Headshots – Manda Speaks (and writes)

As we’re now only two days from the remount of Headshots and Healing Potions, I asked co-writer and co-player Manda Whitney to say a few words about the process of putting it all together again:

Three months ago, I was standing outside a small shed in the Honest Ed’s parking lot and feeling very much in over my head. My hands were shaking, my stomach was twisting, and my brain was trying to convince me that it wasn’t too late to back out of our hastily rehearsed fringe show, Headshots and Healing Potions. Of course, some of this was opening night jitters, but the stakes seemed higher and there was a lot to be nervous about.

Deej and I had written the show together in just under a month, and we had rehearsed for even less time than that thanks to our various schedules being booked up. It was the first time anything I had written was to be performed for the general public. Our lines were still slightly off. I was right in the middle of a particularly bad cold and was using most of my will power just to keep standing. Our director was unable to be at opening week due to a previously planned vacation. The shed that we had been told we could perform in was even smaller than we thought it would be. And to top it all off, I had no idea how the general theatre population would receive a show exclusively about video games.

Of course it all came together, as only the most chaotic shows can, and it turned out to be one of the best theatre experiences of my life so far. Now it’s October and we’re preparing to put our show on again. I’ve never remounted a show before. It feels different. In fact, it feels very much like playing a favourite video game over again. I know the moves now and anticipate my favourite levels. There’s almost no uncertainty when I walk into that final boss room because I’ve fought this fight before, I know what to expect. I’m playing again for the sheer love of the game.

But then there are surprises as well. Some levels I remember quite differently, some stick out in my mind more than others. Those moves I thought I knew so well are fuzzier than I thought, and I have to pause and reorient myself. And as with all the best games and shows, there are things that I missed the first time around; sidequests that I had skipped over in my zeal to finish the game, characters I hadn’t talked to, easter eggs that I now had time to discover. It’s quite a different experience from the sometimes nerve wracking fun of my first play-through.

Unlike video games, theatre rarely has a chance to be replayed. As we rev up for our encore show, I’m astounded at the new things we’re discovering in rehearsals. It’s a chance to finesse details that we simply didn’t have time to do the first time around. We’re finding new jokes and nuances. Heck, we’re even finding new ways to goof around during rehearsals. Sure, I’ll be nervous before we perform. But I’ve played this game before, and I can’t wait to see what the replay is like.

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