Nobody in the auditorium notices anything apart from me, as I’m on duty this evening as ‘company representative’, which means I have to walk round all evening with a pager in case of problems. Such as, for example: ‘There are two people here at the box office who say they have free tickets, but there’s nothing here in their name’. Then the company representative springs into action. There’s always one colleague on duty, and tonight it’s my turn. But a fire alarm is whole different story!
There’s no sign of any emergency on stage. The prince has just entered the forest where his sleeping beauty lays waiting for him behind the thorn bushes. There doesn’t appear to be anything amiss. Soon he will find her and awaken her with a kiss – unless, of course, we’ve all had to evacuate the theatre before then! The Amsterdam Music Theatre is a big building and there could be something wrong in one of the offices. But even then, it may be decided to take no risk at all. I rush out of the auditorium and go to the reception at the stage door – the agreed meeting point – to find out what’s going on. Just imagine that we have to evacuate! Then I’ll have to go on stage to ask the audience – ‘calmly but decisively’, as the instructions say – to leave the building. And in the case of an evacuation, all the staff have to gather at the nearby Moses en Aaronkerk. I can just imagine telling all the dancers that they really do have to go out on the street in their thin costumes in temperatures of -4° C…
But it doesn’t come to that. It’s a false alarm. Apparently, so much dust had come off the thirty-year-old scenery that it had set the fire alarm off. Nothing to worry about. The fire brigade’s been told not to come and I can just go back and enjoy the performance.
From the wings, I see that Aurora has already been kissed back to life. I stand in the dark next to the stage and look around me. Technicians are standing at the ready for the scene change, dancers arrive to warm up, pointe shoes are put on, the stage manager calls all the lighting cues like a ‘traffic controller’, further along the hall dancers are being made up and getting wigs on, costumes are being putting on and taken off, and everywhere you look people are busy. In short, it is a huge undertaking, which is concealed behind the polished fairytale that the audience sees. It is 100% professionalism. And that would be the case, too, if a fire had really broken out. Hopefully, that will be the one top achievement we will never have to deliver.
And yet…..I had been ready for my hero’s role. First of all, my efficient actions would have saved many innocent visitors from a death by fire. And then I would have single-handedly plucked the deeply sleeping and almost forgotten Aurora from the flames. Yes, I was ready! But afterwards, on the way home, I’m actually relieved I didn’t have to become a hero after all.