The first one is the 2nd preview. This is when all of us; the actors, the technicians, the house staff, all of us are tested on our poise. Gone is the adrenalin flutteriness and delicious loathing of that first audience. The delightful surprises and illuminating lessons that the first audience brings are behind us. What we are left with is the simple fact that we must present our product to the best of our ability without the frosting of jitters that accompany that first performance before a full house.
We must show our Poise.
Poise. I've always liked the word.
Poise is defined as a state of balance or equilibrium, a dignified, self-confident manner or bearing, a composure. It is a form of self-possession.
It also has a nice feeling of suspense or wavering, as between rest and motion or two phases of movement. Like a fencer in equipoise, ready to thrust or defend with equanimity. It is also like hovering: the poise of a bird in the air. To have poise is to be balanced, to exhibit self-assurance; polish, grace, refinement.
What a blessing it is to be tested on our poise on this crystal clear Summer afternoon at the Bruns and not in some bunker in the Middle East- but that's for another column.
Actually, there are two of them. Poise Shows. The 2nd one comes on a gleaming Sunday matinee, the day after opening. There is no promise of a party with friends and family after, no well wishing cards or flowers or candies or hugs. There is only a team of artists presenting a 400 year old play in the unflinching glare of the sun as a seemingly endless parade of helicopters and other noisome aircraft cross the cloudless sky overhead.
But this 2nd Poise Show has something up its sleeve: Relief. Relief that we have finally opened. That the sweet hoopla and the champagne speeches are over and we can just settle down and do our work.
And talking with the other cast members at intermission, it seems that all of us feel better about our performances here at the matinee Poise Show than we did the previous night. Everyone is a little more relaxed, a little more listening to the other actors and a little less listening to ourselves and the audience reactions is going on. It just seems to flow better and I don't know why.
Maybe we're showing our poise.