BEHIND THE SCENES DIRT: What the Ladies Do During Down-Time

The ladiesT. Stacy Hicks [referred to as TSH from here on out]: (in high standard British) Ladies, ladies. In all my years in the American theatre…

And so begins our pre-show ritual. We’ve just had fight call, in which I leap, cat-like, onto a table with a sword and make Paco* swoon with jealousy (his fight doesn’t come until the end of fight call, and he doesn’t get a sword). We’ve had nearly half an hour since then to accouter and dress ourselves, to warm up (if we do so at the theatre), to check daily news and announcements at the call board**, and to do any makeup necessary for the top of the show.

I dress and make my way to the ladies’ dressing room to give greetings and good wishes the women who only play women in our cast.

Leslie Ann Handelman and Marcy Kearns [referred to as LAH and MK from here on out]: Hey lover! Holla!

TSH: Incandescent, ladies. Incandescent.

MK: A pleasure as always, Mr. Hicks.

LAH: Lovely to see you, Mr. Hicks.

TSH: Ladies, it’s time for me to do a performance blog, and it strikes me that I’d love nothing more than to take you along. You offer a very different look behind the scenes of a performance because you have quite a while between your last appearance in Act 1 and your only appearance in Act 2, don’t you?

LAH: Yeah, we’ve got a little over an hour of offstage mischief time if you include intermission.

TSH: What do you do? Do you stay in character? Get a coffee? Take a nap on the Equity cot?***

MK: Gin.

TSH: Drinking on the job?

MK: No, no, gin rummy. Leslie taught me. We realized early on that we’d have a lot of down-time during the shows. Rather than stay in character, and because it doesn’t take long to get into the head space to make our final entrance, we decided to use our free time during the show to try to learn things.

LAH: Early on, we talked about borrowing a Hula Dancing workout tape from Angela and trying to figure out how to rig a VCR up to my laptop for something we could call the Wenches’ Workout, that might rival Todd Denning’s Douglas Workout from 1HENRYIV.

MK: Then I had a leg injury, which got in the way of any plans to do the Hula. But I made Leslie teach me gin rummy and two-person Euchre. Now we play cards.

LAH: Sometimes Marcy does work. She’s also doing the education “stuff” for Milwaukee Shakespeare, so she is starting to think about the educational outreach for TWELFTH NIGHT.

MK: But I don’t work too much…

LAH: Sometimes she writes.

MK: And she (indicating Leslie) plays Sudoku.

LAH: We have done quite a bit. One day we wrote secret love notes to some of the actors in the cast and mischieviously delivered them to the respective recipient’s mirror in the dressing room when that recipient was onstage. We’ve had great discussions about goals. And sometimes we just gossip.

MK: It’s how we keep RUMOR (wink wink) alive offstage, too.

TSH: (groan)

MK: I know, bad joke. Kearnses are famous for them. Leslie works too –

TSH: Yes?

MK: She helps another actor work, actually. Brian Gill, our Prince Hal, is knee-deep in rehearsals for the Renaissance Theatreworks production of WOMAN IN BLACK at the moment. Leslie runs lines with him after our big Boar’s Head scene toward the end of Act 1. It’s a really creepy play!

TSH: How does he do that? Work on another play while he’s offstage for this one?

MK: Yeah, I dunno. Some folks can split their brain like that. I suppose it’s like us – he has a long enough break and his role in 2HENRY is learned well enough that he can shift gears.

TSH: You also, speaking of shows, have a very special case in your dressing room.

LAH: Yes! Marcy and I share a dressing room with the ladies of the cast of THE MIDNIGHT ANGEL at Skylight. The opera plays over our monitors in the dressing room, and we get to mix and mingle with the singers.

MK: They saw our preview, and we had the chance to see their show over the weekend. We keep threatening to steal their beautiful ball gowns…

LAH: And they say they’d love to be the dirty women of the streets that we are…

MK: One day, when their ensemble members were called to the stage for curtain call****, Leslie and I told them to just sit back and relax, and we’d take care of it for then. We actually got as far as the stairwell up into the Cabot Theatre before they called our bluff.

LAH: We’ve also talked about showing up in one of their scenes. What would happen if Death made her big entrance to the ball with two medieval whores in tow? A cameo appearance at Lady Neville’s ball would fit perfectly into our long break…

MK: Although our producer (who also happens to be the director of MIDNIGHT ANGEL) Paula might look askance at that.

LAH: She said askance.

TSH: Right. Changing the subject, how long does it take you to get ready before the performance?

MK: Barring any warm-ups, we get half an hour. I get here for fight call and then get into makeup and costume after that.

LAH: Our warm-ups are very different from those of the opera singers. When their Assistant Stage Manager came in to introduce herself, she said she hoped that Marcy and I wouldn’t mind the singers warming up before their performances – some of them do some seriously beautiful and exensive scales in the bathroom of the dressing room.

MK: Our King Henry, Angela Iannone, responded with, “As long as they don’t mind our actor warm-ups: (2 hacking coughs and a throat clearing) %&@# (insert four-letter word of choice)!”

TSH: Do you ever get to listen to our performance?

MK: Sure – we can hear it over the monitors when we’re in the Milwaukee Shakespeare side of the dressing rooms.

LAH: And when we’re not in a scene, our Stage Manager Lesley Stone lets us visit the booth while she’s running the show. We can and have watched scenes from there.

TSH: And you can see the audience, too, because our stage is set up tennis-court style, with patrons on both sides.

LAH: Yeah, we see half the audience from that vantage point. It is always interesting to watch the audience members while they’re watching the actors.

[a page comes over the monitors from our lovely Stage Manager, Lesley Stone]

Lesley: Ladies, Act 5 has started. The King is dead.

LAH: I guess it’s dirty whore time.

TSH: What?

MK: Stage dirt. We have to get scuzzed up to get arrested in our last scene.

TSH: And that, as they say, is the dirt from backstage.


*’Paco’ is Michael Pocaro’s nickname.

**We have a sign-in sheet posted next to the men’s dressing room. When we arrive at the theatre for each performance, we have to initial our arrival onto the lot so that Stage Management knows we are there.

***According to the rulebook for members of Actors Equity Association, there has to be some sort of cot or bed that actors may rest on during rehearsals and performances. While we were in rehearsals, the Equity cot had a home in the furnace room. Now that we are in the theatre, it has a nice home in the green room. We lounge on it often.

****Curtain Call is another name for the bows that we take at the end of a show.

 Marcy applying makeup     Leslie, hard at “work”     Act 2 - also known as “card-playing time”


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