the house of no

January 4, 2008

rehearsals for the house of yes started the day we left the country and i was to return to dc off-book, so the other thing i did in b’dos was learn lines. on the beach and the catamaran and whatnot. i did good, though. i came back off-book.

it’s one of my 2 long-time-favourite american plays; i actually saw the company i’m working with (also the children’s hour, equus, edward3) do my other favourite (tiny alice) years ago. the house of yes is the kind of show i’ll never do in trini because part of its plot hinges on a certain fascination with the kennedy assassination, which just isn’t that important @ home. not that i care about that either; it’s a very well-written script (she calls it a “suburban jacobean play”).

i assistant directed and stage managed a college production of it, and being in it now as my last dc gig is cool; we have a brilliant director+cast and there’s such good work. the only shitty part of the gig is that my character gets treated like crap by everybody else for most of the play, enters dripping wet from a hurricane with smudged mascara (line comments on it) that gets cleaned up during the make-up phase of the quick-change for ‘thanksgiving dinner’ which entails not only getting made up in the dark backstage, but putting on evening dress+heels and letting dreadlocks down to hang dripping wet down my back for the entire scene. like equus i have to be waxed and otherwise prepared to be seen in bra+panties, and bawl, and i have a scene that involves frantically packing+unpacking a suitcase in the (relative)dark on my knees while maintaining dialogue with specific lines that revolve around what’s happening with the suitcase, thus requiring the suitcase prepacking and onstage unpacking into the drawers then frantic repacking then frantic re-repacking then latching for exit on a specific line to be perfect every time. i’m tired just thinking about the scene now, so i’m guessing this one won’t get easier. but i love the piece.

during our 1st preview (thus 1st audience) an actor was recorking the glass decanter and the bottle’s neck+body separated- she was holding the neck and the stopper, and the bottom just fell out, spilling the “liquor” all over the “living room”. she had to invent lines and others had to grab towels and clean up during the scene- i spend a chunk of the show barefoot and there was broken glass cleverly disguised by shiny slippery puddles onstage. then there was the no-warning last-minute addition of dried macaroni to a costume piece that’s been shedding onstage. i found out (literally) the hard way when i walked barefoot (painfully) on hard-as-rocks macaroni elbows onstage during the show, then and too many nights since.

opening went pretty well, up until the final scene. we got mostly through our no-intermission 90minute play, major emotional breakdowns peppered with (hopefully) comic timing and shitload of actor business, i entered for the confrontation+climax, started the fight which my “fiance” tried to diffuse with nursery rhyme as scripted, he said his “hey diddle diddle” and asked about the involvement of silverware in said rhyme, and then nobody entered to bring the conversation back to the issues @ hand or get the other character still onstage off so me+”fiance” could have it out. i’m told the whole thing, from unexpected pause to “fiance” covering with more nursery rhyming to hearing another actor in the wings debate entering unscripted so things’d get rolling to trying to determine what lines i could deliver with an unexpected character onstage while not ruining the climax, took 20-25seconds. not that long in the larger scheme of things, but onstage, it was the longest half-minute of my life, not counting the last of waiting for medical test results. it was opening night; we knew we had press in the house. we hemmed+hawed and repeated ourselves, saying a lot of nothing so we couldn’t give anything away too early (while i tried to maintain my character’s upset rather than my own) until the anticipated entrance happened and things could proceed as planned. terrifying in the moment, but after, all i could think was that reviews would say i went up on lines, not realising it wasn’t me since “fiance” spoke and i didn’t answer immediately- vanity, i know. but i knew the show’d been good and was devastated that it might look like i ruined it for everybody. i mean, i was the one who suggested this show to the company a year ago in the 1st place, if that gives any idea of my personal investment in this production…i almost went to the lobby for the reception in tears. anyway, i’ve only seen  a few reviews- some very positive, 1 that clearly didn’t get it (dislikes the premise of the script to start with so production+performances are irrelevant)- none mentioned the hiccup, so i’m over it, except as a theatre-horror-story.

[aside: in keeping with that theme, here i share my favourite theatre-horror witnessed by theatre professionals i trust enough to repeat: a particular production of wizard of oz stupidly decided to use a live dog where possible although they hadn’t in rehearsal, and blocked “dorothy” to enter with “toto” via the audience centre-aisle; “dorothy” and her new live “toto” were having some trouble and she had to yank+drag him by the leash for the 1st part of her entrance. she got to the edge of the stage, wondering why the audience was reacting strangely, then realised she’d yanked the leash too vigourously and broken “toto”s neck, and had just dragged a dead dog behind her the last few feet up the aisle…top of the show…and if i’m not getting old stories mixed up, later in the run with the fake dog the flying monkeys accidentally dropped(+killed?) “toto”…makes me feel better about the house of yes]

but opening night wasn’t the end of the drama. we giggled when a finial of the 4-poster-bed in the “guestroom” broke off mid-scene as “anthony” was about to divulge his (lie about a) suspected brain tumor, but the following night i learned what happens when you leave 1-too-many drawers open in a dresser on a rake while frantically packing your shit (lingerie en l’air) to escape the horrible nightmare- the dresser fell over as i was packing the suitcase, luckily, considering the size of said “guestroom”, not onto either myself or “anthony”. we picked it and its drawers up the way anybody would, keeping the dialogue going, and it was mostly fine except for the brief break of “omygod that dresser’s falling…oh, ok…” but i still feel like i messed up the candle- they switch on/off and look really good, flicker and everything- but i feel like when it fell (off the falling dresser) i shoulda turned it off like it “went out”- grims points out that then the lights woulda made no sense because the room should go black without it (scripted power outage)- but i don’t know…
1 night we had an audience member dressed (in drag, “melissa”) as jackie-o (unbloodied). i thought it’d bother me least since my character hasn’t built an entire reality around that pink chanel suit, and was feeling bad for “jackie” and “marty” until shortly after curtain when i was shown to the “guestroom” (where i spend most of my time) to find the pink chanel suit staring directly @ me in a “room” too small to escape it. i spent half the play thinking “i don’t know anything i don’t know anything” and trying not to see it before i was told the secret. it was awful.
and going into the last days of 2007 we planned to see some burlesque; i found myself being burlesque- the weekend’s shows began with receiving freshly laundered costumes in the dressing room- i was there plenty early, well before half-hour for a speed-through. i put on blue eyeliner (soon to become “runny mascara”), jeans, socks, sneakers, sweater and jacket, got soaked and entered scene1, and shortly realised that i’d forgotten the bra- it hadn’t been in my pile of clean costume, and having not worn one since high school, i didn’t think of it in its absence.
in the “livingroom” i debated my few options: i don’t exit to the dressing rooms once i enter and didn’t know where the bra was or have time to look anyway (i’m mostly on); the light-fade that ends my sex-scene goes with me removing my shirt, so it was a choice between baring my boobs or having the lights potentially not go out for awhile, requiring major improvisation, on a night when i knew for a fact that we had teens in the audience for a show that doesn’t post a nudity notice next to the live-firearm/adult-content/language warning. i figured i’d lose the shirt like i’m blocked and use the added “danger” to the following scene’s advantage (i don’t get redressed for awhile).
the one thing i didn’t count on was, after rolling off “anthony” in the blackout and stepping away from my clothing in time for lights-up, the realisation that what i’m usually doing while facing the audience in those 1st solo moments is rebuckling the bra i wasn’t wearing. so there was a second of deer/headlights, but then i did what i’d planned as he entered, groped for my clothes, used it to our advantage, and we were cool. the audience didn’t know they got a special show, but i’m letting my boobs take credit for the fact that our next show was sold out and we had to turn 25 away @ the door. and then i found out that the light cue actually goes off my dropping my pants, which i lose 1st…
old years night, me+stiles(“marty”) did our “seduction of lady anne” from richard3 (which we love) for the new years benefit and it went over so well people came up in the lobby saying they had to come see us in the house of yes (which just extended, yay)…me+grims did the reception then a friend’s party, and for people who usually stay in for old years, had quite a time, even came back to the house for champagne+smoke+movies to round out the morning. plus, we saw a very fun+funny cabaret-style burlesque show @ palace of wonders– a good time was had by all, especially some youth named adam experiencing burlesque for the 1st time- the ladies loved adam and adam loved them, ecstatically. i’m trying to catch @ least 1 more show there before we fly.
our realtor’s seeing the house of yes this weekend- we’ll see how soon after closing (now january19) i can make my way home…
walk good.

[full disclosure: much of this post can be found, variously, @ sweet trini’s urban folk tales]

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