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.


Lori Elwell, my dresser on the show (photo: Michael Rudd)

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.


Heather Wright, my hair person on the show (photo: Michael Rudd)

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.


Me, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin (photo: Bruce Glikas)


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.


With Gene Saks (photo: Michael Rudd)

See you next time.

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  1. That was fantastic! Thanks for telling us your routine. You’ve really reminded me how much I miss the theatre so I’ve decided to seriously think about moving to Toronto to work in the business there. ♥

    ps. just about to watch the skit on youtube. yay!

  2. Jane, I have a Coton named Marcel and he sneezes when he’s happy or excited, so I know exactly what Tulea’s “gee, I’m glad to see you!” sneeze is like.

  3. Oh Jane, I soooo enjoy your blog! Yes, I too have a dog that smiles when he greets us. He also does what we call “the love stretch” when we first come in the door. Down on his front two paws with his chest on the ground and his butt in the air, tail wagging and then yawns a big yawn…Dogs are miraculous!
    Also, I was so moved seeing the picture of you & Tovah that you posted. The pure emotion on your face was priceless.
    Hoping to get to see 33 again before it closes.
    You are such a treasure and I’m glad you’re basking in it. You so deserve the afterglow.
    : ) Thanks Jane….

  4. I was just wondering why the “9 to 5: The Musical” is an issue for you? I didn’t know if maybe you had wanted to be a bigger part of the musical.
    I just found out that you were the executive producer for a couple of episodes of the series “9 to 5”, which I didn’t even know existed until now.

  5. Lurking out here in Austin, trying not to visit your website daily – I love reading several days worth of blogs & comments in a row but sometimes you are hard to resist.

    After reading today’s post, I had to comment. Loved hearing about your backstage routine. I also have a dog that will “sneeze” but it’s usually a social comment about some situation or action she’s not crazy about.

    But the best part was the photos of you, Dolly & Lily…OMG, you all look fantastic. I would have killed to have been a fly on the wall around you three. Whatever you all are doing, keep doing it…it obviously agrees with you!

    All the best!

  6. thank you jane for this detailed account of your pre-show routine…i was a theatre major in college (am now a travel agent), but i’m still energized and passionate about theatre arts, movies and tv. the whole collaborative process facinates me still! enjoy your last 3 weeks…loved your book too! (i listened to it on tape)yvonne from california

  7. I’ve never written to a famous person before but just found your blog by accident. I have met thousands of people in my life but not you. Very few people make an impression on me but your my dear, just astonish me.

    I remember being a young lady and watching you in”Cat Ballou,” I was nine years old and thought, this woman is beautiful. As I became a woman myself, I followed your career every now and then.

    Lately, I find myself captivated by your accomplishments. You are truly an icon and a role model for women of all ages. Jane, keep doing what you do best. You are wonderful and a tremendous role model for women all over the world. Oh, and BTW…can I just say, you look marvelous…lololol. God bless you always.

    Ciao Bella!

    Desiree DiTommaso

  8. Whoa, that was awesome, Jane! I had no idea how much went into your daily routine behind the scenes. The wigs and make-up and costumes alone…it’s all so very detailed. Sounds as though you have your schedule down pat, which is of course quite necessary for any Broadway show.

    Question: Why is “9 to 5: The Musical” a complicated issue for you? I’m just curious. I mean, I know the film was near and dear to your heart, that you were the person to get the production in motion. You were able to get both Lily and Dolly cast, right?

    Well, I certainly found this post to be fascinating. I honestly had no clue that there was so much hustle and bustle going on backstage, and before and after each show. Obviously we all have seen the photos you’ve taken with your friends and visitors, but I wasn’t aware of the full day’s timetable. Very cool.

    Hey, did you know that the video for the Easter bonnet skit is up on youtube? Here’s the link:

    Thank you again for sharing all this with us. I really loved reading this entry!

    Can’t wait to see the show again next weekend!

    All my best,

  9. Speaking of the Easter Bonnet Skit—OH. MY. GOD. That was hilarious!!! You were a total DIVA! I love how you made Susan keep in character: “Gertie, take attendance.” Love it!!! So incredibly funny. And the workout…”What do you think, you’re in the cast of West Side lazy…”…”Oh my god, I’ve got mug shots older than you guys and I’m the only one buff enough to be in the cast of Hair for Christ sake.” HYSTERICAL!

    You guys totally deserved to win for best skit. It was genius! And obviously you’re a good sport with all the sassy remarks they made previous to your entrance…and the whole exercise class theme. Really quite brilliant.

    Kudos, Jane!


    p.s. Samantha’s comment about you always talking about your throat being a humming vagina. LMFAO! Priceless.

  10. Thank you for this blog! It was very interesting to read about your daily routines during the play.
    Congratulations! It’s great that your play won those awards! You have come so far like Gene Saks said to you. Great job, Jane!

    I must tell that my dog does pretty much similiar things like Tulea does. My dog is a girl too. She is so happy when she sees someone who loves her. She loves people so much. She is so excited when she hears someones name who is important to her. It’s so sad to live her alone because I can see the sadness in her eyes. But then she’s so happy when I come home.
    Dogs are really something. My dog makes my day very often!

    Take care 🙂

  11. Jane, thanks for taking the time to tell us all about your routine before the show. It is fascinating.
    I am an actor in Toronto who does a lot of small theatre. I tell you, your routine is very different from mine.
    Just saw “Georgia Rule” and I loved it. I look forward to seeing your next film.

  12. Wow, what a routine, Jane. You three old 9 to 5ers look great together. I am from Tamworth, Australia’s answer to Nashville, so I am a Dolly fan too of course, and Lily, well, she is just great. Loved her stint in West Wing, one of the greatest shows ever on tv. Thanks for every day you give us on your blog, on film, on tv, on stage, in your memoirs. I know that I am usually the first because of the time difference, but heck, us Aussies have to have some advantage! Cheers oh Great one.

  13. Thanks for a fascinating blog. Most of us would never have any idea about the mechanics of Broadway theater life, if not for you! You look great in the white trench coat (for the 9 to 5: The Musical premiere) – great style and color for you. How fun to see the three of you together again!
    Thanks again for being so kind as to fill us in about theater life.

  14. Dear Jane,

    I have always wondered how someone like you, in a long-running theatre production, can keep your performance fresh. I have seen many shows, well into their runs, in which the lead actors look as though they are walking through their parts while thinking of a list of groceries they need to pick up on their way home.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences in this blog. Your open, loving attitude is probably why you have so many friends.

  15. Loved the run down on your daily routine.
    Cheers to Lori, Heather & Micheal.

    Yes, I’ve had and seen many dogs do the happy sneezing thing. God bless the 4 legged’s.

    Your life is full Jane and you wear it well.
    You, Dolly and Lily (who I adore) look fab!!

    Just bought your book (MLSF). Its about time!
    Maybe I’ll have the great privilege of meeting you one
    day and you’ll sign my book.

    Wish there was a way for us to send our picture to
    you. I don’t do the facebook thing. It would have to
    be only for Jane. Wouldn’t you like to connect a face with our names?

    Many Happy Returns,

  16. You are one fascinating woman!

    Normally with age people are getting boring. You are getting more interesting every day!

    And that is fascinating!

  17. I am so enjoying following your blog. I’m a long time fan, now retired from working in the theatre and I love reading about your backstage routine. Thank for sharing so much with everyone and for recognizing all who work with you every night.

  18. So interesting to see how your day unfolds and how much you do with it — where do you get the energy?! You’re amazing.

    And to see those pictures of you, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin warmed my heart. Each of you women have given so much to us through your individual voices, spirit and talent. Three remarkable ladies — three gems.

    Enjoy your day!

  19. Hi Jane,

    Saw 9-5 The Musical. I really enjoyed it. Loved your character’s big number, and it was also definitely different than the movie. (I missed the car chase seen with the police and some of those funny lines. Like Doralee saying, “Violet, honey, could you come here for a moment”… while looking into the trunk) Hysterical!
    YOU casting Dolly made her a movie star!

    I was wondering what you meant that your feelings for 9-5 The Musical are complicated. Would you care to clarify that for us bloggers? We are curious.

    I am missing your show already– have seen it many times. I dont want it to end May 24th!Do you know there are some bloggers who are seeing your play “33” times— one for each variation!

    Much Gratitude and Respect,

    PS: LOVED your auto bio and cant wait for the 3rd ACT!


  20. Great blog, great photos!

    I saw the skit on youtube..y’all were FABULOUS!

  21. you wrote “…….The whole “9 to 5: The Musical” is a complicated issue for me….”

    Would love to know more about this!

  22. What a thrilling and exciting post, Jane. To be a “fly on the wall” as you go through your routine. I’ve been a huge fan since age 12. (You sent me an autographed photo.) I’m 56 now! I’m flying from Sacramento especially to see your show on May 16.

    P.S. In 1980 at a fundraiser in Chico I embarassed myself by tellling you I loved you. You gave me a Barbarella blink and said, “thank you for coming.”

  23. I saw 9 to 5: The Musical when it played in Los Angeles – I was there openning night and you looked great – I enjoyedthe show but am curious to your comment that it is a complicatged issue for you – would you be willing to elaborate on that?

  24. Why complicated?
    Wish I could see your show, did buy 33 variations CD but not the same. Enjoyed reading about your routine.

  25. Whew! I admire your ability to keep that schedule! It’s nice to hear about your wonderful helpers. It seems you have a great crew around you.
    9 to 5 was one of those movies that made me want to act and do comedy from a young age. When I was a little girl my Mom asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, with out a beat I said “Dolly Parton!” All you ladies look beautiful and happy. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

    P.S. My dog Ace (Scottie Cocker Spaniel Mix) does an I love you sneeze when my wife or I get home, just before he jumps up and down like he is spring loaded.

    Thanks again for sharing,
    Jessie G.

  26. Why is 925 the musical a complicated issue for you?

  27. Heard the Boston Globe (OMG!) was in danger of closing, and was really struck by my favorite scene in Monster in Law last night when you asked the bimbo if she read newspapers!

    Malcolm is gorgeous!

  28. Wanted to comment on the ‘dog sneezes…’ my little Sofia sneezes 3 times when she is happy and shakes her head when she doesn’t want to walk in the direction I want her to go….actually stops in her tracks and shakes her head!!! she also knows my name is ‘MOM!’
    Enjoy the rest of your time in NYC! there’s no place in the world like it!

  29. Thank you for sharing your exhausing day and all the wonderful pictures – you’re great! This is an adventure I would never know about, except for your blog – Helen Eve

  30. Hi
    I came from Frankfurt, Germany on Tuesday to see the play. Had a book of Beethoven’s letters for you and thought, well, who on earth in the theatre could I give it to in order to give to you. Couldn’t believe it when you walked past me and I was able to give it to you personally. Wow. Hope you enjoy it. I don’t know if it’s of interest but I heard in an interview you wanted to research Beethoven more.
    BTW, you are a very nice lady to talk to. And you look stunning.
    Saw the play. Thought it was fantastic. You, Beethoven and the set steal the show.

    Can’t get over the fact that the company I work for, LUFTHANSA!!, gets a mention in the play being the airline that takes you to Bonn (there’s no airport there, by the way, you have to fly to Cologne 😉 . Told all my crew in the crew bus the following morning on the way to JFK and it made them very happy.
    It was the first time I’d been in an American theatre and I just have to mention that I couldn’t believe that you all come out, bow, leave the stage and that’s it.!! In Europe the actors are exhausted by all the curtain calls. I mean that’s the audience’s way of showing appreciation. I was completely baffled.
    Anyway, I’m so happy I saw you and the play. Maybe I’ll try and get to work another flight to JFK in May and come to see you again.
    Best wishes

  31. Wow, I almost got teary reading this. I did a lot of plays in high school and college, either backstage or acting, and this vividly brings it all back. Most people have no idea how much work goes on backstage to make any production viable. Thanks for turning the spotlight on Lori and Heather.

    Oh and BTW, I am going to order the movie 9 to 5 from Netflix, and show my kids. Since they are adopted and still learning American culture, it will be a great lesson for them, and the comedy makes it memorable.

    Have a fabulous weekend!

  32. Wonderful entry, Jane! Theatre stuff is always very interesting to me and you’re giving us a first hand view of everything. Thanks for that and for your blog. Love you.

  33. Fabulous! Thank you for sharing all this. I find it fascinating to hear everything that goes on behind-the-scenes to bring it all together. You are terrific!!!!

  34. I have been reading your blog for a month…I’ve never replied before. Thank you so much for blogging about this experience. Last June I was in a production of “The Laramie Project”. I played 8 characters. It was such a moving play. Since then I’ve read Moises’ other plays and will be seeing the one he’s directing out here in L.A. He is so talented and truly brilliant to have cast you in this show. Is there any chance it will come to L.A.? And if it did, would you reprise your role?
    Again, thank you so much. The skit was terribly funny!!!
    We will miss this blog….

  35. love your blog. loved your work in your show. why is 9 to 5 complicated…

  36. this is one of my favorite entries of yours, love all the details.

    thanks so much for sharing with us.
    please promise you’ll keep blogging after the show ends.
    i have a link to yours on mine 🙂

    LOVE seeing the pic of gene saks. barefoot in the park is one of my top 10 favorite movies ever. you are adorable in it.

  37. Dear Jane,

    Many thanks for taking the time to recognize the people around you.

    Lori’s dad (Joe)

  38. Hey, i saw your red carpet moment this morning on the TV you looked fabulous, missed a bit of it though had to go to work = (
    I too have a dog that smiles, she’s called Missy and she does the sneezing thing, it makes me laugh it gives them their own little personality.
    It was cool reading about the behind the scene stuff.

  39. Thank you for the fabulous pictures from the red carpet.
    I’m sure we will hear about those issue’s.
    How nice to hear about your theater routine, with so much going on,people like Lori, and Heather make all the difference in your day. What a great journey you’ve shared with us.
    My Angel doesn’t grin, yet greets us with excited whimpers, a sneeze, a little dance,tail wagging,and even barks if we don’t pick her up fast enough for hugs, and kisses. I think Tulea has captured the hearts of all, and deserves to be spoiled. I love how she knows her cue.

    Another Great Blog

  40. Jane… I’m 48 years old… I’ve had a crush on you since I saw TALL STORY with you and the wonderful, late Tony Perkins, and I STILL have a crush on you. Through the years your acting has been an inspiration to me and I’m constantly amazed at the versatility in your roles. I used to say there are movie stars, there are character actors, and there is JANE FONDA. And I meant that as a huge compliment. You were both. I’m heading to NYC in July as a friend of mine is starring in a revival on Broadway and I’m going out there to support. My only regret is that you will no longer be there otherwise I’d come see your show. Oh, well… perhaps you will do another movie soon?

    Love, Marc

  41. How do you not collapse after a day like that? God bless you! You all look great in the pictures from 9to5. One of my favorites! Dolly was great on The View this morning. She’s awesome!!!!

  42. Ms. Fonda,

    I was indeed honored to be in your presence Thursday at the premiere event of 9 to 5. you were truly an excellent Judy. I do enjoy your performances. You look AWESOME!

  43. My cat “Max” (two cats ago) was a “happy sneezer”. As a matter of fact, I recall one time I was sitting at the piano playing/singing a piece by Brahms and she jumped on my lap, purring so loudly that her nose was dripping, and then she stretched up and gently bit me on the chin!!!! Animals will always find a way to communicate their love!!!

  44. Just tell Tulea to cover her sneeze with her elbow, not her paw – that’s the new protocol.

    My dog Sophie sneezes at me when she’s frustrated, like I’m not getting her dinner ready fast enough!!!


  46. Dear Jane,

    I love your blog because is entertaining and your writing is passionate and full of curiosity about other people’s lives.

    I am a fan of your work as an actress. I used to do aerobics following your fitness videos. You are an inspirational lady.
    I hope I will see your play in London.

    with Love,

  47. Jane! You are my hero! You looked amazing on the red carpet! It was an honor to see you– I did yell “I love you, Jane” from the second level.. You looked up, and I froze! You are an amazing, inspiring woman. Would love to have the chance to actually meet you one day!

    All the best–

  48. Jane – You have so many of us wondering why the “9 to 5 Musical” is a “complicated” thing for you. Please provide us with more insight on this topic???

    Thanks – ps you looked fantastic on the red carpet.

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