For the past three weeks, I was in tech week as the co-sound designer for Arizona State University's production of "Trade Trade Love". This past Friday, October 12th, marked opening night for the production and I was not there.
Does a designer need to be present for opening night?
In my opinion, no. I think it is healthy to take a break from the show you have been in constant tech for the past week or two. Yes, I think it is important to eventually see the show... but just not on opening night.
There are some designers in the industry who believe it is important to see the opening and closing performance of a production in order to see the evolution of a piece. Personally, I don't find the need to see my work the first night it opens because my mind has been wrapped around the design for days and I need to breath. My brain has been in constant "design" mode and I need to step away and let the choices I made settle into the flow of the performances. I think it is important to have distance from your work and then comeback to it in order to reflect on the design choices made.
Any night I see the show will be just as much of an experience as the first showing. I will still get to sit amongst a murmuring house of audience members as the lights begin to dim; watch as the actors roam the stage; and listen to the audience react to my sound design choices.
Whether it is opening night or the 5th performance of a production's run, there is no large difference to me and I think it is important to have some healthy distance from your work.