Judit’s ‘Crucible’ Odyssey Part Three: First Impressions of RA on Stage, Stage Door

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Our dearest Judit has returned with the third installment of her Crucible journey, having filled us in on getting prepared and picking the gifts for our beloved Mr. A in her earlier posts. Now to her candid impressions of that first performance (out of three attended) and feeling her own nervous jitters! Thank you, darling Judit, I know you’ve been both busy and fighting some health issues of your own. *hugs*

JUNE 27~AT LONG LAST . . .

The big day dawned and I wasn’t feeling well at all. I’d been having some tummy problems in the week leading up to my trip so I was still on a diet, and the fact that I was very nervous didn’t help matters at all.
Thankfully, I arranged to meet two Twitter friends, Armitagina and BatSpeaks who were also attending the play that evening. I met up with the ladies at around 5 p.m., we had a lovely chat at a pub near the Old Vic, and I even managed to eat a bit of pita bread with hummus!
We then had our picture taken by a kind passerby, here it is:
cruciblepart3photo
(Armitagina, Bat Speaks and myself)

Now I normally hate pictures of myself, but this one is an exception! We all look very happy and excited.
This was the first viewing of the play for all three of us, and I hope the girls won’t mind me saying that when we entered the auditorium they were freaking out a bit and I was still somewhat in denial that I was going to see Richard perform live . . .


A Room with (Not Such a Great) View

We weren’t sitting together as we all purchased our tickets separately. The girls were sitting on the side of the stage facing the trap door, and I was sitting in 2nd row on the opposite side. As it turned out, 2nd row seats aren’t the best as they are on the same level as 1st row. Additionally, I had the misfortune of having a rather generously built lady with big and I mean BIG hair sitting right in front of me.

I had a lovely, friendly middle-aged couple sitting to the left (in spite of the Daily Mail reviewer trying to make out as if the audience were made up of 90 percent women – aka fangurls – all there to drool over RA, it wasn’t).

Right before the play started I remembered that I was a „woman on a mission”- I promised to get programmes for quite a number of friends around the world, so I decided I might as well start right then- I bought five programmes from one of the ushers standing by the stage. I felt that I needed to give the guy an explanation for getting so many copies, so I told him they were presents for friends. He just smiled and said „You’re going to have to read ALL of them!”

I returned to my seat trying to hold the programmes in such a way that nobody would notice I had so many, as I was afraid people might think I’m a lunatic. 😉

It was only the sixth performance in the run and back then the stage was set with a chair for each character and a pair of boots were placed in front of every character’s chair. Needless to say I instantly spotted which pair of boots belonged to Proctor. His chair was right in the middle of the round stage.

When the actors slowly walked in, I had the strangest of reactions–I almost didn’t dare to look up at Proctor/Richard! I thought if I did, my eyes were going to be glued only to him. Instead I just timidly glanced up at him every now and then. I remember feeling extremely anxious for him, in the silliest of ways–what if he forgets his lines, what if he falls over when he’s putting his boots on, and so forth.

I quite liked this „silent introduction” –the cast slowly walking to their chairs and putting their boots on. To paraphrase a friend on Twitter, it was as if by walking in barefoot and then putting on their shoes on stage, they sort of „stepped into character.” It was a lovely way to set the atmosphere. However, there had already been a lot of complaints from audience members about the running time of the play by then, so I can understand why this introduction was cut.

Too Tense to Take it All In?

I learned from my tennis fan days (oh those blessed late 90s!) that when you are watching a match featuring a player that you’re too emotionally invested in, you kind of lose your „spectator” status. You become too involved, which makes it almost impossible to stay impartial. You can’t just sit back and enjoy the performance. Something similar happened to me during that first viewing of The Crucible. I was holding onto my little backpack for dear life all the way through the first part, and didn’t even realize I was doing it until it was over!

Maybe it had to something to do with my overly tense and anxious state, or the restricted view from my seat, but I wasn’t really sure whether or not I really liked Richard’s performance in his first few scenes. I felt as if he was still somehow searching for the character’s „identity”. I saw an amalgamation of mainly Thorin, Thornton and even Guy but I didn’t feel like I really „met” Proctor until his first scene with Elizabeth.
Now He’s Got IT!

He was about to finish washing himself (by the way, all I could see was his back…) When his wife walked in and then he said his first line („I were planting far out to the forest edge” ) very quietly, and he sounded so…natural. He really did sound like a bone-weary, tired man talking to his wife. Up to that point I felt he was a bit „declamatory”,a bit too forceful, putting unnecessary stress/emphasis on too many words. But at that moment, I thought „That’s IT! Finally. There is Proctor.” From that point onwards, his performance was getting better and better.

I have two overwhelming memories from that first night: funnily enough, the first is the smell of Elizabeth’s „rabbit” stew lingering in the air all the way through the second part of the play. I loved the fact that they actually had real food on stage–-it added a touch of realism. I didn’t know at the time that all the confessions, warrants and so forth are properly written too–had I known, I might have tried to grab a piece of one of those!
Second, I remember a feeling of deep frustration as a result of sitting on the „less favoured” side of the stage. I haven’t seen a play in this kind of setting before and it certainly has many advantages as people have pointed out. However, there are some definite drawbacks to this configuration as well.

I had the impression that the side facing the trap door was heavily favoured which meant that in the majority of the key scenes Richard had his back to me, and I was almost screaming internally „ I want to see his FAAACE!!” When I met Armitagina and BatSpeaks during the interval they were full to the brim with enthusiasm about the performance and I wished I could have shared that feeling but instead I was thinking, „Yeah, it’s all great but NOW I WANT TO SEE THE OTHER HALF of the story!!!”

Learning as a Stage Door Newbie

Stage door that night: as a SD „newbie” I wasn’t aware of the side exit that offers you a sort of short-cut to the stage door, so I left the building through the main exit. That meant that by the time I reached the queue, it was already quite long. Luckily my two companions had secured a spot in the front of the queue so I was able to join them.

Sadly, BatSpeaks had to leave early due to a prior engagement, so only Armitagina and I remained. Eventually, Richard came out and I had yet another inexplicable reaction–I was overcome with shyness and so I couldn’t make myself look at him properly. I sort of stole half-glances in his direction again. He signed Armitagina’s copy of The Crucible (said, „Oh you have the book, well done!”).

I gave him the letter from one of my Italian twitter friends and fellow RA fan, explaining that a friend of mine asked me to hand this to him. He seemed really pleased and even surprised by it (as in, “Someone has written me a letter??” And „Wow, this one here didn’t want me to sign anything!”), thanked me profusely and put the letter in a gift bag that the darling security guy was holding for him. Then he proceeded to put his arm around us for a photo (one of the ladies behind us in the queue was kind enough to offer to take a picture)–but it didn’t come out, unfortunately. 😦

All the way through this short encounter I felt that Richard was present in body, but not in spirit. He was perfectly friendly and his soulful, kind, warm voice melted my insides, but I still felt as he was miles away. Also, I was surprised by how small he seemed at SD compared to how huge he looked on that relatively small stage in Act One. However, Proctor completely „shrinks” as if his legs are about to buckle under the weight they have to carry, his shoulders becoming hunched towards the end of the play. RA still had this „broken man” posture going on at the stage door.

While I felt he was moving on autopilot, he really did take his time with everybody at the stage door that evening. For starters, he was staying put in one spot under the yellow SD light and people in the queue were coming up to him as opposed to him racing down the line. I suppose he was still working out his „Stage dooring” method at the time!

To be continued . . . two more performances to enjoy!

About fedoralady

I'm an LA native--Lower Alabama, that is. My husband of more than 30 years and I live here on a portion of my family's former farm with two gorgeous calicos and a handsome GSD mix. My background is art education, and over the years I've been a teacher, department store photographer, sales associate and a journalist. My husband, his business partner and I have Pecan Ridge Productions, a video production company, for which I shoot & edit video and stills and manage marketing. I also still write part-time for the local paper. I love movies, music, art, photography and books, and my tastes in all of them are eclectic.

6 responses »

  1. So nice to read about an early viewing, I too liked the slow start with the boots and shoes but I could see why that was cut plus the editing of Tituba slow walk around the area. I am pleased some one else was anxious for him it felt a bit disloyal but I wanted him to succeed so much that it took me quite a while to relax. I couldn’t have been more nervous had it been one of my daughters on the stage. Talk about APM lol.

  2. I’m ridiculously late with this, but had to leave kudos for my sweet twitter friend Judit 🙂 Angie is right, you are a very good writer! Interesting that even though this performance was early while he was still taking more time at SD, you were still aware of his detachment…. I would imagining playing Proctor is something he would never trade, but seems it clearly was difficult, even inexorable, emotionally. Sort of funny to see his pendulum swinging the other way right now with all the potty humor! Everyone needs to lighten up sometime 🙂

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