A few days before Tech (Halloween to be exact), stage manager Sarah Smiley sent me a blog post describing how Nicholas Nickleby was affecting her dreams. I absolutely love it and have to share it with you below. One of the characters in this dream you’ve already met – Sarah’s dog Tug. After attending only part of the third day of Tech on Sunday, I wonder what her dreams are like now.
Eight a.m. Five minutes, please. Have to get up and walk the dog. Five…minutes… please. No…have to get up and walk the dog. Five…Week four and I fall asleep in North Yorkshire and I’m waking up in London. Where is that letter from Fanny to Ralph…isn’t it letter #8 or maybe #9 or #10? I thought I put it on the prop table… or maybe I mailed it? Or maybe, it’s in someone’s coat pocket…they can’t do this scene without the letter…Am I looking for Noggs’ copy of the letter, or the one Allison brings onstage or is it Ralph’s? He reads one, too. Ray needs a letter, too!! Which letter ends up in his coat pocket? Who presets his coat…I have to find his dresser…Ralph. Ralph Nickleby. I will learn that name by heart. Ralph’s office is cold as fresh coal…Ralph’s office is the angular platform, it moves up and downstage with the effortless push of a button. Who is pushing the button? Stand by Button Pusher…Button Pusher…GO! Button Pusher, I hear a noise…it’s not the platform making that noise, is it? Do we need to stop? I form an “h” with my mouth, intending to finish the familiar stage manager’s refrain I’ve begun, “Hold…please!” No sound moves my tongue but I hear the whisper of a biting wind. I hear the falling snow and see a young, lost lad with a spoon. I listen harder, wonder where I am and keep looking at the boy, trying to pick up my cue…is it coming from backstage? No, it sounds like the melodic honking of geese making their way south, flying over Devon? Geese in Devon? Why am I in Devon…how did I get to Devon? No…it sounds like…like…Line? “I’ve never done…” “I’ve never done anything like this before!” I shout from the top of my lungs, standing center stage and staring out at the house…it’s empty…all around, it’s empty. I must be having one of those anxiety dreams…I’m not an actor, I think, I think to myself in the dream-theatre. But backstage, and I can hear it clearly, I hear a humming, many voices becoming one…one story, two parts, two directors, two rooms and one cast. All in London, damn ‘em. Eight o’nine a.m. and the geese are humming…wait a minute, geese don’t hum, they honk…as I begin to walk toward upstage center, trying to find the prop I misplaced, the humming begins to sound like a truck backing up but I know there are no trucks in Victorian London. What about geese? I turn towards stage right and I reach out to pick up a piece of paper that I think is the missing letter! I still have time to finish the preset…rehearsal doesn’t start until one o’clock! Who calls? Who calls so loud??? Instead, my hand slaps the alarm clock and then I’m staring with blurry eyes at the ceiling. It was a dream. I have to get up and walk the dog. It’s week four and it’s time to get up and go to the theatre. I have to prepare for rehearsal.
I shake the ague from my consciousness and try to focus on the sunlight that slices though my window. It reminds me of the afternoon sun in the rehearsal hall, the way it warms the floor and creeps from here to there as we move through the day. I’ve been dreaming about what I do. Sometimes, I am afforded an epiphany about the process. But, as my dream-self remarked, I’ve never done anything like this before. 25 years in theatre and never have I been so awed and humbled by a process or the people who are making it happen. There are many props to preset and much paperwork to update and meetings to attend and people to talk to and furniture to move and there is coffee to make. Lots of coffee. 25 actors drink a lot of coffee. I need a cup of coffee…I roll out of bed and dress, call the dog and we go outside and take in the morning breeze. It’s October, and the geese are flying south for the winter.
–Sarah Smiley, Stage Manager