Sunday, December 18, 2005
Cloudy and cold
Everything hurts. My back, my neck, my shoulders, my hands. The only bits that don’t hurt are my feet, because I have the right shoes.
When you go see a show, I bet you have no idea how much physical pain the majority of the cast and crew are in – chronically. Doing eight shows a week hurts. There’s no way around it. Doing sixteen in a row without a break – well, not only is it insane and greed on the part of the producers, but people get hurt even worse. They’re tired and the concentration slips and wham! Plus, because they’re now hiring so many people without experience, these kids don’t know how to take care of themselves to prevent injury or prevent it from getting worse. And they haven’t yet learned to say no to things that will cause them permanent damage.
Matinee was fine. I dressed one of the two real leads (there are several principals, but really, two leads). We get along well. The changes went smoothly. I ripped part of my finger out when I replaced the carabineer, but I didn’t even notice. I’m sitting there, talking to A. between changes and suddenly we realize my hand is covered in blood. He ran and got a bandage – I had to gather a huge skirt and help the actress run up a flight of steep steps and I didn’t want to bleed all over the dress.
Dinner was at Vinyl – roast chicken, smashed potatoes, spinach – it was wonderful.
I even managed to work on a few pages of Shallid and jot down some other fragment ideas.
The second show was a nightmare. Fortunately, as my principal, I had the understudy, whom I like and respect, and with whom I’ve worked previously. However, the rest of it – the worst first act I’ve ever had in 25 years of theatre.
First of all, the notes were wrong. These are notes updated last week. And they’re wrong. I did my preset in the disappearing booth we nickname “Brigadoon” – everything from one of the racks has to be set on specifically numbered hooks so that it can be grabbed by the appropriate person for the appropriate change. I look at my rack -- I still have 1/3 of the pieces sitting there. I go through the notes again, point by point, figuring I must have misread or jumped.
The information’s not there.
I vaguely remembered what I did when I did the track last May or June.
And made up the rest.
Fortunately, I knew what was supposed to be on the rack well enough to recognize that the person who brought up the rack forgot to set some key items (like a bra one girl needs for a change – let me put it this way –no bra, she’s not going on) and could hunt them down. This person is NOT a swing – she simply was careless and didn’t check her rack.
Had it been any other swing doing the track I was in, she wouldn’t know pieces were wrong or missing, because she doesn’t know the show well enough, and the mistakes wouldn’t have been found until the middle of the change – when there’s no time to fix it.
Then, in the first change, there’s a swing on. And she’s been on in the slot for awhile, because the replacement for the injured girl got injured. Well, her pre-set is entirely different than what’s in the notes. Not just clothing pieces, but how and where it’s set up. Fortunately, one of the other dressers knew and we had time to set things correctly.
If it’s not in the notes, there’s no way a swing dresser can know these things. The show’s been running for more than two years. There’s no excuse for there not to be accurate swing notes.
Then, one of the other swings, who is, to say the least, not the brightest bulb on the tree, started the show as one person. Another actress got injured in a dance number. So stage management switched her track. She was now being mostly the actress who just went out, but sometimes being the person she originally was told to be.
Clothes were the same, but the places she changed were not only different, but the times were different. The show is short dressers anyway – there isn’t anyone to run costumes back and forth, there isn’t anyone to dress her in these new spots because we’re stretched ridiculously thin as it is. Plus, I’m doing a track I haven’t done in seven months with incorrect notes.
The assistant was up on that side because the person who dressed the lead I dressed in the matinee hadn’t done the show for a year – with a different actress and nobody got her the new notes (so I lent her my set, which I used for the matinee, and which I knew were accurate because I just fixed them). So I told the stage manager on that side to get the assistant and told him I didn’t have time to “discuss” how to reset and do things with the other dressers (because the track I was in last night moves nonstop) and he had to figure it out. Which, actually, is part of his job and he had no problem with it.
The places where the double-shifted girl had to change were places where I was already changing people. If they’d slotted her in where she changed in the spot where either of the two girls who were out that she covered usually changed – no problem. But, because she was doing additional crosses and other stuff, she changed in different spots, where I already had my hands full, literally with two or three costumes.
Towards the end of Act I, it started to settle back. I even got a set of baskets with clothes that had to go down to the women’s ensemble for the second act out of the change area early and towards the rack – only the people moving the rack (one of whom was the one who hadn’t set it properly in the first place) – decided to move it early without checking to make sure the baskets were there. I had to chase them across the back of the crossover – they’re blithely chattering away, ignoring everything around them, including the fact that moving the rack early causes traffic problems.
It was ridiculous and badly run all the way around, poorly thought out, etc.
The second act was fine because I actually got to deal with my principal instead of running around doing ensemble changes which should be limited anyway when one dresses a principal. There simply isn’t time to take care of the principal properly when you’re running around flipping chorus girls in and out of clothes for the entire first act. But by then, I was fried.
The supervisor actually came up to check on me before the ball gown scene because she heard I’d been asking for razor blades. She knew it was bad if I was frothing at the mouth, because I’m the only swing who’s stayed for more than two months on the show, I’ve learned all seven tracks dressed by women, and can usually make things work.
Had the regular principal been in, it would have been even worse, because she has very specific needs at specific times in and around all of this and I wouldn’t have been able to meet them. As it was, several times in the first act, I turned to the assistant and said, “I have to go and change my principal now. She is my priority.” And I left.
Then, the poor double-shifted girl sailed out on stage in the ball gown – to the wrong partner. He had two women gliding towards him and ended up with two partners while one poor guy was left dancing with an invisible partner.
So the insanity wasn’t only backstage.
My friend R. said, “Everyone’s having that kind of show. It’s not just you.” Which made me feel a bit better. A little.
At one point, my friend B. turned to me and said, “You really need a drink.”
My response: “What’ve you got on you?”
I was only half-kidding.
And they wonder why there’s substance abuse in this industry.
Made the 11:10 again last night – without hurting anyone. It was, thankfully, a quieter ride.
Only a matinee today, dressing the lead again.
I have a lot to do tomorrow, because I have to stay in the city at least on Monday night, perhaps more if there’s a transit strike.
Add this to the pressures of the Situation and the fact that my mother’s not doing well, and I’m pretty damn exhausted.
I’m going to try to have a bit of a leisurely morning – maybe write a bit – before heading back in to the city.
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