I sent Susan Kellermann an email at 1am this morning and she immediately wrote me back asking, “What are you doing up at this hour?” I should have asked her the same. I was up cause I had been at dinner with a group of fascinating people.
Today, I slept till noon!!!! This is an event for me. I don’t have to leave here till 3:15 so I have time, finally, to answer the question that some blog commentors have asked: What is my daily routine at the theatre. I don’t imagine this is something that interests too many people but I will enjoy answering it—because it necessitates my pondering it and because, in about 3 weeks it will all be over.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays, our two-show days, I arrive at the theater at noon. This gives me time to put food in my little fridge, nip off dead flowers, add water to the vases, hook up my computer (I don’t bring it every day but always on matinee days when there risks being more chance to write. If I don’t bring it, then I write on my Blackberry which is a pain because the reception isn’t good and to send and receive I have to put the Blackberry up against the window for several minutes).
By now, its 12:30, I have 15 minutes to put on my base makeup before Heather comes to wrap my head and put on wig #1. This always happens one hour and 15 minutes before the show starts because after me she has the men’s wigs to put on. Because the side wig lace is glued to my face at the hair line, the makeup, at least in that area, must be on and powdered before she cam do the gluing.
Lori will have arrived before Heather to start getting my costumes steamed and hung in place. It is she who prepares me a cup of decaf espresso made with the Wall-e coffee machine. These two women, Heather and Lori, are the faces I spend the most time looking into during the course of the play. Lori is 34 years old and besides being a dresser for theatre and TV, she has a holistic health counseling service She is tiny, quick, and usually smiling. She has, in her young life, lost a considerable amount of weight and has learned a great deal about maintaining health, what to eat, what to take for a variety of symptoms. The uneducated would call her a “health nut.” She has a boyfriend who, judging by his thoughtful birthday gift of 3 days ago and the way she speaks of him, must be very nice to her. She always wears jeans and a utility “belt” around her waist in which she carries various wardrobe items like pins, thread, cloth brushes, tissues and, for me, a bottle of grape-flavored Propel which she offers me any moment she sees me standing and waiting for my cue to go on. It is Lori who tells me “This is the break when you can use the bathroom” or “No bathroom this time.” I cannot tell you how important this is because on several occasions, I have found myself on the john hearing my cue about to be called. She also tells me as I enter the changing area what it is I need to change cause sometimes forget and start to take everything off when, in fact, it’s only the shoes that need changing. A few times, I’ve exited a scene and headed in the wrong direction. It’s Lori who is always there to steer me right. She walks with me to my starting position before an entrance and, with her little flashlight attached to her utility belt, she will examine to be sure all the props and things are in the right place and the gear shift on the electric wheelchair is set at the right speed. Lori traveled the world for five years in the Disney On Ice tour—a great way to see places she would never otherwise have had a chance to visit.
Heather is maybe 45 with beautiful, dark wavy hair and a ready smile. She is very well educated, grew up doing a variety of theatre-related jobs from acting, to singing and now wigs. Before that, she did marketing for Epic Records. Once she has me in my first wig, she leaves to do the others and then I meet up with her again backstage between my various scenes where she waits for me to change costumes and then tidies up the wig, sometimes back-combing the side so it won’t fall over my face. At the top of the second act, I change into the top I wear for my entrance and then Heather removes wig #1, I repair the makeup from where the glue remover has taken it off, put more blush on and, when that’s all done, she puts wig #2 on. This wig is dramatically different than the first. Moises and I decided that by this time in the play, I have had to cut my hair because it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to wash and style it. So the second wig is very short, shorter than my own real-life hair cut and not as stylish. Both wigs are amazingly well made and real looking and feeling. Both made by Martial Corneville.
Both Heather Lori have worked very large, demanding musical shows with dozens of performers to deal with, steeply raked stages and many difficult, fast changes. This show is a breeze compared to others they’ve done. They’ve both also commented on how nice everyone on our show is. We all get along well, no sourpusses in the lot. Heather is married to an actor, Dared Wright (she calls him her “Mister Right”) who, for years, worked as James Gandolfini’s understudy and has had roles in many TV shows and films. It is abundantly clear that this is a very happy marriage. Both Lori and Heather are easy going, pleasant to be around and make what might otherwise be stressful, very easy. I am grateful for them.
An hour before the show starts, Michael Rudd arrives. Michael is 18 years old, though he seems older because of his emotional maturity. He works at the company that manages our show (and many others)-Production 101. But after work, he comes and stays with Tulea while I am on stage. Okay yes, I may be spoiling Tulea. But she is a dog that is really sad to be left alone. She is very social, loves people and loves to be loved. When she was left alone at the beginning of our run, she came out on stage at the curtain call. She adores Michael. If I wasn’t so secure, I’d be jealous, because as soon as she hears his voice, she gets out of her bed and goes to greet him, tail wagging and (I kid you not) a grin on her face. Yes, the corners of her mouth turn up. She only does this for those she truly loves. Oftentimes, along with the grin, she will make a certain sneeze….a “gee I’m glad to see you” sneeze. Let me know if any of you have a dog that does this. Michael, by the way, is the kid who played my assistant in our recent Broadway Cares skit. You can see him in many of yesterday’s photos in white jeans and a neck scarf-usually carrying Tulea.
At 50 minutes before curtain time, the stage manager, Linda Marvel, calls over the intercom that it is time for the voluntary “Septet” rehearsal. Septet is the final scene in Act One where we all come on stage-past and present-living and dead-and speak, sometimes simultaneously, sometime mimicking each others words. It is an interesting and dramatic conceit. Tulea knows this is the time for her to join the other cast members on stage and the moment she hears the announcement she trots right along with me to the stage where Don Amendolia scoops her up into his arms. That’s the routine. Once we are all present we run the lines with the necessary pace and volume, just to get the feel of it back into our bones. We have just enough time to quickly touch base with each other, do a quick catchup since yesterday, wave at the ushers who have assembled because as soon as we leave the stage, the doors open to the audience. That means we have one half hour left before show time.
I take Tulea from Don and finish getting ready although I am usually done and use the remaining time to finish the newspaper, answer emails or start my daily blog.
I have mentioned in a previous email our actors’ backstage routines-what we say to each other at points along the way– so I won’t repeat those. During matinee days, Heather takes off the wig but leaves the head-wrapping in, I take off the costume, turn off all the lights, hang a Do Not Disturb sign that Lori made for me on the door, put in my ear plugs and then Tulea and I lie down on my couch to sleep for anywhere from one to one and a half hours before Lori wakes us up and we do the whole routine all over again. I cannot imagine doing this without taking that time to sleep in between. What that does is it “wipes the slate clean.” It’s like starting a whole new day instead of having the previous performance still on my skin. Because we don’t need to do the head wrap again, I have an extra 15 minutes to eat a little something, have another decaf expresso that Lori makes and maybe finish my blog or twitter.
At the end of the final show, Heather takes my wig and the wrapping off, I take off the costume, get dressed and receive visitors. Usually I have been told in advance who is coming and their names are left at the stage door. That is when the pictures are taken that you have been seeing on my blog.
Because my hair has been under a wig, it is always a mess, so I have a variety of caps and hats that I use to cover it all up. I was amazed the other night how Tovah Feldshuh managed to get her hair looking so glam right after her wig came off. Must ask her about that.
Anyway, I have used up all the time I had to write this. Now I have to decide what I will wear to walk the red carpet tonight for the opening of “9 To 5”. I’m being picked up in 15 minutes to go to get my hair blow dried and styled at the Roy Teeluck salon, then to our theater to get my stage makeup on (I do my own makeup), then the red carpet till 6:30. I won’t have time to do it over for my show so that how I’ve decided to make it all work. I tell you, you gotta have a smidge of executive skills in this business-to get it all working smoothly.
I will probably write more later.
The red carpet was fun-that is, it was fun to be with Lily and Dolly (who looked fabulous). The scene was a mad house and I was a little nervous about straining my voice for my own show. I was glad to have my own to come back to. Otherwise, I might have been a little depressed. The whole “9 to 5: The Musical” is a complicated issue for me but I love the show, wish them well and feel certain it will be a smash.
Now, in five minutes, I go on stage as Dr. Katherine Brandt, who I love and admire, and I will try to give it my all.
Gene Saks who directed me in the film “Barefoot in the Park” saw the show and came back stage. He said, “It’s amazing, you have come so far.” I agreed. I understood what he meant–as an actor, in terms of range and depth. It felt good coming from him.
See you next time.