Saturday, August 10, 2013
Behind the Scenes
I park at the lodge down the street from the theatre. On average, it only takes me two tries to park now. I put my red Denison water bottle in the side pocket of my backpack, throw it on my shoulders, and warm up my voice as I walk. I know the front entrance is closer than the back door, but I always go through the backdoor.
Anyone can use the front entrance...only the cast and crew can use the back entrance. I like to take advantage of this.
I walk into the dressing room, find my costume hanging on the rack.
Amidst all the chaos on the counter, I find a spot to set my makeup.
I've never had a real dressing room before. Sure, most of the lightbulbs surrounding the mirror may be burnt out, but I feel like a movie star.
Over the course of the hour, the rest of the cast floats in. Next to the clock is Gerome the Squirrel. Apparently he has made an appearance in many Academy Playhouse productions. Fantine dedicates "I Dreamed A Dream" every night to him.
7:15 comes around and we report to the stage for vocal warm-ups and notes. The barricade boys practice lifting Eponine after she dies, just for good measure. We review the cart crash scene to make it look like Fauchelevent actually got ran over by it, instead of casually placed underneath. The boys practice tossing the flag without hitting anyone in the audience.
7:30 now...10 minutes until pre-set for those who enter stage left. We file downstairs, chattering about how many people are in the audience, quoting Spongebob Squarepants, obsessing over Harry Potter. Thénardier grabs his pre-show Cliff bar. Everyone takes dibs on revolution cupcakes. Our costume manager glares at us from the corner, just daring us to get chocolate frosting on her King Richard's Fair costumes.
In the past, I was always so serious about being in character from the moment I put on my costume until the moment I take it off. But with this performance, I've come to realize that it's okay to relax a little. In fact, I perform better when I do. It's also okay to bend some of the "rules." When I would perform in my school productions, the performance would take up my entire life during dress rehearsal week. I hardly talked to anyone to save my voice. I didn't eat dairy for a week (it's bad for your voice). It was the only thing on my mind all the time.
But I can't do that with 28 performances...at least not without sacrificing my sanity. I have learned how to balance a performance with my everyday life, something that is essential if I ever go on to perform professionally. Most of the adults in the cast work full-time jobs before coming to perform. Somehow they manage.
8:00 now. Our stage manager calls for "places," which means I still have about fifteen minutes until I need to go upstairs. Only now do I turn within myself and focus on my character. I touch up my makeup. Quietly keep my voice warm. Go to the bathroom. Have a mint. Drink water. Adjust my mob cap.
8:15, I quietly ascend the dimly lit staircase to backstage, all the signatures of past performers illuminated on the cream-colored walls. At the top of the stairs, I look at the floor and think about how
my character I just want to be home with my children. I think about the redundancy and misery of my everyday life. The pianist plays the familiar chords of "At the End of the Day" and on cue, I walk into a Montreuil-sur-Mer factory, ready to "graft as long as I'm able."
This has been my night, six nights a week, since July 24th. 15 performances down...13 more to go. I have done the same thing for fifteen nights now.
"Maybe we'll actually win the revolution today," we joke backstage.
It's crazy to think that we're counting down the performances now. I can't imagine going back to school and not performing almost every night. At least I have my school musical to keep me busy. I can't be away from the stage for too long.
Apart from the show I performed in when I was in 5th grade––when I told my director I couldn't make dress rehearsal because of a school presentation––I have never performed on another stage before. My school stage is my home. This stage felt foreign at first. But it didn't take long for me to fall in love with it.