I’m sitting on the empty stage at the Hansa Theatre. The final show finished an hour ago. After four months and 147 shows, It’s over.
For the first time ever, I’m the only person here. The stage and house are completely empty now. Some of the performers have already left; packed up the minute the show finished, to head home or on to their next gig. Others are gathering at a restaurant nearby for a final unofficial party. I’ll join them soon.
But for now I just want to sit here for a while.
I want to sit, and think, and remember. To fix this moment in my mind. The last four months has been life-changing; in some ways that are already apparent, and others that I suspect will only emerge with time. One way or another, I know I will always remember this place, and I want to make sure I remember it properly.
It looks different with the dim maintenance lights on. Smaller and warmer. During the show, the bright stage lights turn the audience into an infinite black void. But now I can see every chair. I remember the audiences that sat in them. More than 40,000 people watched this show, a few hundred at a time. Some were amazing audiences, and some were less so.
I remember one of my colleagues (who shall remain nameless) walking off stage and commenting about the crowd: “they don’t even lift an arm to wave from their coffins.” That one was a tough night.
I remember one curtain call where as we took our bows the audience would just not stop cheering. They kept shouting and screaming and whistling as all of our faces cracked into huge involuntary grins at the sheer amount of love in the room. That show was better.
I remember the things I’ve learned. How to move on stage, how to hold yourself. How to speak. How to make an entire theatre full of people all feel like you’re making eye contact with them. Things I already knew in my head, but after 147 repetitions now begin to feel in my whole body.
I remember the good days, where I was excited and looking forward to the show. The days where I had fixed a problem with a routine and was itching to try it out. Other times where there was someone I knew in the crowd, and had reached a point that I was confident enough that the act would impress them.
I remember the bad days, when I was tired or sick or irritable or all three, and just did not want to be there. Doing the same show 147 times in a row can get very, very draining, in a way that I am only now able to truly appreciate. Towards the end there were shows that were like eating the 100th slice of dry bread in a row, and just trying to force it down your throat.
I remember the first few shows, when I was far more nervous and intimidated than it would have been wise to admit. This was the first time I had ever done this many shows in this large a theatre, and it was so far out of my comfort zone that it terrified me at times.
I remember the video I took of the very first show, and wonder whether I’ll be able to bring myself to watch it again. I also videoed the very last show, with the intent to watch them back to back and see how much has changed. I already know it will be a huge amount. So much so that it will almost physically hurt to watch the early ones again.
I remember the people I’ve met here. Some will become lifelong friends, and some I may never see again. It’s too early to tell which will be which, but I have my hopes. I remember all the other performers, the directors and coordinators and assistants, and the rotating rosters of band and crew and tech staff. All of us sitting in the kitchen sharing soup together between shows on matinee days. Laughter, jokes, arguments, language barriers, moments of eye contact and mutual understanding.
I remember the corporate job I worked at for five years before leaving to do this full time. I remember the doubt and the fear and the gut wrenching worry as to whether I could make it work. Then I remember seeing the Hansa contract, and how it felt like my first piece of really solid evidence that things might just turn out ok.
I remember a hundred other things, but it would take me forever to turn the thoughts into words, and this text file I’m writing on my phone is getting pretty long.
So I look forward in time, wondering what cascading sequence of events will come from this. Already this gig has given me so much, and there is every chance that it will continue to give a lot more.
There’s a lot of work to do. People to email. Contacts to follow up on. New routines to workshop, new acts to build, other theatres to visit. Soon after, a home to return to and family and friends to see again. And in a few more minutes, a party to attend.
But for now, I want to sit here and say goodbye to the Hansa Theatre.
Goodbye, and thank you.