Theatre

The Wizard of Oz (2)

Time: September 10, 2003
Place: Diablo Light Opera Company
Role: Scarecrow
Director: Byron Peters
My Reflections

An excerpt from before a performance:

Ah. There’s plenty of parking. But there always is. My spot is inviting every time I pull into the parking lot. I gather my things, lock the car and head over to the theatre. The time is 6:40. I’m only 10 minutes late for my 6:30 call. That’s not bad. It may even be a new record for me.

A strong aroma of barbecue is in the air. The very thought of barbequed chicken or steak is quite a tease to my persistently half empty stomach. I meet another actor approaching the theatre and we both go in. our first stop is at the security desk. We give names and get our badges. Security is tight. No badge means no access – beg as one may try.

Inside, I head over to the sign in board. We’re all supposed to sign in. I often forget, but this time I remember.

The dressing room contains only the actor portraying the Wizard. I set my things down. Not needing to exit the theatre again, I opt to don my dance attire. Needless to say, it’s not clothing I’d wear in public. On the way to the restroom, I say hello to another actress. It’s our Dorothy understudy. She describes the contents of her goodies bag and reveals that it contains Junior Mints. After a light round of persuasive talking, she parts with a few of them. I’m highly pleased. I love Junior Mints!

Back in the dressing room, I put on my microphone. Due to the heavy tumbling work I do in the show, this act takes special consideration. I mount the microphone and my right side. My body and mind have learned to avoid rolling over it. An ace bandage helps keep the little microphone pack in place. I mount the wire up my back and lead it over my head. The actual microphone is situated right below my forehead. Many special hair clips keep everything in place. While it’s not guaranteed that it’ll work for the entire show, it now has a pretty good chance.

I now head upstage to do a microphone check. A few others go before me. During my turn, I say a few lines from the show and sing a small chunk of my song. This is usually the only time I ever hear my voice in the audience. During the show, the orchestra’s curtain of sound prevents me from ever hearing how I sound. To play it safe, I always try to project my voice as if the mike were broken. Sometimes, that happens to be the case.

No longer needing to sound understandable, I decide to start my teeth bleaching. It’s not really necessary, but I do it anyway.

There hadn’t been that long of a break since I did the show the first time, so I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to play the character. The audition went fine, though during the callback, the director wanted me to play the scarecrow a whole different way. Okay, I could do that, so I tied a different way than usual. It felt very odd to go against my normal interpretation. Afterwards I got to return to my usual way. I think the purpose was merely to see if I could take direction or if I’d be closed into just doing everything the same as the time before.

From the very beginning, I highly enjoyed the show. Each rehearsal was fun and productive. I had guessed that the two big dances from me would be the jitterbug and the Scarecrow dance. But soon, the Jitterbug turned out to be easier for us four characters. There were special bug dancers to handle the tough stuff. Fine by me! A rest from dancing is always welcome.

We began preparing every before the first rehearsal. Early on in the summer, we met up with the makeup coordinator, a hired person from the San Francisco opera, who trained us how to do our makeup correctly. Combined with the fabulous costumes, these characters definitely resembled the move a lot closes than before, with the exception of the Tin Man costume that had been rented for San Jose theatre last time. After our makeup application, we traveled to Children’s Fairyland in Oakland to take publicity photos after the park had closed. It was a great day. You might say, we felt very professional.

Another special rehearsal was to record sound bites for the special effects during the tornado scene, a scene which is something I really wish I could have seen during the show. From the spinning sets, the flying characters, the dancing, the lights and sound effects, the tornado seemed to be quite extravagant.

Once the show drew near opening, we moved into the theatre. To help contribute to the production, I built a tree stump for the Tin Man. I used real stirps of bark and a bunch of moss to create a realistic stump. I was highly pleased with the darn thing. Along with that, I located the original magician from the first time I did the show. He arranged the same fire tricks again, which helped a lot. Most of the time, the fire flew directly at me. Yeah, it’s a good thing. Large CO2 canisters were used for the other effects of smoke and overall, the effects matched the quality of the sets. Speaking of which, the sets were outstanding. I couldn’t have been more please there. Especially nice was the cornfield. When I compare photos of the little corn rows I had made and the professional ones, the difference is huge. If only I’d spent thousands of dollars last time! If only!

We played to full houses filled with children—many in costume. One audience had a little boy with a terrific Scarecrow costume. He could even be seen from the stage. Afterwards, we got the two Scarecrows together for a photo.

No great mishaps happened. Though one show I had forgot to put on my white work gloves. No one probably noticed, but I practically felt naked without them. I’m amazing how much you notice something once you know it’s missing. Another time I forgot to use the makeup sealer and was worried for a whole scene that my makeup was pouring down my face from sweating—yeah, we sweated quite a bit in that show. Once the leads go on, they’re on for about 95% of the show. Got a costume problem? You’re stuck with it until curtain.

The pace of the production was always fast for us. As soon as we leave the farm hands scene, we have to get into makeup for the principal characters. I had the first entrance, so I had about 15 minutes to get ready. It seems like plenty of time, but it flies by all too fast when you have to completely change your costume and appearance. Still, I was always ready to go, aside from the one time I had forgotten the gloves. I did notice that I never really had that detailed look of when we first did the makeup back in June.

Before the Scarecrow scene, I would climb into my platform and onto the Scarecrow box. Being on the moving platform was great. I’d get set into place on the “pole” and then be whisked into position during the blackout. There was always a last second flight check before going on—not that I could have changed much at that moment.

I don’t believe there were any major parties during that run (at least not that I was aware of). We’d meet at Sanford’s a few times after the shows. We also had the final closing party where we watched the video and got our free mugs.

Despite 20 shows, the run went fast. Three double show days really wore us out, but they did feed us in-between performances.

One notable thing about the show was that once the performance was over, if you had changed out of your costume, no one would know who you were—unless they already knew you. That’s the drawback of such heavily costumed characters. Sometimes I kept my “headset” on just to avoid that problem.

The cast seemed to bond well and get along. We even had prayer circles before each show opened. That was nice to have. I believe some of the younger cast may have had a few personality conflicts, but overall, no one stabbed anyone or boiled their pets. Still, casting two Dorothy’s was bound to cause a few small issues.

Our Toto was manageable and seemed to perform best once he left the stage. Still, he didn’t bark or bite. And he always went out on cue, provided a small treat was thrown on stage beforehand.

I guess the only negative thing about Oz would be how big of a production it was. What I mean is that I’d have a really hard time doing the show again unless it was on Broadway. We had a great show.

Next: In New Jersey, its’a once upon a time…

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