Learning to see the magic

Your ticket says the performance will begin at 8PM. At 7:57 the house lights dim. At 7:59 the house lights go out and the orchestra begins to play the overture. At 8:02 the curtain rises, the lights come up, and the performance begins. You’re lucky and a magical performance unfolds over the next two hours.

Wind the clock back to 7:30. Behind the curtain, just offstage, is the stage manager, dressed in black jeans and a black turtleneck. He speaks into a headset, “call is half hour”. The message is relayed and acknowledged by actors, stage hands, electricians, sound techs, props manager and others. The House Manager calls from the lobby; it’s a full house.

Energy is building.

At 7:53, the stage manager steps over to a small podium holding a 3-ring binder with the stage manager’s cue book illuminated by a small lamp. The magic making is about to begin.

7:55 – “call is 5 minutes”
7:57 – “Places. House to half”
7:59 – “house out”
“stand by 1”
The overture begins
“Go 1”
8:02 The stage manager gives a hand signal to a stage hand to raise the curtain
“Stand by 2”
“Go 2”
The lead makes her first entrance up stage center

Two hours later, two hundred lighting and sound cues successfully executed, lines performed, the curtain comes down.


Curtain calls.

Most of us are content to enjoy the magic. Some wonder how the magic gets made. Some want to be part of making the magic.

You can’t guarantee that the magic will happen. What you can do is bring the pieces together, practice, observe what happens, adjust, and repeat. What separates the magical from the banal is the quality of observing and adjusting.

What can you learn to see? How finely can you learn to adjust?