The surface of the rehearsal hall has been swept and neon-colored spike tape marks off rooms, stairs, doors, and windows of a set that up to now has only been rendered in 2 dimensions. Actors will negotiate flat stairs and non-existent doors (*Dude, that's actually a wall you just walked through*) as the real ones are built downstairs on the surface of the stage. *Really, they want a wall there?*
The play itself has only been discussed, it has not yet had life off the surface of the page. As rehearsal hours tick away, actors animate the playwright's words trying to fit their interpretation with the director's vision. *You know, I never thought of Joe as a Buddhist nymphomaniac, interesting choice.*
Costumes, at first only patterns and drawings on the surface of paper soon add extra texture to the characters struggling to be defined. Meanwhile, in the theater, from a flat, non-descript surface springs the world of the play, built carefully by the technical director and crew. Soon the actors, directors, and designers invade and add more nuance and feeling to the story that only a few weeks ago was just a vision and some words. *Oh, so that actually is a wall there. You know in this costume, Joe feels more like a gay Irishman.*
Soon, the final element arrives, the audience. Their response spurs the actors to find new meaning in the words and encourages them to crystallize the emotional arc of the play. *Wow, that audience was great - no one texted, no cell phones went off, no one fell asleep, no one left!*
And all too soon it is over. Sets are torn down, costumed stores, and actors and directors (and stage managers) move on to other plays. But the memory of the story we told lives on, just below the surface.
*Note: None of the comments in asterisks has ever, EVER been heard by this Stage Manager.*