90 Minutes Before Opening Night

flickr-stevendepolo-clockface-300wLast night, "Simon Coronel: Moments" opened at the Melbourne Magic Festival. 90 minutes before the curtain went up, Dave Lee and I were in the courtyard outside the venue, with hammers, saws, and various other tools, constructing the main prop for the show's finale.

This wasn't just a nice-to-have set piece we were constructing. This was an absolutely essential prop for the finale. Had we not managed to get it finished in time, the finale wouldn't have worked, and the entire point of the show would have been severely compromised.

Leaving something like that until the last minute is clearly a very bad idea. It is also, however, sometimes an unavoidable side effect of working on something creative. Over the past few months of working on the show, as the triage requirements gradually became tighter, I had been steadily re-prioritising which parts to focus on. The finale prop, while absolutely essential to the show, was in theory actually quite easy to build. There were many other essential parts of the show that needed far more work to get over the line, and those had been receiving the bulk of my attention.

In the 24 hours before opening night, I stayed up all night working on the terrifying number of things that still needed attention before the show started. Caught up in the frenzy of assembling the rest of the show, I simply didn't get around to thinking about the in-theory-easy-to-make finale prop until the morning.

So, severely sleep-deprived and with about 10 hours until the show, I suddenly realised that I didn't have the necessary equipment to build this last prop. Most of that 10 hours was already fully booked with other essential show preparation (lights, sound, ticketing, seating, etc), but there was just enough time free for another trip to the hardware store.

I turned up to the venue with all the stuff for the show, plus hammers, saws, wood, and a looks-great-in-my-head-and-oh-god-I-hope-it-also-works-in-reality blueprint for the thing we needed to build. Miraculously we did actually managed to build it to specification, install it into the theatre, and make it work adequately for opening night.

It occurred to me afterwards that if I'd been in that situation a few years ago, I would have given up. The day of the show and the main prop isn't even built yet? No chance. Change the routine, cancel the show, or just curl up into a ball and make whimpering noises. But after surviving situations like FISM 2012, the Edinburgh Fringe, and the Handsome Jack shows, I'd seen enough last-minute miracles happen to still give it a shot.

And I'm very glad I did. The show is still very rough, messy, and only maybe at 30% of what I'd hoped. But it exists, and now we can get to work on making it great.


(Image by Flickr user stevendepolo, licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0)



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