The date is very near: This Valentine’s Day, we’ll be closing the curtain on the fourth season of Romeo + Juliet in Second Life. I can hardly believe it: this Friday at 1PM will be the 35th performance of the theatrical dance production that has, until recently, been my number one passion project in Second Life.
The cast, in its various incarnations, has put on the show nearly every weekend now for 9 months. Amazingly, we’re still getting a great turn out week after week, even the last two Saturdays have been nearly packed houses. By all accounts, the show has been a success and is ending this run on a high.
Still, I consider this Friday’s performance of Romeo + Juliet to be very, very special. Sure, it happens to be Valentine’s Day, which provides a particularly fitting backdrop to the themes of the play. Beyond that, knowing how new and exciting projects have a tendency to consume my attention, I can’t help but feel melancholic as I imagine this Friday’s performance.
Very much like how one might get attached to one’s avatar, I’ve become very attached to playing Romeo and to the feelings I get when we do this show.
Like it is for all the actors, performing the play is a highlight of my week. Though lately it’s caught me a bit by surprise, I always look forward to it.
My excitement builds from the moment I hear the house music before the curtain opens. Gwen, Syn, Sonia, Harvey and I arrive at the dressing room with half an hour to start, get into costume, and begin caching our animations.
I change my graphic settings, log into my tip jar, and chat in group chat with cast and crew, as I keep an eye on the front of the house and the people window showing who’s on the sim. Inevitably, with about 15 minutes to go and only a few people in the audience, I worry no one else will come. It’s the craziest thing, because I’ve been proven wrong every time, but for some reason I imagine the worst.
Anxiety turns into enthusiasm as I hear the tuning of the orchestra and the tap, tap, tap of the conductor’s baton. I look out in the audience, and yes, thankfully more have arrived. It’s busy as usual, and Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights begins to play, and I get into place.
Every performance varies. There is either something funny going on in the audience, some tech that isn’t working, a wardrobe malfunction, an urgent right click on everything after a TP, an (un)expected crash, jokes and banter going on in group chat, or the little differences I see in the performer’s steps and timings.
For me, things really get rolling with Come What May. That’s when I really get warmed up and into it, and I will always sing along with Ewan and Nicole as it plays, which is kind of funny because I’m playing both Romeo and Juliet in this scene.
As Romeo, or Juliet in Never Gonna Happen, Sleep Alone, and Crazy Little Thing, I’m in every single scene. I’m even prepping Juliet for Never Gonna Happen during the break I have at the beginning of Kung Fu Fighting. Apart from that, I’m switched “on” for the entire show.
One of my favourite parts of the show, as I’m sure it is for nearly everyone that’s ever been on stage, is the curtain call. It’s not the first time the audience applauds and cheers; that happens after every scene. It is however, the first time I get a chance to really savour it. Sometimes, it goes on for so long that my smile hurts my face.
I am exhausted after a performance. While requiring little physical energy apart from bouncing or singing in my chair, just being on high alert for 90 minutes requires a level of mental effort and focus that just isn’t the norm.
We chat a bit after the show, thanking and congratulating each other for another job well done. Sometimes we’ll vent a little steam on the surprises Second Life has thrown at us that night, but most of the time we’re all on a high.
And then, most of us will go our separate ways until the next weekend, when we do it all again.
But not this time.
Two weeks ago, I announced that the LEA has given Romeo + Juliet a breath of fresh air – enabling us to extend the play into a fifth season, and augment it with immersive experiential activities. And of course, we’re busier than bees during honey season with Paradise Lost in Second Life.
So, while I know that this will not be the last time I play Romeo and it certainly won’t be the last time we perform Romeo + Juliet, there is no doubt in my mind that things will be different when the curtain finally closes on this performance.
Even as I write this post while listening to the soundtrack through my headphones, I can’t help but feel a bit emotional.
Despite managing to keep it together thus far, I’ll be sure to keep the tissues handy come Friday. I know I’m going to need them.