Time Will Tell

The History Boys opened on Saturday! It’s been a whirlwind week full of hard and fast work, anticipation, excitement and joy. Cast member Andrew Carter reflects:

It’s Monday, and I have the next three days off, but I can’t stop thinking about the show. The past seven weeks have been so thrilling, so utterly engaging, that my mind refuses to rest.  Just two weeks ago, I was sweating it out with the rest of the cast and design team as we headed into tech, uncertain that we would ever pull through in time for opening night. Tech was monstrous, and by the end of the week, we all felt the pressure. The newspaper articles were popping up, and the buzz about the show was unavoidable. Within a matter of days, the doors were open and suddenly audience members, eager to find out what this show was all about, surrounded us.

For our first house, an invited “dress rehearsal,” filled mostly with friends and fellow theatre types, I must admit I was shaking like a whore in church. I’m not sure anyone would know that if I didn’t admit it here, but I don’t think I was wholly prepared for the wave of emotions that overtook me. Nerves, of course, but also an overwhelming sense that this process was no longer private to those involved directly, but soon to be a public exercise, and one required to thrive off the relationship between the show and its varying audiences. Those feelings lingered all through the night and into the next day, and I found myself asking, “What is going on with you!?”

Joel Gross (left) as Dakin and Andrew Carter as Irwin in "The History Boys"

Joel Gross (left) as Dakin and Andrew Carter as Irwin in “The History Boys”

By Wednesday evening, I had sequestered those opening jitters and reminded myself that we are here to play, and that’s just what the rest of the week has been. I have enjoyed every moment, both on stage and off. The cast and crew pass each other with looks of enthusiasm and pride. Throughout previews, and into the opening weekend performances, the show found a rhythm and a heartbeat. The boys seem to exist together as a moving, breathing entity, while the teachers bounce off them in every direction, but always return with insight and encouragement. The crowds have responded with great interest, and my favorite moments are the little gasps, the single “ahhs” or the collective “ooohs” born from recognition.

At three hours running time, I am aware that we are challenging our audience to stay with us, under the pretense that the final moments will leave them wondering, hoping, questioning, and smiling. I trust that we are able to take their hands from the very beginning and guide them through this tremendous (some would say epic) story of the profundity of growing up, taking chances, breaking barriers, discovering love, accepting death, tackling fear, embracing truth, and the “utter randomness” of life. As playwright Alan Bennett clearly believes, time will reveal all.

Andrew Carter plays the character “Irwin” in The History Boys.

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