The people from the technical department are also in The Amsterdam Music Theatre in good time today. They, too, have lots to do before the auditorium programme starts at eleven o'clock, as it is a rather ambitious programme. There are no fewer than three premieres, which is pretty stressful. Especially as The Amsterdam Music Theatre's tight schedule meant there was no time for a 'run-through': a stage rehearsal of all the dance sections in sequence, to practice all the technical changes. "That's a real problem", the stage manager sighed earlier this week. In this theatre, we're not used to leaving things to chance. "Now, for example, we can't give a 100% guarantee that everything will be lit properly", he said. He would have preferred Ted to select other pieces. But despite everything, our technical crew have taken up the challenge very professionally. From early morning on, all the lighting cues are programmed and the plans are fine-tuned. Full attention is also given to the presentation of the auditorium programme, going through the entrances, duration and content of the speeches one by one.
We used to hire a presenter for the Open House; a professional of the type 'known from radio and TV'. So when I announced to the marketing department a couple of years back that I wanted to do the presentation myself, it was viewed with scepticism. "Can you do that?" I could see them wondering. But I wasn't about to miss this chance of standing on the stage of a full Amsterdam Music Theatre (ha!). In any case, I thought it was much better that this auditorium full of friends and fans should be addressed by their 'own' ballet directors. I was certain that personal contact would be more highly valued by these loyal fans than the polished performance of a well-known Dutch personality who, after all, would just read their story from a piece of paper. So since then, Ted and I have taken to the stage ourselves.
Today, my 'performance' will start even earlier, as I have to present the 'Big Ballet Quiz' during the foyer programme. I've been given a list of fun questions (such as 'how is a tutu cleaned?') and the participants can choose between two answers. Those who choose answer A ('in a bath with a brush') hold up the blue card they've been given, and those who choose answer B ('dry-cleaned') wave their pink card. If you've got the right answer (A), you can continue to the next question. It goes on like this till everyone's out except for one winner, who gets the new DVD of Don Quichotte. At least that was the idea.
Ten past ten, and I'm ready to perform my role of quiz master with verve. Only nobody wants to take part. There I am with my microphone and my cards, and around eighty empty chairs. There are plenty of people - that's not the problem. But they're all walking in a curve around my empty chairs. They're going to have a look at Wigs & Make-up, or they're off to the bar for a cup of coffee. I feel a real idiot, standing there on my own. I've got to do something, otherwise this part of the programme will be a flop.
Then I remember a similar experience. When I was 18, I did a holiday job at the V&D department store in Den Bosch. I was out on the street in front of the shop, at a counter selling sausage, liver pate and sliced meats. But nobody had the slightest interest in my stall. I had rarely felt such a fool. So I had to think up a ruse. I decided to tempt passing children with a slice of sausage, because mothers wouldn't be able to deny their offspring this treat. So soon enough, there were a couple of ladies at the stall. That also attracted the attention of other passers-by, who then came to have a look themselves. Suddenly, I was able to start promoting my attractively priced liver sausage. And yes - the coins began to rattle in the cash register.
That ruse ought to work again, I think. I should just get going with this Quiz. All I need is one participant. I spy a familiar face, a loyal Friend who also came on the ballet tour to China. I persuade her to take part by saying "If you get ten correct answers, you'll get the DVD". I start firing my questions at her, and she keeps answering correctly. Now the passers-by suddenly become interested. Here and there, people sit down on chairs. I can see they're wondering if they know the answers too. Soon it gets busy around us. So I choose a difficult question - one that our Friend couldn't possibly know. "What a shame, ladies and gentlemen", I can now shout. "This nice lady hasn't won the prize. But you can! Who'd like to join in?" When I look around, I see eighty people sitting ready with their blue and pink cards. The ruse has succeeded. And then the ballet questions start selling like hot sausages.
It really is a shame about our ballet Friend who helped me out of a scrape, and who I then thanked by making her lose. At the end of the Open House, when my work as presenter of the auditorium programme is over, I find her by the exit. I give her the DVD of Don Quichotte anyway and we chat for a moment. "That was a really nice morning", she tells me. "And the Dutch National Ballet is looking so good at the moment!" Compliments like that make me proud; proud of my colleagues and all the volunteers who got up at the crack of dawn, and of our production team who once again delivered an impeccable performance. Other people came up to talk to me as well. They really enjoyed the three premieres. So it's good that we dared do them anyway!
Next year we'll be holding another Open House. It's just a pity that I'll have to wait a whole year to play the presenter and quiz master again...