Making Up for Lost Time

April 10, 2009

All my life, I’ve been late.   My family and friends and dear husband can verify this – I have rarely been on time for anything.  School, jobs, interviews, blog updates, auditions, movies, dates, weddings, planes – I’ve been late to ’em all. 

So it’s kinda funny that during both “Kiss Me Kate” and “The World Goes Round,” I was always early.  Not the first one in the theater, of course – that’s almost always the stage manager – but always the first cast member.  (Except that one time I got a flat tire.)

Granted, I’m not an idiot, nor am I really into self-sabotage – I’m just not going to be late for a show that I’ve been slowly striving toward for 14 years.  But our “call time” is always an hour before curtain, and I was always there about an hour and a half before that.

 I felt a little guilty telling Herbie and assorted babysitters that I just HAD to leave by 5, when really I didn’t HAVE to be there until about an hour or so after that, but getting to the theater first is, for me, one of the best things about the whole entire experience.

When I first get there, I flip on all the lights in the dressing room, saving those bright lights around my mirror for last.  I set up my makeup and plug in my curling iron, and then I slip out to the wings of the stage to gather up whatever costume pieces may have been tossed behind the props table during the mad rush the night before.  The stage is almost completely dark and silent, and it’s tempting to go leaping across it willy-nilly, but I know Toby is probably in the sound booth and might tease me about it later.  So I just stand there and let the quiet seep in and calm my racing heart.

Then it’s back to the dressing room, where I prop open the door so I can see and hear the slow trickle of people arriving.  Soon Toby switches on the intercom, so I can hear the backstage crew (a.k.a. very nice rich ladies) laughing and sweeping the stage, and later, the first few bweeps and bum-bum’s of the band warming up.  Julie is the next cast member to arrive, and we chat about our families while we slather on makeup.  Mary the director usually pokes her head in to say hello next, and then the boys arrive, shouting hello before they disappear to hunt for food.

Around this time there is almost always some sort of costume-related emergency – Norm has a mysterious bump in his shoe, ALL of our pantyhose and backup pantyhose have holes in them, all of our costumes are missing, all of our costumes have been attacked by a Bedazzler, I forgot my white bra, Julie’s bra is missing (she found it later in her driveway), you can see my “Britney” through my orange pants… and so on.  Amazingly, almost all of these crises can be solved with a single safety pin.

Next, Blaze arrives, having made herself up at home, and we’re all called on stage to warm up and test our mic’s.  At this point I do actually leap across the stage willy-nilly, as it’s my only chance to warm up my muscles, and also because there is nothing more enjoyable than leaping willy-nilly across a stage.

Warmed-up, we trot back to the dressing rooms, and I curl my hair and reapply all the makeup that has already worn off because I started getting ready so damn early.  Over the intercom, the band blares as they squeeze in a few last minutes of warm-up before Daniel opens the doors for the audience.  In the dressing room, we sometimes tell dirty jokes back and forth.  Sometimes we warm up our voices more.  Parrot calls work well – CA-CAW!  Sometimes someone appears in the doorway with roses from an admirer (thanks, sweetheart).

And then, suddenly, Daniel’s voice comes over the intercom and announces that we only have 10 minutes, and I have not even started getting dressed.  With the help of Spray Mount, I chemically bind myself into a torn pair of pantyhose and pull on my increasingly sparkly purple leotard and skirt.  Then I ask Julie to slide my mic pack down near my butt crack, and I ask Blaze to tape the wire to the nape of my neck (because she always gets it just right).  Now we can hear the low hum of the audience over the intercom as they start to take their seats, and I stick a couple bobby pins in my hair and spray it into submission (once grabbing the Spray Mount by mistake – close call!), slick on some ruby red lipstick, poke my favorite sparkly earrings through my ears, and put on the wrong shoes, which I will realize about four minutes before I have to go on stage.

We all gulp down water, clasp hands with Mary in the hallway, and shout “Kander and Ebb woo!” or “Yay pretty princesses!” or some such ridiculous thing.

“Break a leg!”  “Break a leg!”  “Break a leg!” 

And then Daniel’s voice commands us to take our places for the top of the show.

Sometimes I linger in the hallway for a couple minutes, my eyes going over the song list to try and remember what the heck it is I’m going to be doing in a few minutes.  And then I flap my arms back and forth like a goose, and clap my hands five times.

In the wings, it’s not quiet anymore.  Blaze is already singing.  The backstage ladies are whispering in each other’s ears.  Norm and I bump fists.  The band is swinging, and the lights are blaring, blue and purple and red.

Blaze starts building toward the end of her song, and I bury my face in one of the curtain legs and take deep breaths.  Then I gaze up into the endless heights of the stage – it just goes up and up and up.   I join Norm for our entrance, and I do a little dance to the last few bars of Blaze’s song, hips shaking, to get my energy up.  The audience applauds for Blaze.  Norm gives me a nod, and I pat him on the back.

And then we’re singing.

…If I had the keys to the building, I think I’d get there at the crack of dawn.

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6 Responses to “Making Up for Lost Time”

  1. kristi Says:

    Love the play by play! It’s like I’m there… and not here… with a mound of laundry taller than me. 😉

  2. Beth H. Says:

    that was a really cool post – my heart was pumping like i was backstage. it was like i was you. you know how when Harry Potter & Voldemort become one because of their weird scar connection? yeah, like that. oh, & calling it “your Britney?!!” – that cracked me up.

  3. Kara Says:

    I was so nervous reading it too…like flashbacks! Do you ever feel like you won’t remember anything to say once onstage? I always use to have that feeling!

  4. Sonia Says:

    Missed your posts. Way to come back chica 😉

    I LOVE being the first actor in the theater. The quiet and like the stage is all mine if I want it. I like to try to go through all my blocking as fast as I can sometimes just to get a feel for everything again. Thanks for reminding me why I love this mad, mad world.

  5. from the wings Says:

    very nice.

  6. Cat Says:

    Now I know why you were always all set up and calm when the rest of us came screaming in like banshees.


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