What’s It Like To See Your Play In Production?

by Randy Murray on August 6, 2012

Glorious. Terrifying. Amazing.

Worth all the effort and heartache.

When I first became a playwright, back in graduate school at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, I never thought much about how I’d feel watching one of my own plays. I’d acted, sung, and performed for as long as I could remember. Why would this be any different?

Let me tell you: it is VERY different. As a performer you are focused on the task at hand. Even as a director you shape every step of the production and watch it over and over again. Even though the director isn’t on stage, they’re an integral part of the production. As a student playwright I often worked every step of the way with the production, making changes, being intimately involved in everything. All of that was fine, nothing unusual or unexpected.

But as a mature, professional playwright when you walk into a production that you’ve had little to no connection with and suddenly, there it is, it is completely terrifying. When I first saw one of my plays in full production with hundreds of people in the audience I wasn’t sure I could breathe. I was pretty sure I was going to die right there in the back of the auditorium.

What if it doesn’t work? Did the director and the cast really understand the work? What about all of the little things that I could have told them?

But then, by some miracle, the audience is laughing. There, at exactly the right place, they gasp. And at the end they are on their feet and the applause is thunderous.

And that’s when I realized that I was only part, a small part of what makes theater real, what makes it important.

This last year when I attended the production of one of my plays in Texas I was able to relax and actually watch and enjoy the show for the first time. It was thrilling. I give full credit to the cast and director. But I was able to share in the glow of appreciation, to take a little of that applause home with me.

A novelist, an author of non-fiction, will never know these feelings of very real terror and soaring triumph. These are reserved for the playwright, and to some lesser extent, the screenplay writer. These are the dues we pay and the rewards we reap.


The What’s It Like To See Your Play In Production? by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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