Recently, on the opening night of a show that had a rather painful tech process, a sweet costume designer that I hadn’t seen in years stood in the lobby with me after the show while we waited for the house to clear. We both discussed our recent shows and how delays or problems had reduced the time needed onstage to less than the bare minimum, and she said to me: “It always works out fine in the end. It’s theatre magic.”
I nearly punched her in the face right then and there.
I like her, she’s sweet, she’s so benign and adorable. But so dead wrong about this simple truth.
It doesn’t always work out fine in the end, and there is no such thing as theatre magic. Doing what we do requires hard work, pain, time, revision, often reconceptualization, more hard work – and then some time away to reflect on the work – in order to come back and make the necessary changes to improve the overall theatrical product.
If you are a designer, or director, or producer that still believes in theatre “magic” – I will lay odds that you aren’t creating very satisfying theatre experiences for your audiences. You’ve short-cut the process, you’ve forced everyone that you work with to rely on first instincts and initial responses, and that means that your show has a very one dimensional quality that may fall completely apart if anything doesn’t go as expected.
That magic just means that you didn’t test all of the elements together, and you fully expect everything to just work perfectly the first time, and every time. Seems pretty foolhardy to me.