I closed a show last night.
I took all the character names off the microphones, the costumes and props were gathered up and returned to the rental places or put in storage, the set was taken apart into lumber and standard platforms. This morning a crew is in there taking down the lights, and I'm backing up my design files onto DVD-ROM before deleting the show from my hard disc.
It was only a two-week run but I worked every single performance. Twelve in all, plus nearly that number of rehearsals. Watching the stage, listening intently to the dialog, following every song. Experiencing the stumbles and the rescues; like the moment the sword broke in the middle of the climactic sword fight, and the actors adapted so well the fight only became more dramatic for it.
It was a self-contained world. These were portrayals of people who will never be done quite that way again. A set under lights that will never quite be replicated. The intangible experience of a live theatrical performance that doesn't survive being recorded (despite the experienced videographer in the back of the house).
More than that. No play, no moment, no presented world is quite like the real one. In every production there are compromises made for what is practical, and choices made for what is dramatic. And every creative department (including the director and the actors) are making these choices, which interact and feed upon each other synergistically.
What emerges is not just complex and nuanced beyond the ability of a single creator, but it has that edge, that unexpected quality of a real thing. It becomes a real place, with its own internal logic, its own style, its own flavor. Your mind begins to fill in the ancillary details; the back sides of sets, the action you can't see, the taste of the foods, even the unique scents of the land.
But this is a place where you can not extend your reservations or apply for a working visa. It is a place that only exists for as long as the play is performed. Each performance, you catch new glimpses of the greater world beyond the characters and actions on stage; each performance, there are new hints and nuances to the unseen and unexperienced, that make the experience of that world broader and deeper and more detailed.
And then Closing Night, and you board your flight; never to return.
No wonder many theater people get depressed on Closing Night!