What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

Welcome to the White Room November 23, 2013

Filed under: Hi-Ho the Glamorous Life — meganorussell @ 10:00 am
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Anyone who has spent time on stage will tell you that things go wrong. Sometimes a set piece breaks, sometimes you lose your wig, and occasionally you end up topless. It happens. A lot of times, there is no one to blame. It’s just the theatre gods having a bit of fun at the actors’ expense. Sometimes, it is the actor’s fault. I can hear stage managers and techs the world over screaming, “I told you so!” but it’s true. Actors are not perfect. We break the set, we break character, heck, we even break ourselves. And there is no one to blame but us.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing the same show for six months or if it’s opening night. Sometimes, no matter how well you know the material, you forget a line or a lyric. You fumble for a few words and then put yourself back on track. But if you are very unlucky, and the theatre gods hate you very much, you don’t just forget a few words, you go to a place called the white room.

The white room is a place of myths and legends, and it looks different to each of us who goes there. To me, the white room is a land of swirling white mist. Sounds echo in the distance, and shadows dance just out of sight. I hear voices calling to me, but I can’t find my way through the fog to the land beyond. The white room isn’t like Narnia. You don’t need to climb into a wardrobe or have a painting come to life and sweep you away. All you have to do is be onstage, and the white room will find you.

It can take you away at anytime. You’ll be dancing in sequins and heels, and suddenly you’re gone. Lost in the white fog that will not lift, certain you’re missing something, with no hint of what that something could be. Just as quickly as it took you away, the white room will abandon you. You will find yourself back onstage, unsure of how long you were gone, what is happening around you, or if you should be wearing feathers at all.

The scared actor in your head will scream silently “Is it my line?!”, and all you can do is pray that one of your fellow actors has noticed your being taken away to the land of white wonder and that they will give you a sign. A word. A glance. Anything to tell you what show you are doing and which role you are playing. Then and only then will the theatre gods be appeased and allow the show to go on.


2 Responses to “Welcome to the White Room”

  1. It happened to me not that long ago – singing in church.

    Unfortunately, ‘church’ was the Princeton University chapel (a place with amazing acoustics).

    Fortunately, people are so preoccupied with their own problems that even major gaffs get overlooked (or people are being kind!). I remember Father coming over afterward and vigorously congratulating me on ‘the best Sunday ever.’

    I don’t care if he was being sincere – I was just happy it wasn’t recorded and on Youtube for all to enjoy.

    I vowed on the spot to remember to take my nap before going to church – the brain glitches otherwise. So far, knock on wood.

  2. mike olley Says:

    I’d never heard of this term, White Room, before – a place with no reference to what you were previously in the middle of. I’m finding the idea exciting with many story possibilities.

    Thinking about the times I have been in the White Room, it has mainly been when living someone else’s reality, i.e. following a script, a set of moves. Maybe that’s why I prefer improvisation.

    Great post, thank you.

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