Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ode to a dresser

Dear Alma,
A dresser has a lot to put up with. You help me get into my giant costume, don't flinch at zipping me up, and handle my gross sweaty self with elan. Because, oh gentle reader, no matter how NICE we look, we actors sweat. A LOT. Puddles of sweat. And Alma never recoils, at least in our presence. She puts up with helping us put on our smelly shoes, and she WASHES our appalling undergarments.
Seriously, dressers put up with a lot. "OMG its places and I only have my tights on HELP!" "OMG its places and I ripped  my petticoat, HELP" "OMG, I need to pee! Hold up my ridiculous garments!" Yuck.
Alma! Come zip me up, hold my gum, snap me into my corset, fix my ripped lace... There is a whole category or French farce devoted to ladies maids, and that is what dressers are. And I hope they know WE know we would be wrecks without them. And we worship them, and they have us over a barrel. Because, if I don't have clean tights, I can't go onstage!

OC Arts and Culture Review!

“Clothes” Makes the Musical a Snap

Posted on 31 May 2011 by Hannah Petrak
emperor2Marcus is only 14 years old and he just became the new emperor, even though he hasn’t finished reading “How to Become an Emperor” yet. He has no idea how to run a country, or even make people believe he can. Sounds like a problem only magical garments can take care of.
A musical version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” as part of the Theatre for Young Audiences series at South Coast Repertory, has everything to keep the children staring wide-eyed at the stage. The costumes alone were like their own exciting tales: over-the-top wigs, splayed coattails, and doorframe-wide hoop skirts; and of course, one delicate hanger holding the magical, invisible clothing to make Emperor Marcus, played by Alex Miller, a winning success.
The crowd favorite was Chad Borden as the Swindler. His flexible high-kicks and expressive face, wooed Marcus into a perfect swindle meal for a con artist like him. And 6-year-old Quinn, my date for the afternoon, poked me to whisper, “He’s funny,” the highest of accolades from this young lady.
emperor3A moon or two ago when I was Quinn’s age, I saw this play, at the Laguna Beach Playhouse, if my memory serves. Sans music, I believe. It only makes sense to add more whims to an already fantastical play. However most of this version’s music, by the Tony Award-winning duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, was pretty unmemorable. Each song seemed to copycat the one before.  There was one salient number, though, that the crowd loved, repeating the lines about oatmeal and emus to one another: “Only a Guy Like You.”
The rest of the cast was just as delightful. Diana Burbano and Todd Neilsen as Deena and William were a perfect blundering support for poor Marcus; and Arno the scrub boy, played by Jeffrey Christopher Todd, helped make the forbidden relationship with the young emperor a charming necessity, and some my favorite scenes.
The actors normally come out in costume after the show to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the children, during which Emperor Marcus did cover himself after the famous entrance in which he wears his invisible clothes. “You don’t have a shirt on!” a particularly perceptive young voice called out during the climax. No. He did not have a shirt on. But that’s the only way some people learn it’s the not the clothes that make a man.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We have opened! And we close in a week!

Weird TYA schedule! We finally open after 12 performances. It's like Spider Man. It's been pretty nice seeing how many people remember me from other shows. People who saw me pregnant in "James and the Giant Peach" ask me how my baby spider is doing, and I had a couple of kids tell me how much they love my Cat from "Bunnicula"
There is definitely a "last days of school" sense around SCR as we are the last production of the season. Most everyone is gone or packing up, and our deck crew is getting punchy. Watching Rebecca and Kristen do Arno's dance in the wings, and listening to Jenny talking about Super Coupons or Michael Jackson is highly amusing. Wendy needs a nap, Lois needs a trip, Liz needs to get to DC and Victor needs sleep. God knows what Jon needs. On top of all their concerns they know our parts better than we do!
Alex is getting flirted with a lot. Today a grown woman was the first to shout out, "You are naked!" before he even asked the kids. Slightly overexcited, if you ask me.
Lionel brought me flowers today and came backstage while I changed. He's not at all stagestruck, just amused by the nonsense of adults wearing costumes and playing with dragons. I think HE thinks we are pretty silly.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We are in previews already and audiences seem to like us. I was accosted by a darling 4 year old in a silk shirt who ran at me and told me he LOOOVVEED me, and Alex had a little girl confide in him that she too had pink underwear. I've never worked for Disney, but have somehow perfected the Disney Princess smile and squat for pictures.
We are still ironing out some of the tech elements. And, it's a fairly athletic show. It was a little gross to go off to lunch, after setting out my tights and chemise to dry, come back 2 hour later, and they are still wet. EWWWW! And not just a little damp. I am sweating like a man. I need to get on a scale and figure out how much the costume weighs. The nerd in me wants to wear a calorie counter and see how much my heart rate goes up while on stage. I once sneaked one on, and even in a sedate drama, my heart rate goes into low cardio mode. I think that's why even the actors who don't look very fit, are healthier than the average desk jockey. Performing in West Side Story was like running a marathon. I was super skinny and ate like a Longshoreman.
Jeffery Todd relaxes in the greenroom
I came back from lunch the other day to find our director fast asleep on the cot in my dressing room. It's only because I'd like to work in this town again that I didn't put my wig on him and take pictures....

William the royal adviser
Company preview was fun, if stressful. I did my song about clothes all in tribute of the poor, overworked costume shop, but the biggest applause came when our deck crew came onstage with horns at the start of the parade and did a little dance. Our first preview coincided with "Three Days Of Rain" opening night so a bunch of us went to TGIF's in an effort to crash the opening night party, but it was a crash fail for me. Too dang tired. We TYA-ers don't get parties. And I suspect if we did the hors'd'ouvres  would be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. And milk.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tech is Hell day 1.

Only amateurs call it hell week, but that doesn't mean that it's a bed of roses in the professional world.
Yesterday was our first tech-thru on the stage. That means that we are on set and the tech element take first priority.
I arrived at the theatre and prepped my own hair into pin-curls. (Ouch. I hate having my arms above my head for that long.) Put on my wig cap, then into my first layer: Colorful tights, chemise, mic-pak, petticoat. Mic is then installed and taped. Mic tape hurts like hell coming off by-the-way. My mic is placed on my forehead at my wig line. Slather on the semi-restoration make up. then corset, overskirt, shoes and at the last possible second, my 15 pound jacket.
Let me pause here to wonder why it is that, when you are doing a show as energetic and sweaty as this, costume designers are compelled to put you in the heaviest most un-breatheable fabric, and deadly cruel shoes? Ah, the look. Well we look spectacular  but I lost 10 pounds yesterday... heck why am I complaining?
On this show the first thing we worked was a series of quick costume changes for Alex. The ladies of the cloth are suffering through their last week before summer, and I know that things are tough, but know your work is appreciated and admired!(I know, I know, say it with a check) Lots and lots of elaborate costumes have been created for "Emperor", which is funny 'cause the show is about how clothes can't make you into anything you aren't, or something like that. Of course being creatures of the theatre, most of us disagree. Nothing makes ME feel better than a Betsey Johnson dress and a pair of Jimmy Choo's.
Then we started our tech-thru, where we actors are basically part of the set as we figure out how the set is going to be changed, where things have to happen, etc. The lighting designer, Tom Ruzika, is working light over us, the sound is being built and modified  in a flash by Drew Dalzell and his crew. Jenny Butler captains the ship as first chair. We are playing on a jewel box of a set by Fred Kinney, complete with fountains, beds, monkeys, an elephant and a wayward dragon. On deck we have the intrepid Wendy, Kristin, Liz and Rebecca. I hope we aren't shocking Rebecca too much.
So you can see that wrestling with all those elements make us actors relatively unimportant on these first few tech days. That's why we have to know our stuff cold. It's not about us anymore.
At the end our our 8 out of 10 day (Per AEA 8 hours working 2 hour dinner ((nap)) break) we were all flopped on the floor, if we had costumes that allowed it or leaning on walls if we didn't. Feet hurt, mic-tape was pulling, and I wanted a sirloin steak. When Jenny called it a night we didn't move from bleariness. But honestly the crew is so sweet to us, possibly more than we deserve. They had been running around pulling sets, hauling furniture, and wrangling actors, and they had to stay later than us. Of course I was too jazzed to sleep and stayed up talking to T till 1am, then got woken up by Lilo at 6:55am. And no nap for me today, I have to teach a Conservatory class during my dinner break. Hi-diddle-dee-dee!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I will not brag, because that would be rude, but we are so ahead of schedule it's ridiculous. Nick is one of the most efficient and clear directors I have ever worked under...
What I can report is my unspeakably beautiful costume, designed by Soojin Kim, and executed by  Miz Bronwen "Wicked Wen"Burton. I guess Brides have to be fitted and have patience in the fitting room, but I doubt bridal fittings can compare to the care of the SCR ladies of the cloth. These costumes are DESIGNER. Totally bespoke, fitted to our bodies and so breathtaking. I guess it's what rich women feel when Lagerfeld custom builds outfits for them. There is such a pleasure in knowing that somone may WEAR the dress again, in fact, it's very likely, but it was made for ME. Bwahahahaha! The above picture isn't it. I'm going to save the finished product for later....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day.. uh...I forget.

There hasn't been much to report. Putting a show on it's feet is mainly repetition, and that is a bit boring to describe. We've been doing run thru's and refining moments, clarifying the story and "buttoning" the bits. It's good that we can get it really tight before tech, because the tech elements always throw you for a bit of a loop.
Got to try on my Amadeus/Tartuffe-y wig today. I love the way I look with white hair. I'm always trying to go lighter but I haven't got the patience to get thru the gradual stage. The wig hasn't been styled yet so I looked like Bowie in Labyrinth. In other words ALARMINGLY sexy! Can't wait to see what it will look like styled. Time to pull out the summer hats, 10 minutes in pincurls and my hair was bigger than Alfalfa's.
Nick is a fun person to act for. He's very collaborative, but he also has this way of getting you to do exactly what he wants. My show husband is Todd Nielsen, who is quite handsome, and very funny, and a dream to be onstage with. And our headmistress first chair, Jenny Butler, keeps us in line but isn't above bopping to the catchy tunes.
We are in the Co-Lab this week, which everyone suspects is haunted, but I think being in the basement just makes you crazy. Can't wait to get on the Argyros!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Dancers are not like you or me.

Damn. It's hard for me to believe I played Anita, or Lois or Ado Annie. I was always a Musical Theatre singer-who-moves masquerading as a dancer. I danced, but it was torture. I look back on the lifts, the foot work and the extensions and I promise you, I fooled myself into believing I could do those things. I was never graceful, but I was enthusiastic. I think what saved me was a "broken" body. I was short, but I had a body that wanted to pose in a Fosse fashion, so at least I always LOOKED interesting.
All of this is a preamble to praising my fellow cast member Chad Borden. What an utterly gorgeous mover he is. He dances and I can tell, it's butter for him. No overthinking, no pretending, just raw clear, clean movement. Melt, melt, melt.
I need to get back into class......

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

I can barely keep my head up to type.
Not much to report, except that the show is more or less blocked, so we are a week ahead of schedule. My favorite moment today was watching Alex Miller and Jeffrey Todd do their Oatmeal song. Utterly charming. Bringing the A game to the TYA...
My directing project, "Connecticut Yankee..." is going pretty well too. I absolutely love these kids. They are pretty nuts, most of 'em, but they are really funny. I taught them the word "Schtick" today. I didn't have to teach them how to come up with it, just what the word is. Watch out for flying splinters from these kidlets!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

God, It's only day 3? One thing theatre artists are genius at is INTIMACY. We learn to trust, love and tease someone we barely know much sooner than folks at average jobs because trust is so important in our business. We specialise in being fools. And fools are sweet and sharp and we GET each other's foolishness. There isn't any time to put up walls. Walls (besides the 4th) are the anathema of good theatre. You just have to TRUST that the person next to you is going to get his set piece in place, so you won't trip, so the play can move forward. You open yourself to vaguely inappropriate jokes and innuendos, because you won't know each other 6 weeks from now. The skill is: become a family. Love each other. Work hard. When the play is done, you will have a VERY friendly divorce. Until the next time you work together....