Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Wednesday, December 1, 2004
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Rainy and mild

RIP Christian Engeldrum. He was a NYC firefighter who helped raise the flag at Ground Zero after 9/11 – along with everything else he did in and around the tragedy. He was a Desert Storm veteran. And he was killed in Iraq.

And Bush still does nothing to fulfill his promise to implement the changes recommended by the 9/11 Commission. The bill is derailed in Congress by Republicans who didn’t have to live through what happened here. And Bush ignores the promises he made and does nothing. Will he do something after the next attack? Or will he wait until three or four more attacks happen? How many more people have to die?

Last night was the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center. It was packed, and there were so many cops and so many helicopters hovering over Rock Center in formation to prevent anything else from flying over. It was a madhouse. I had to go uptown a few blocks in order to get across and then go downtown to get to the station.

Usually I am annoyingly filled with the holiday spirit by now, but I’m battling a bad case of the blues. And I feel guilty about it, because, compared to the bigger picture of what’s going on in the world, everything is really okay. I’m on the right track, I’m making future plans, I’m working hard on the things that need to change in my life, getting published . . .and I don’t really want any stuff. I’m not staring at the holiday ads wanting any of it.

I’d like there to be Peace, Prosperity and Tolerance in the World, but I really don’t need a flat screen TV or anything to ensure my own personal happiness. Plenty of little gifts will make me happy – I have thoughtful, creative friends who come up with terrific gifts – but there’s nothing in particular for which I’m longing. That gives me quite a bit of freedom during the holiday season to enjoy all the non-stuff-related activities.

The blues aren’t materially-related. It’s more than that. And I’ll wait until Mercury goes direct and I can articulate it accurately.

I have plenty of errands, but the weather is so disgusting, I’m not going out until it’s a bit better.

Day work was okay yesterday. People have e-mailed, asking me what day work “is.” It’s the preparation of the costumes before the show. Clothes are not meant to be worn constantly, but during the run of a show, the clothes are worn eight times per week. That’s a lot of wear and tear on everything, especially when there’s dancing, acting, singing, and all sorts of movement involved.

Typical Tuesday: I do the principal call, which means taking care of the clothes for Fiyero, the Wizard, Madame Morrible, Dr. Dillamand, Boq/Tin Man and Nessarose. The dressers for the two witches are paid extra hours to come in and take care of their clothes, so unless there’s something special to do for them, I don’t have to worry about them. I come in, say hi as I pick up the dressing room keys. I go upstairs, drop off my stuff (including my kit, which has sewing supplies in it). I unlock the dressing rooms on the second and third floors in which I’ll be working. I return the keys (they’re needed for other rooms in the building) and take up the first dozen or so shirts that need to be ironed and/or steamed. The ones that are too wet to iron are moved to a rack in front of fans to speed up the drying process. I move the clothes from the Fiyero room and the Wizard’s room upstairs to my work area (I have a whole line of double hooks up on the wall. I set up the steamer – that means filling the gallon jug, but since there’s no deep sink where I am, I have to fill it with the little container used to fill the iron, and it takes awhile. The jug is flipped over and put into the steamer, hopefully with very little water spilled, the steamer’s plugged in and it heats up. Meanwhile, I move the clothes that need to be steamed out of the rooms on the third floor and set them up into hooks.

I go into the dressing rooms and check the seams, hems, closings and fixtures on the heavy Mob coats that don’t get steamed and ironed. I check the hats and gloves. If there’s a repair I can do, I do it; otherwise, I take it down to the stitchers in the Wardrobe Room. There’s a shoe call, so I don’t have to worry about the shoes.

By this time, the steamer’s hot enough, and I steam all the clothes that need to be steamed. While steaming, I have to check every seam, every hem, every button, every buttonhole, every snap, every bit of trim, and every piece of rigging. Since there are lots of quick changes, many of the pieces are rigged with snaps, Velcro, hooks, or some combination, but still keep their buttons as decoration. So all of that has to be checked, thoroughly and meticulously. The actor and dresser can’t get into the middle of a quick change and find out something doesn’t fasten, or they’re screwed. Some actors have three or four costumes – some have eight or nine. That’s a lot of seams, buttons, et al, and EVERY SINGLE ONE has to be checked. Figure at least eight buttons per shirt or vest. Most of the time, quite a few of the snaps have pulled loose in the quick changes or maybe a button fell off. As I go, I stop and re-sew whatever needs it. Yesterday, the inner thigh of a pair of pants was wearing through, so I took it down to the Wardrobe Room, marked it with a safety pin with a red ribbon attached, so the stitcher could find it quickly, and wrote it up on the repair chart.

As batches of steaming are complete, I return the clothes to the appropriate dressing room to the appropriate slot on the rack. Every actor has an area with his costumes. And the costumes are hung in a specific order, so I have to make sure I place it back the way it should be, so the dresser doesn’t have to hunt anything down when he or she does the preset in the show. And the garments have to be on the correct hangers – these pieces are very carefully constructed, and hanging a garment on the wrong hanger will cause damage to it. Since many pieces cost thousands of dollars – some pieces tens of thousands -- to build from scratch, part of the job is to try to give them the TLC they need for a long life.

Once the steaming is complete, the steamer is put away. And the ironing board is set up. The electrical system is too fragile to allow both a steamer and an iron to run at the same time – I’d blow a fuse. So I set up the ironing board, the iron and the other necessary tools – the sleeve board, starch, etc. And I start on the ironing. As I iron, again, I’m checking seams, buttons, collars, etc., etc. Some of the shirts get a creased sleeve; some of the shirts get a soft sleeve, done on the sleeve board. When in doubt, I put in a soft sleeve, because it’s much easier to iron in a crease than to get it out. And I starch the neckline of Nessarose’s Act II dress, which has to stand up. This is especially a pain when it returns from dry cleaning, because the cleaner presses it down as hard as he can, so I have to double-starch it to get it back up. Telling them to do it differently does nothing – they don’t understand and most of the people who do the work don’t speak English anyway.

After the first batch of ironing is returned to the appropriate room, I take my kit down to the second floor and work on the costumes in Madame Morrible’s room. She has quite a few costumes, and they’re heavy, beaded and feathered. It’s too much to carry them up to my work area on the third floor, so I work on them in her room. Nothing of hers is ironed, and there’s a steamer down the hall for anything that needs a quick hit of steam. Most of the work is re-sewing loose snaps, fixing hems, beading, and reattaching the feathered sleeves of one costume where the weight pulls it away from the sleeve.

After this, the second batch of laundry is usually done, so I get the washed gloves, the Tin Man’s unitard, and whatever was put in front of the fans. I take that up, iron what needs to be ironed, check the Tin Man unitard, stitch it where necessary, and put everything away.

Then I pull the Tin Man costume out of its basket in the closet. It’s in parts, and I have to make sure all the fastenings work, that the elastic fastening the legs hasn’t worn through, that the snaps holding on the arm casings haven’t worn out, and that none of the silver colouring has worn off. I fix whatever needs to be fixed on that, put it back in its basket and return the basket to the closet.

I retrieve the dry cleaning from the return rack downstairs. I check everything to make sure nothing got ripped at the cleaner’s, that none of the fastenings were destroyed, etc. The clothes are removed from the wire hangers and put on the appropriate hangers. Wire hangers are terrible for clothes. Although the dry cleaner returns clothes on them, we remove the garments as soon as possible and put them on the correct hangers (wood, plastic, padded or Hollywood, depending on the garment) and put the wire hangers in a bag to go back to the dry cleaner. A list of everything sent to the cleaners is kept in the Wardrobe Room; if something doesn’t return, a call can be put in right away and they can hunt it down. The dry cleaned garments are then slotted correctly. I’ve picked up the pit pads on the same trip as I retrieved the dry cleaning. The pit pads are ironed and put back into whatever garments they came out of. The costumes are big, heavy and hot. Performers sweat as they sing and dance and act. So the pit pads are very important to extend the life of the garments.

Every item of clothing is labeled, usually with the actor’s name, the character’s name, and the scene, which makes it easier. It’s sort of like summer camp that way. I put away all the ironing I’ve also grabbed the keys on my last trip, and I give each room a final check before locking it up. I return the keys, say goodbye, and leave. Or, if I’m scheduled to do the show that night, I grab a bite to eat and return for my Hour-Before-Half-Hour call.

If a new actor goes on, or an actor goes on vacation and a swing is scheduled to go on, I’m also responsible for doing the “change over” or “turn over”. That means knowing which specialty items are shared by actors, and which individual items the swing wears. I have to remove the regular performer’s clothing and place it wherever that particular person’s items are stored, and put the swing’s clothes in the room. I have to switch over shoes, hats, gloves, mic packs. I have to make sure nothing’s missing.

If someone calls in between the end of the day work call and half hour, then the dresser does the change over. If I know it far enough in advance, I do it during day work.

If a new actor goes on, I have to sew labels into all the clothes, to keep it organized and make sure everyone can identify every piece of clothing. There are something like 480 costumes in this show. With regular dressers, swing dressers and swing performers rotating in and out all the time, it’s important to be able to identify every single item of clothing.

This call takes five hours. We’re entitled to breaks, under our union contract. Instead of taking just a couple of minutes per hour, I usually take my break all at once somewhere in the middle of the call. I either write on my break, or I hang out with other people, also on break and catch up. There’s a laundry person responsible for doing all the laundry and sorting it. On some shows, laundry is distributed during day work, but on this show, the dresser picks it up when he or she comes in for Hour Before.

If people are interested, I’ll also talk, in the future, about what happens in the Hour Before and during Preset, and also during the running of a show.

However, now I have to turn my attention over to Angel Hunt, which was sadly neglected yesterday. I managed to edit and send off two issues of The Widow’s Chamber yesterday morning, and write a few pages of Clock on my break, but that was it.

The new catalogue from the National Trust of Scotland’s properties arrived. It makes me sigh with longing. I want to go back to Culzean Castle again (I’ve rented the Brewhouse Flat there several times and love it), and there are some other places I want to visit. Hopefully, next time I go to Edinburgh, I can rent one of the Trust apartments. When my shows have been in Edinburgh, I’ve always lived in apartments (usually at Queen Margaret College), but when visiting, I’ve stayed in hotel rooms. I much prefer renting apartments when I travel. I like to have a base and then take day trips.

Okay, enough procrastination. Back to Angel Hunt, and let’s hope I can find the groove of it today.

Of course, since Mercury is retrograde, Blogspot was down when I initially tried to post.

I can’t believe it’s December 1! I have to open the little windows on my Advent calendars!



At 3:53 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Hi Devon,
I have just tried to read your blog for today. I never seem to be able to get past the first couple of paragraphs. Most of the time it is because of your blooming liberal non-sense. Today, however, you sound like a conservative who is mad at your Republican president. Do you honestly believe that Cut & Run Carey would do anything inteligent? His only plan was to ask the United Nations, especially France, to join us in Iraq. He wanted the U. N. to take control of the operations. (He always said he had a plan on everything he whined about. But, I never heard him say what any of those plans were. I think his plan was to whine about how bad this country is.) Get real. Put your hippy beads up. Stop hugging them trees. Now, do you honestly believe that you people in New York are the only people who were attacked? Stop whining. You lost the election. Get out and get a life. I am starting to think you just type this garbage to fill white space. Think about what you say. Try being a little consistant. You sound as goofy as my x-wife. Blah, blah, blah, - : ).

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Oooops! That was me on that last comment. I may not have signed it. This is Keith, one of your fans from Freelance Writer's Forum. Gotta go!
Keith (maddad4905)


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