The stage play Noises Off starts off with a terribly rocky dress rehearsal for a farce being performed by a theatre company with more than its fair share of problems – distracted actors, disgruntled techs, and an overbearing director.

The production I saw several months ago really pointed up those awkward silences that occur when some actor has forgotten her cue. Deer-in-the-headlights is the best description for the glaze that occurs for the poor souls on stage. The near-obsessive tic of eyes flicking towards the door that’s supposed to have opened unexpectedly 30, 45, 55 seconds ago.

It isn’t until you get to the second act that you literally get to see the other side of the action. For fancier playhouses the entire stage rotates until you see the backstage area in all its weird, ramshackle barrenness. For the house we saw it in, we had to memorize our seat number, gather our coats, and walk through the stage right set door to the back, and find our new seats.

It’s now the play, in its entirety – every lecherous moment, every hysterical hissed whisper for a missing prop, the preening and pinning and smoothing before sweeping out into that brilliant light and projecting one’s voice to the back of the house.

In the current ARG I am playing, Last Call Poker, there are updates scheduled for Wednesdays and Saturdays. From experience, every single other day of the week those puppetmasters are surely scrambling and tweaking and even occasionally finding the rare moment to breathe and try to view the game as a whole, as a color, as a single note pressed on a piano keyboard.

I crave those 7 days far more than I thought I would have.

I love to play, to be the player – a contributor, a helper, a moderator, a lurker. But I desire and feel my fingers itch insanely for that backstage grit, for that abject horror of a missed cue and the air high-fives when you come to the dressing room after nailing that monologue. Sometimes, there’s bouquets of flowers, but really, it’s the grime of old makeup, the smell of astringent and hairspray, the scratchy wool of period costumes, the clean sweat of a rigorous third act, the absolute discipline and 500% given from waking moment to narcoleptic coma. The accolades are the game. The game is everyone. Moment to moment.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: being a puppetmaster is the best drug I’ve ever been on.