now form part of her ‘Little’ family.
Walking up to the rehearsal rooms on the first day of rehearsal or even just for the first full read through with the cast can be a very nerve wracking experience. You begin to ask yourself questions about if the cast will like you and who you should sit next to and are the biscuits you’ve brought going to go down well; because lets face it, everyone loves a cuppa and a biscuit. Walking up the steps you take a deep breath and remind yourself that these poor sods are stuck with you for the next six weeks, so you need to make a good first impression. After the first introductions you sit down and listen to your director talk about their plans for the next six weeks ahead, looking around the room all you see are excited and enthusiastic faces.
After the first few rehearsals you begin to get to know one another and get that family feeling, the closer the show gets the more support you have. Everyone is behind each other and its a group like no other. You memorise other peoples lines as well as your own, you remember who likes what in their coffee and tea and what biscuit everyone prefers. The more you talk to the cast and crew you learn how different everyone is. Some people teach, some people work in offices and some work in retail, but you all have this one very special thing in common, your love and passion for theatre. The same goal, to put on one amazing show that everyone enjoys.
The weeks go by faster and faster and all of a sudden its tech week, you finally get to see the completed set, walk around and get used to your surroundings, forgetting how many doors there actually are and that they’re not invisible ones like you’ve been using beforehand. Another important moment is deciding your seat in the dressing room, a seat you will have for the next two weeks, for tech and the show. Some people have traditions of sitting in the same seat every time, hoping its not the same as anyone else’s. Once you’ve chosen a place to call your own you begin to lay your things out, hairbrush, makeup and anything else you think you may need.
Then you wake up on that Monday and its opening night, you have butterflies all day just thinking about it. Punching in that secret number, you head on into the dressing rooms greeting everyone and flicking the kettle on so you can settle your nerves. Sitting at your allocated seat you notice a few cards from cast members, some make you laugh, some make you cry and some warm your heart and make you smile from ear to ear. A big group hug before the show starts reminds you of how crazy it is that just a few months ago most of these people were strangers and now, regardless of how different you all are, they’ve become family to you.
Nights pass and audiences vary, some nights you don’t know how things could get any worse and some nights you feel like a top comedian, with the audience picking up on every comedic facial expression you make. Then here it comes, the final day, the matinee is always a good warm up for the final hurdle, the last hurrah and the goodbye. Preparing to take your bow you look around and feel blessed you’ve had a chance to know all these amazing people, they are now your friends for life. There is always a connection between you, something no one else really understands but it’s there. You look out into the audience and thank them for coming with a bow. Walking offstage you feel a sharp pain in your stomach, its pure happiness mixed with utter heartbreak that you wont see everyone tomorrow.
For me, the relationships you make during a show last. I have made the most amazing friends and some have had to put up with me for more than one show, I do apologise. But its not just about the cast and crew at the little, its about everyone behind the scenes too. My first show all the wonderful props ladies looked after me like I was their own. The front of house love to let you know what they thought and what they heard the audience say as they left the theatre. Every part of the theatre is connected. Everyone knows everyone, its a unity that I don’t experience often but I believe its what makes the little different. I am glad that I have had the chance to be a part of it all.
If you want to see more here’s a video of my recent experience performing The Philadelphia Story