Theatre

Wizard of Oz (3)

Time: January 18, 2008
Place: Pleasanton Playhouse
Role: Tin Man
Director: Carol Hovey
My Reflections

It’s always best to start at the beginning…

The Audition

Actually, I missed the audition. Didn’t think I could even do the show at all. I was taking four grad classes and already up to my neck in homework (figuratively, not literally!). Were would I find time to do my homework? I could only even rehearse two days a week at that for a while. Nope. I figuredthey wouldn’t even consider me with my conflicts. No sir. Never happen.

Then Shawnel called and everything changed.

Seems they had a good turnout for auditions, but still needed the character parts filled. I was asked to audition for the Scarecrow, probably because I had done the role twice before, so missing rehearsals wouldn’t be a huge issue. But my hesitance was that I had really enjoyed the role my previous time and didn’t want to repeat it (hate to tread on great memories). So she mentioned auditioning for the Tin Man. Tin Man, you say? Tin Man…huh. Hmm. Well, that might be fun. Hadn’t done that role before. Alwaysthought those one-liners were pretty funny in a vaudeville way.

Very well. Let’s do it!

I attended the callbacks and things went rather well. I also read for the Guard. Wanting to add something new into the mix, I read him in a few different ways, including an Austrian Arnold Terminator voice. That wasfun. It’s nice not to care too much.

Casting was done the next day, and I found myself headed back to Oz. it would be my 18th show with Pleasanton Playhouse, but in a brand new theatre back in my old home town.

Rehearsing

Luckily, I was able to attend the first rehearsal. It was the read-through or maybe just a sing through. Several characters were missing. This would become the show of conflicts for a long while. Seems one of us wasmissing almost every night.

During this rehearsal, we got to see just how many people could pack into the rehearsal warehouse. I’m amazed. Not one munchkin gottrampled and no one suffocated.

Subsequent rehearsals went well and as we got closer, more people were showing up. After classes ended, I was able to finally relax and enjoy myself. Then we parted for the holidays and arrived back in January to really get down to business. At that point, I really needed to start saying myown lines instead of reciting the Scarecrow’s.

The Suit of Armor

Several weeks before opening, the metal suit finally came. I had been expecting something fancy, but nothing like we got. This thing was real tin. Probably weighed about 25 pounds. Ironically, the axe was the lightest thing about it. After one rehearsal, I stripped down to my t-shirt andtried it on.

Ouch.

OUCH! OUCH! OW! OW! OWWW!!!

It hurt! The armpits and elbow areas pinched something awful. After removing the suit, I found bad bruises all over my arms. This just wouldn’t do. I couldn’t dance in extreme pain. People would notice the screamsof agony. I was sure of it!

Next came the legs. The pinching wasn’t as bad; I just could hardly move my legs. No big deal…except I had to dance during my song and do other trivial little things like walk around the stage, maybe run onoccasion. The show was written with the Tin Man being mobile.

Hence, I was dead set against the suit of agony. It just wouldn’t work. Other Tin Men got painted leather; one had foam padding. How didI wind up with a medieval instrument of torture?

In time, I figured out that they were sticking with this tin suit; thus, I would have to adapt. And adapt I did. The biggest help came when Shawnel’s parent friend from the studio made me a padded suit. I had been shoving in shoulder pads to keep the weight off my shoulders. Problem was they’d eventually fall out and suddenly I’d find the full weight of the outfit digging into my shoulders. It wasn’t pleasant. It was affecting my enjoyment in Oz. Forget needing a heart; I just wanted morphine. Suddenly, the memories of the carefree happy days of being Scarecrow were haunting me dreadfully. But the padded suit saved all. The top became bearable and wearable. Be that as it may,the legs still were awful. I could hardly move in them.

I made suggestions, but nothing was ever really done though.I think they knew I’d overcome the issues.

And voila, in time, my body just adapted to them and my movement became freer and freer. It took a while, but by the second weekend of the show,I was moving like I was wearing only a 10-pound suit of armor. By closing my Charleston kicks were head-high.

The Theatre

After many, many years at the Amador Theatre, the change was nice. Heck, after 17 shows at the old place, you’d think I would really have missed it. No, not really. Of course I have a ton of very fond memories at Amador. Many new friends and relationships began there, but I also enjoyeddiscovering a brand new venue in my old home town.

The new theatre is built very nicely, though there are several pros and cons. The cons involve the very limited stage left space. I tripped over a sound cable one time since the rail area is mixed into the offstage wing space. It’s just too tight. Also, the stage left downstage hallway mixes with the audience hallway, so that became off limits, resulting in an unnecessary walk to the dressing rooms. The green room is functional butnothing too special. I think that’s all for the cons. Not much, really.

The pros are that it’s next to a nice and free parking garage (kudos, Livermore!). The dressing rooms have bathrooms and showers (with soap provided!). I made use of the shower several times. The seats seem to all have great views of the stage. The pit is deep enough to be out of the way. The stage access points are nice. The upstairs dressing rooms are huge and I almost wish I was stationed up there, given all the fun they seemed to be having. Butbecoming the Tin Man took every second. It’s just part of the role.

Our dressing room was somewhat crowded, especially with the costume pieces, yet we did fun in there. An odd thing was the amount of obscenities, which was somewhat shocking considering the amount of children running about. Different people have different viewpoints on the matter, but personally, I support the idea of giving kids as clean an environment as possible when they’re especially young. They’ll get enough of the filth and grime once they hit high school or turn on late night TV. It’s just part of theresponsibility of being an adult.

That aside, we did have some great laughs and camaraderie. Mostly we ran the same routine of commenting on the absurdities of the Munchkins singing happy songs about a person getting killed. It’s macabre, I know. The next night, we’d comment on commenting about the songs. This wasrepeated throughout the run.

Each night we could also count on the Lion asking for answers to crossword puzzles. That kept things interesting. Only playing Jeopardy would have topped that. I’ve discovered that while I don’t like doing crossword puzzles, I do enjoy assisting other people in doing crosswordpuzzles. Plus, I don’t have to fill in the squares that way.

Yeah, it was lively dressing room. I’ll miss those crazy antics.

The Makeup

I have no known allergies (NKA as we used to say in the Marines) so I wasn’t worried about the tin makeup. Still probably would have been wise to test it out early, but time passed fast and soon it was tech Monday. I applied the silver and it worked flawlessly. I didn’t go into a coma. My skin didn’t break out in boils. From then on, I had a silver face for two hours a night. It worked well, but I wasn’t fond of it; removing it at the end justtook so much natural oil off the skin. It did not seem too healthy.

With the physical demands of the suit and the application of the silver paint, I don’t think I’d ever do a role like the Tin Man long term. I don’t mind several weekends but several months might start to do some irreparable damage to the body and I sort of need mine intact for quite some time. I hear even the Lion King actors don’t last too many months due tothe strong demands of the costumes (some being much heavier than my Tin Suit).

The Sets

Hmmm….how to put this delicately….hmmm…well, they weren’t…well, they were…functional. Oz is simply not an easy show to build a set for and these were rented from San Jose Children’s theatre. Now, the paintings were well-done, but so many things are required for a spectacular production (set-wise) of Oz. The flying wasn’t possible due to high costs and it’s a tough call. I mean it’s only needed in a few spots, but those spots really need it (e.g., Glinda descending and the Wizard’s Balloon ascending), yet the show isn’t Peter Pan–it’s simply a lot of money to spend just for thosefew moments.

The theatre disallowed flash paper too. Ouch. That really hurt a few moments, but Tom did a really good job of providing Plan B. The spool of orange LEDs was very creative. I suppose not having a good trap-dooraffected the witch melting, but enough fog also covered that.

In the end, some were okay with the sets, others were not. They were what they were, and it is hard to match the quality people see in themovie version (although the DLOC sets were remarkably close, I must say).

Costumes

Well, I’ve said enough about mine, but yeah, I think Vicky did an amazing job. What the sets lacked, the costumes seemed to have made up for. A lot of it (I felt) was Broadway level. Sure, I would have loved thinner tin, but with the Lion punching it and me rolling around on it, that might not have been a good solution. Wouldn’t bode well for the theatre to return acrumpled ball of metal to the rental place. (Though it would be rather funny)

Performances

Wow! We had some great crowds. The show was done with virtually no audience members until opening night. It was hard to gauge applause timing and fine tune jokes, but once the crowds came, it was very rewarding. Most of the shows after opening night sold out and that was great to experience.The theatre just seems off to a really good start. Congrats, Livermore.

Each run went well with few errors or glitches. Our final show had to be restarted after a lighting board malfunction. That was interesting. It was even on a night when we weren’t joking around aboutsuperstitious words.

People often asked if it was tough watching someone else play the role I had played twice. No, not really. Certainly, there were occasions where I wanted to shout, "Wait! Stop! Try this; it works really well!" But that wasn’t my job. My job was being the Tin Man. Everyone has his or her own interpretations of characters. And if we impede someone else’s process of discovery, we’ve done that person a great disservice. Each of usneeds to explore and walk our own Hero’s Journey.

All said, done and performed: I had an excellent time. Andyeah, I’d even do it again.

Trivia

We joked around a lot before Act II one night. The lion was pestering the Tin Man, so the Tin Man pushed the Lion not realizing that Dorothy was right behind the Lion. Well, he bashed right into her. She was fine, but we started joking about how crazy it would have been if Dorothy had fallen back, cracked her head open and bled profusely as the curtain opened. The joke ended up with us saying that when the Guard asked our purpose, wewould shout, "We want to see a doctor!"

I was a bit surprised to hear one character (won’t namenames) actually say it when the time came.

(Luckily, it never reached the point of someone shouting,"We want to see Macbeth!!!")

For those who looked especially closely, you could actually see a moment of relief when the Witch chose Scarecrow first. Certainly, the Tin Man and Lion hated to see the demise of their friend, but hey, it’s good to bealive.

There were many tiny changes here and there, and perhaps maybe a few larger ones as well (e.g., "You want a piece of the Tin Man?!?" and "I’ve fallen and I can’t get up"). I believe the Lion was even chanting Muhammad Ali’s boxing mantras. However, the one thing I get asked about by the Producer happened completely by accident. After my song, Dorothy let me know that I sang, "Oh the Lord gave me tin ribs…" instead of "Oh the Smith gave me tin ribs…" I had no idea I had said that, but I think it only happened once. At any rate, I was asked about that after the show. All the other crazy stuff thathad happened and I get interrogated about that? That’s ironic!

It took heightened concentration NOT to accidentally say the Scarecrow’s lines. Almost happened in a song once, but I paused just in time. Opened my mouth to sing a line and quickly realized it wasn’t mine. Close call. Tooclose for comfort.

My Tin Man dance was different every night from tech week through opening weekend. Having metal legs does something to one’sconcentration. The rest of the run was consistent.

Falling on my back may have been comical, but it came at a price. With the belt and tin snaps on the torso, there was a large lump in the lower back area that drove into my back. Think of it as lying on a rock and then rolling from side to side. Repeat twice per show. Three sets per weekend.Mondays were days of healing, Thursdays of dreadful anticipation.

The axe was two-sided. This was odd since most axes are one-sided, including the movie version. The joke was that the Tin Man also hadside gigs in a few Lord of the Rings battles.

Many people helped me get the makeup off and the suit off each night. One held a flashlight. Others helped rub baby wipes on the face. Another helped with the outfit. Another had my boots ready. I am deeplygrateful to them. The change could NOT have happened without them.

For the last show, my secret pal got me a pinata filled with candy. We took it upstairs. One held it up and I swung my axe. Voila! Candy everywhere. After the show, that candy stash was about at 25%. I didn’t mind–I would have OD’ed otherwise.

Special notice should be given to Shawnel who, among other things obtained my Tin Man hat, picked up my makeup from Encore, replaced a dancer who wasn’t able to dance in the show, took care of getting Toto into place for the last scene, had the Wizard’s tokens ready in the last scene, took care of loosening my shoes in Act II, and even assisted in secret pal help. Going way beyond the extra mile shouldn’t be thankless, so…thanks!!! (Heck, sheeven convinced me to audition.)

To prepare for the quick change at the end, I had to remember to place my farm clothes offstage right during intermission, and I had to have my shoelaces loosened in Act II. Before the next to last scene, I had the tape removed from my costume back. Before the big Oz scene, I had the snaps opened. Thus, I never turned by back in the last scene. All that andremembering songs, lines and dances, too.

On occasion, an apple would fall into the pit during the Tin Man discovery scene. Orchestra members did NOT like that. I’m not to blame as Iwas frozen during that time.

During the second week, the identity of my secret pal was spoiled by Glinda, who came bounding into our dressing room, exclaiming, "I want some of James’ candy that Rach…" Thenceforth, she was affectionately entitled the "Secret Pal Spoiler." I wasn’t mad though; it turned out to berather fun.

"Stand back while I break the door down" was followed by "with my axe." To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure if that is in the script or not, but it soon became part of the show. The extra emphasis at the end was a comment on how odd it was that the Tin Man carries this axe throughout the entire show and doesn’t really use it much (until then). Also ironic that hecarries an enchanted axe which chopped him to pieces once.

Playing the Tin Man has an extra caveat in that it gets very tiring and one gets very thirsty having to expend all that energy lugging the costume around. Trouble is, one can’t consume a lot of liquids since using the restroom is not an option. Thus, one gets incredibly thirsty by the end of theshow.

Okay, I confess that yes, it actually was possible to walk semi-quietly when wearing the tin outfit; however, the amount of extra effort it required was simply not worth it. Easier just to be very loud in thehallways and side stage.

Toto (Coco) was an amazingly well-behaved dog. Fact is, the only time she ever howled and barked is when she wasn’t around people. The dog simply loves people.

The monkeys became so funny that I went out of my way tostart watching their antics. Even their sound effects were humorous.

All things considered, the sweat level in the Tin Man costume was not that bad. Nevertheless, I’m very grateful we did this show inthe winter and not during the summer.

Inside the suit, I was completely helpless. I could not get out of it without assistance. Had everyone decided to leave me in it and headhome as I joke, I would have had to walk home ensconced in tin.

Wearing the Tin Suit for the first time produced a semi-claustrophobic effect. It was something I did not anticipate. Interestingly, it immediately became a conscious choice to ignore that feeling once inside the outfit. By the end of the first night in it, the feeling was completely gone. The human mind and body is amazingly capable of adapting to its environment when given the chance. I could not even touch my face in that thing. It was spooky at first. Falling wasmy greatest fear, but even that became fairly easy in time.

During tech week, I realized that I couldn’t trust myself to say, "Well, we was just having a little fun, Aunt Em." You see, after so many OKLAHOMA‘s, once the mid-west voice started, Aunt Em just automatically became Aunt Eller. Even when I concentrated on it, it still happened, so I just dropped her name entirely.

I did try it on closing night (and was successful).

A few people noticed that I had played Scarecrow twice before and now the Tin Man. They would inevitably ask, "So is the Lion next for you?"The answer was and is, no. I don’t ever plan on being big enough.

You may interpret that as you see fit.

Next: Let’s put the comedy back into communism!

Comments are closed