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Not Only Magic Floats

Not Only Magic Floats

My story about working with a major company on a new venture 1996.

Once Upon a Time

 

In the beginning, one man had a dream.  He worked hard to see his dream come true. Some think that this dream was to take over the world and make all children laugh. One man, one dream. Others were asked to help with this dream and they came aboard willingly.  People opened their minds and banks opened their wallets. Soon artificial towns and worlds were being built and people were charged admission to enter them.  Once all of this was done the company united under a single name.  New ideas and new technologies began to come into play.  People were hired to keep the ball rolling until total world domination was achieved.

This is where I come into the picture. I am a dancer.  I spent the youth of my life taking class and dreaming some day of being on Broadway.  Ah Broadway. My path and technique were secure, but to get to Broadway I would need to work.  I would need to have an extensive resume, so I went to every audition that I could find.  Jobs began coming in a steady stream and I found myself in exotic cities and strange little towns.  On one tour, I spent three years of my life just traveling on a bus.  Step, Kick, Kick, Leap, Kick touch……….Life on the road can be lonely and boring and I would often find myself alone at the end of the day.

Being out of town so much I had relationships that were all long distance.  Sleeping with other cast members in the show is fun but it usually ends up causing more problems than it’s worth.  One day while I was touring through Germany I made a vow to myself that I would settle down in one place for at least a year.

When I returned to New York City, I searched the trade papers for a dance job that would help me on my quest and pad my bank account.  A long search revealed an audition that would take care of all of this.  I circled the paper and transferred it to my date book. I went to the audition, combination after combination was put before me and I danced as best as I could. I found that I was passing the test.  They measured me for costumes right there in the studios at Radio City Music Hall.  When I got home the light on my answering machine was blinking. I punched in my code and a voice blared back.

I was hired and in three weeks I was to leave for Florida and find an apartment.  This was my first introduction to the “Company”.  I got along pretty well in the first several weeks.  I was a member of Actors Equity and because I had a lot of experience and very little tolerance for bullshit I was made Equity Deputy.  This is nothing more than a fancy word for someone who listens to complaints and reports them to someone else. It makes you very unpopular with the “Company”.

I found things getting worse and worse on a daily basis.  I made another mental note to myself that after I left here I would never work for the “Company” again.  My threat to myself was very short lived and this is where my story begins.

 

Dear Friends,

 

It took me a long time to sit down and write this, and then the other day I recieved an e-mail from someone who had a very bad theatre experience and I thought long and hard and I am probably committing theatre suicide by sharing this story.

 

This story started over a year ago with an audition for a new venture with an established company, I will not say the name of this company but through the story it will come to light. I auditioned with 100 other boys on the first day and danced and sang through cut after cut. I had my picture taken by poloroid and was measured for costumes.

 

I was told that I had the job and that it would start on a certain date and time, well six months passed and I heard nothing from the company, even the date to start had come and gone. I found myself cursing the television everytime I saw a commercial for this company.

 

One day I came home to find that I had a message from the casting director that I was to appear for a call-back and was to prepare for a specific role, I prepared and dressed ready for anything. When I showed up I danced and sang for a different role than the one I was told about, but thriving on this change I rose to the challange.

 

You have the job, I was told again. Why are you not excited? asked casting. I will be when the contract arrives said I. What followed was a series of phone calls from their office promising a contract of unbelievable fortune, Broadway auditions on a weekly basis, dance teachers flown in form around the country, own bedrooms in condos facing the beach, professionals from all over our industry, swordfighting lessons and two leads in the shows. Even though I had worked for this company before I bought the story hook line and sinker and was told that this was a different branch of the company altogether. Being Equity I asked if my union would be involved, I was told that we would be far from American soil and that no power from Equity would be present. Let me explain, I had served as Equity deputy for this company before and left having a very bad reputation because I had to fight for everything from dry costumes to water on the stage to performers asking me to tell cast members to keep their shirts on due to body hair ( ridiculous! )

 

The day to leave had arrived, I had subletted out my apartment, changed over the bills, forwarded all calls, bid my new agent goodbye and took a taxi to the airport.

I boarded a plane for the Bahamas and arrived there shortly after. When I landed a friend was there to pick me up and drive me to my condo, that would be my home for the next few months.

 

So far all had come through, I entered my new home and met my new roomate, who introduced himself and told me what roles he was in the show. He proceeded to tell me he was playing the roles that I was told I was contracted for. My face dropped and silence fell from my mouth. I had started a new goal to keep my mouth shut and roll with any punches this goal was started one week before I had arrived.

 

That night a pizza party had been planned, I went down and met the new cast, my head was spinning by the time I left the party. I had met the entire cast and some of the producers. So with an empty stomach ( I never got any pizza) and a head full of beer I bidded my new friends goodnight and left for my condo. It was late September and a breeze was blowing through my open window, thank you god I whispered and fell asleep.

 

 

Chapter 1 Pandora’s Box Part 1

 

I went to my local newsstand every Thursday to pick up the latest copy of Backstage.  Backstage is the local trade paper for the entertainment business.  Back in the day it was one of the only vital link’s to auditions and every other aspect of our business.  Tucked in amongst the ads it has listings for voice teachers, dance classes and Drama Classes.  If you are lucky and it is a busy audition week every page will be crammed full of job listings for upcoming shows or showcases.

This paper and a dream can help your career go from chorus dancer to star overnight.

It was best to pick it up first thing in the morning.  We used to joke that that this was when the auditions were fresh and best for picking.  Unfortunately at my newsstand there was always a line and sometimes they would run out.  That was one of the down sides of living in an artist neighborhood.

Rumor had it that the newsstand on Astor Place got Backstage Magazine before anyone else in Manhattan did. Rumor also had it that their line was longer than any other newsstands as well.

I let my eyes run over the racks of magazines and newspapers.  This stand carries everything from porno magazines to Better Homes and gardens.  Every inch of the overcrowded and dusty shelves is packed with crap. Kathy Lee Gifford’s face is splashed across at least three periodicals.  Pushing her image to the side I find what I am looking for.

Rummaging in my pocket I throw a crumpled five dollar bill on the counter.  Scoop up my change and walk up the street.  I can’t wait and begin thumbing through the various listings when I come across it.  It seems like such an innocent little advert at the time.  The headline listing jumps right out at me.

Wanted Seasoned Performers for an Established Company.  Skimming the ad, all the perks are in my favor.  I was perfect for the job until I reached the last part of the ad.

 

Chapter 1 Pandoras Box Part 2

This audition was for what I like to refer as the “Company”.  Could I do it? Could my pride be swallowed? Did I really need money that much?  My bank account was definitely telling my brain to go to the audition.  It was one of the only upcoming shows listed in the paper.  It did mention that it was a new show and that a Broadway name would be writing the music.  I would have to think about it.  I could barely remember how bad it was the last time I worked for them.  Was it really as awful as I remembered it?  It seemed like a lifetime ago that I had worked for them.  Did I blow my experience out of proportion?  I remember the weather, the apartment and all the friends I had made.  I must have forgotten all of that when I told my stories of the crappy treatment that we received.

My head began to swim.  I sat down on someone’s front stoop and took out a cigarette.  I lit and watched the smoke as it danced around my head.  It would be three weeks until the audition and I would have plenty of time to either talk myself out of it or go and try to get the job.  “Oh well”, I told myself “I have plenty of time to figure things out”.

Unfortunately, time in New York City goes by in the blink of an eye.  Three weeks later I find myself in the waiting room of a New Dance Group on 47th street.  I was dressed as dancers do in that day; I was wearing the obligatory black.  Black turtle neck leotard, black jazz pants and black jazz sneakers.  I had three songs prepared and a monologue just in case they needed it.  I spent some time in LA and Vegas.  I was amazed at how people dress for auditions out there.  In LA they look like they just put their street clothes on and happened to walk into an audition.  In Vegas they wore very little.  Come to think of it, my costume when I worked in Vegas had two looks, no shirt and vest.

I look around the room and realize just how small this city actually is.  I know all the boys waiting with me.  Currently, they have us packed in a tiny little holding room.  Boys are everywhere.  There are boys going through plie’s while holding on to the piano, others swapping phone numbers and still others hugging and kissing.  It is a literal sea of boys all waiting to be called into the room to audition.  “Jesus”, I think to myself “Are there no other jobs right now?”  It seems like all the boys in New York City are here, and we are all competing for the same job.

I stopped warming my body up awhile ago.  I can only stretch so much before an audition.  It then becomes a game of psych out, where you try a few different things to make others double judge their abilities.  It’s the oldest trick in the book and it always works.  You can move off in a corner and not talk with anyone; it puts people ill at ease.  It looks as if you know something that the rest don’t.  Actually, I always get nervous before an audition.  I’m a wreck on the way there.  Once I’m there I still a wreck until I enter the room then I feel a lot better.  I guess it’s because I then know what’s going on.  Or at least have a slight handle on it.

I began to let my mind drift and that about what I would be doing the rest of the day.  I am not very focused before this audition.  I think it’s because that no matter what you know that’s not what it’s about.  It boils down to who you know.  I was sure that I would know a handful of people in the room and I’m sure a couple people in the room would know me.  Did they like me?  Was I nice?  Oh crap, now I’m getting more nervous.

The “Company” likes to use the same people over and over again.  One time they ran an ad looking for people who had the “Company” look.  What does that mean?  Anyway it got them into a little bit of trouble, but it was fun hearing them explain what they meant by that.

Sitting here I am reminded of the Tracey Ullman skit where she can actually fly.  She’s at an audition for Peter Pan but she just doesn’t have that right something the casting director is looking for.  Tracey is flying around the room and the whole audition panel feels that she’s missing something.

I am so busy daydreaming that I don’t hear my name being called by the casting director’s assistant.  Now everyone is in panic mode.  I look around and see people scrambling to gather up their dance bags and to get into a single file line.  I jump off the floor that I’ve been lying on and grab my bag.  I’m number fifteen and I get into my proper spot between numbers fourteen and sixteen and march into the hallway.

Chapter 1 Pandoras Box Part 3

I recognize almost everyone in my group from other auditions; we are the first fifty to go into the room.  The room is tiny and they squeezing us in.  The room quickly becomes cramped and hot.  We throw our dance bags to the side.  As usual there is a long table set up at the front of the room.  Sitting behind it is the Casting Director.  I have auditioned for him a million times and he has only hired me twice before.

Next to him sits the Choreographer.  He has charming good looks and a winning smile, he reminds me of a young Alec Baldwin.  I instantly find him attractive.  “He was in Cats” someone whispers to me.  Seated to his left, is his assistant, a dancer that I knew when I used to work for this company before.  He nods at me and smiles.

Sitting in the center of the table is the Director.  He squints through thick glasses, holding a paper inches from his face.  I think that he is reading.  Rumor has it that pyrotechnics once exploded in his face causing a vision problem and to make up for that they gave him this show.

On the wall behind the table is a giant mirror.  All the boys look into it and we quickly arrange our dance clothes and make sure that our hair look’s just right.

The Director’s the first to speak.  “I want to thank everyone for coming to this audition” he starts with.  “This is a new venture for the Company and we are looking for very specific things.”  He looks at the dancers his eyes are magnified.  I’m reminded of Mr. Magoo

“Looking for very specific things, aren’t they always,” someone mutters.  “With that in mind let’s get started” finishes the Director.

The Choreographer walks from behind the table and begins teaching a long and involved combination.  I make sure to pay close attention to the first eight counts.  I know that I am not a quick study and have a tendency to drift.  My ballet teacher jokes often that I’m dyslexic.

The combination continues and we are now at ten counts of eight. “This is fucking ridiculous” someone hisses.

I twist, turn, jump, and slide to the floor.  I raise my hand up in the air because I am not exactly sure how to get up, that’s the part he forgot to teach.

The Casting Director comes forward and starts yelling out directions.  We are told to go to the sides of the room away from the mirror and then we will be called out in groups of four.  I always think that when I’m dancing in a group that all eyes are on me.  I believe that everyone feels that way.  Actually while people are dancing the combination your brain is scrambling to retain what it has learned.

I watch the first group to see if they might have learned something different then I did. I have a couple more groups to decide if I need to change something.

The first group finishes and the Director yells out “Thank you.”

The next group of four is called onto the floor and they dance with so much energy, we are all hungry for a job.  My bladder begins to tell my brain that it needs to be relieved.  I let the combination run through my head over and over.

The group is finished and the third group is off and running.  My stomach growls and my bladder speaks to me again.

The third group finishes and I hear my name being called. I run onto the floor and flash a smile.  We are staggered with two boys in the front and I am in the back.  We get a count in from the Choreographer “5,6,7,8!” he screams.

My body jumps into motion.  Listen to the music my brain tells my body.  I begin to glide and my feet move at a great speed beneath me. I can hear my breathing and my heart has doubled its pace. Jumping higher and higher, I finish and move downstage.  Do it again the Choreographer screams.  We now get to do it a second time and we are asked to switch lines.  Front to back and back to front.

5,6,7,8 the Assistant to the Choreographer screams.  This time I am so sure of every step that I take and my body relaxes into the movement.  I finish, hold my spot and wait to be sent to the side of the room.

I run back into the group of waiting boy while the next group hits the floor. “Nice job,” someone says and taps my butt.

My dancing becomes a blur in my mind, was it all right? Did I forget anything?  Did I stay on the music?

I am anxious for this group to finish dancing.  I look at the clock on the wall and the second hand seems to have slowed down.  I feel that I can hear the gears in the clock grinding as it moves the hands around the clock.

Group after group hits the floor and works hard to ‘sell’ the combination.  I can’t wait to be finished.  I will either stay or I will go no hard feelings.

Sweat is now dripping off the group in the center of the floor as they move to the music.  Group after group is dancing; some people lose their nerve and forget the combination while others seem to outshine all of us.  I begin to question my talent again. “You should have stayed home!” my brain screams at me.

The dancers all finish and we stand to the side of the room. “Talk among yourself”, says Casting.

We create a bullshit dialogue about the weather or something else just as useless.  “Will the following people please stay”, says Casting

You can feel the tension in the air and our collective breathing ceases.  Name after name is being called out by Casting. Did I just hear my name?  No, not yet.  “You suck!” my brain screams again.

Chapter 1 Pandoras Box Part 4

The Casting Director goes through a long list of boys names and finishes with “Geoffrey Doig-Marx, please stay.“ “The rest thank you very much”

I am asked to stay with about twenty boys from the first group of fifty.  “You will dance some more and then sing”, says the Director standing up facing us.  I turn and gather up my stuff and walk back into the hallway.  The next group is waiting to come in, they scan our eyes to see how the combination went.  “Are you staying?” a friend asks, all the boys in line are looking at me.  “I am!” I answer and continue walking.

I run down the stairs and out the front door of the studios.  I hit the street with my cigarette already in my lips.  I know that I may have many more hours before I will have to dance again, I can probably smoke a pack in that time.

Dancers who were cut begin to leave.  I say my goodbyes blowing smoke in the air as they pass.  “Good luck” they respond.

I smoke close to five cigarettes before I get buzzed back into the building and run up the stairs.  I wander around ‘The holding room’ saying my hello’s to the various survivors.

Hours pass as group after group enters the room.  I lay on my back with my feet in the air, propped on a wall.

I’m called back into the room with the rest of the people who have been asked to stay.  We learn several more combinations and dance late into the afternoon.  I get to stay after several cuts and now I’m sent back into the hall, it’s my turn to sing.

I can tell you that most people in our business spend their time training as either a dancer, actor or singer.  We all dabble in the various different forms of our art but we tend to excel in one form.  Singing has always brought a certain amount of fear into my heart.  I love to do it but I don’t count it as my foray.  It could be that people have told me that my singing sucks, it tends to stay in your head.

I will be third to sing and my stomach is lurching in my body.  I walk to the drinking fountain and swallow several gulps of water.  I look out the window and wish that I had been asked to swallow swords instead of being asked to sing.

The second person enters the room and I know that I am next.  My mind races as I look over my music.  “Act the song” my meddling brain yells.

“Next!” yells someone from inside the room.  I look around and realize that it’s me they are talking to.  I enter the room, look at the table where they are all sitting.  I smile and head to the piano.

I place my music on the piano and go over the tempo with the pianist.  I slowly walk to the center of the room.  The table is looking at me, the Director is absently tapping his pencil on the table.  I can hear the thump, thump, thump as the eraser hits.

I tell them what song I will be singing, they smile back with blank looks on their faces.  I nod my head and the piano comes to life.  I open my mouth and I see the people at the table put their hands up to their ears.  Blood begins to run down their cheeks, their mouths are twisted in agony.  I continue singing.  The table is writhing in pain.  I keep on singing.  I finish and just as the image of them being tortured comes, it goes.

They actually look pleasant and happy.  “Do you have anything else?” asks the Director.  I sing two more songs.

“Thank you”, says the collective table.  “Could you wait in the hall until were done hearing everyone?” “Of course” I say.  I head out the door as they call in the next boy.  I quickly run back down the stairs and light up another cigarette.

Another two hours pass and we are asked to come back in.  We are handed sides of the script and sent back into the hall.  This is one of my favorite things to do.  I am a quick study and better at remembering lines. I immediately look for the truth and the jokes.

Chapter 1 Pandoras Box Part 5

I read from the script and even get laughter from the table.  “That was great” says the Director still laughing.

Once again I am sent in the hall to wait.  This time when I am called into the room, they take a Polaroid of me and take my measurements.  Then I am sent on my way.

Two days pass and I come home to find the light on my answering machine blinking.  I nervously push the button. The voice on the machine is from Casting offering me the job.

I grab one of the cats and begin to swirl around the room. “Soon you’ll be able to eat.” I say to the cat.  (In reality, the animals would always eat before me if I had no food).  I am told that a contract will arrive via Federal Express. I go to my crappy job and give notice. “So long suckers!” I say to everyone on my way out.  “See you in three months,” says my boss with a wave.

Start time for the contract comes and goes and my phone calls give me several answers from “We aren’t finished casting yet,” to “We are a little bit behind.”

I have given my job notice, bid all my friends goodbye and I am now forced to sit in my apartment and stare at the television, hungry.

Various commercials from the Company are on the TV, with lots of smiling people having a glorious vacation. “Fuck you!” I scream at the set.

A lot of time passes and I come home to find the answering machine blinking again. This time it’s the Casting Director asking me to come in for a call-back. They want me to read for a Prince Charming character.

“Are they out of their minds?” I wonder out loud.

I arrive back at the audition center on the date that I am asked to be there.  I am handed a script that describes the character that I am to read for as a Nasty Villain.  I was given the wrong information by Casting; they don’t see me as a “Prince Charming” either.

Once again during my reading they are laughing out loud.  Inside my stomach is churning bile.

The Casting Director comes up while I am in the hall and offers me the job again.  “Why aren’t you excited?” asks Casting.  “I will be when the contract arrives” I hiss.

On my walk home I curse them under my breath. In New York it’s quite common to talk out loud to yourself  but then the tourists point and take your picture.

Two weeks later while I am sitting in my apartment staring at the walls and the door buzzer goes off.  My dog jumps up and rushes to my defense.  He will hear a squirrel opening a nut and Central Park ten blocks away and bark until he is hoarse.  So now I am yelling into the intercom to be heard. “Who is it?” I scream

“Federal Express” says the unseen caller.

I race down the five flights of stairs to greet the delivery man. In his arms is a thick package.  I sign for it and rip it open.

It’s my contract and I read as fast as I can. Under the part about what role’s it says to be determined.  I rush back up the stairs and back into my apartment.  Once again I dance with the cat.

Chapter 1 Pandoras Box Part 6

I call my parents and my Mom’s first question is about insurance, do I get any?   I will win the Noble Peace Prize and my Mom will want to know if I get Health Insurance with it.

I go through my phone book and call all my friends from A-Z. I begin to make all sorts of plans. I have a lot to do and not much time to do it in.

I call The Company Casting Director and I am told that I will have the lead Villain roles in all three shows.  The shows are TBD. I am so excited.  The Company Casting Director begins to go into various details about my new fabulous job.

What follows for the next weeks are several phone calls with more details about my new job.  I’m told that it’s a contract of un-believable fortunes. Several perks that include but are not limited to: Broadway Auditions being held for us while we are in rehearsals, dance teachers being flown in so we can keep our technique up to a certain level and while we live in the Bahamas we will all have our own bedrooms facing the beach .

During rehearsals I will have to take sword fighting lessons from one of Broadway’s best Fight Directors.

I was once told that if something sounds too good to be true it usually is.

Questions don’t usually come fast when you are offered a job.  I asked if Actors Equity would be involved.  I was told that because we will be so far from American soil we will be out of their jurisdiction but we will be following all their rules because the cast are all Equity performers.

The day to leave has finally arrived.  I have sublet out my apartment, changed over all the bills, forwarded my calls, bid my new agent farewell and grab a taxi to the airport.

Chapter 1 Pandoras Box Part 7

Once at the airport, I board a plane bound for the Bahamas.  I make a mental note to myself about which bag contains my suntan lotion.  I am sure that I will be using it a lot.

The plane flies first to Florida and there I have to switch to a plane they call an “Island Hopper.  Once I land in Florida I am directed by the crew to walk out on to the tarmac.  A balmy Florida breeze is blowing; I inhale and feel the sun on my face.

It’s a quick flight to the Bahamas and the plane lands in less than an hour.  I get off and quickly walk into the airport.  The airport in the Bahamas is lit by florescent lights and a steel band is playing “Living in America.”  There are no lines, no crowds and no happy women dressed in Bahamian garb welcoming us to the Bahamas.

At the gate I am met by Company Casting.  He is wearing a loud white and blue Hawaiian shirt with a straw hat.  He extends his hand and tells me that I have to go through Immigration before I can be taken to the hotel.  He asks me how my trip was and as we walk a couple of steps he whispers to me “Make sure you tell them that you are here as a tourist, whatever you do don’t mention that you are here to work!”  With that he takes me by the elbow and steers me towards an office.  My blood begins to freeze.

Being an Actor/Dancer we lie on a daily basis but not to Government officials and especially not Bahamian Government officials.  A large man dressed in green fatigues gestures for me to sit in a chair, he has a gun strapped to his waist, an unlit cigar in his mouth.  The air is dry and the air conditioner in his window sits silent.  I can feel a bead of sweat drip down my neck and onto my collar.

I am a rotten liar and expect them to see through everything that I say.  I am so nervous as I talk to Immigration that I will say anything to get through this.  I stammer and get caught on my words. Several times the man raises and eyebrow and looks over his glasses at me.  Instead of being arrested, I pass with flying colors and walk into the sunlight of the Island.

A friend of mine and fellow dancer who also got this job is there to greet me and drive me to my new home.  He has volunteered his services to get the performers to the right place and acclimated to their new homes.  I board the waiting van and he pulls out into the wrong side of the road. My friend screams as a car narrowly misses us.  Now I feel sick.  The Bahamas used to be under British rule so they drive on the left side of the road.  We laugh as he struggles to get in the correct lane.

Zipping through the Bahamas we pass many resorts that are very plush and have swimming pools.  I can see happy tourists standing around the hotels but most of the trip takes through the poorest of the poor. Chickens wander the street and a half naked child raises a cup to the car window at a stop light.

We enter a parking lot several miles from the airport; this is to be my new home.  I walk through a rickety wooden door that enters onto a patio it squeaks when I push it open.  My condo has white stucco walls on the outside and lizards run around my feet.  Somewhere an animal makes a noise that I have never heard, a cross between a growl and a scream.

Chapter 1 Pandoras Box Part 8

I enter the house and am a little surprised to find someone is sitting in the living room. “Hello!” he yells adding a little wave with his hand. “You must be one of my new roommates” he adds.  With this he jumps up and runs over to me, thrusting out his hand he grabs my hand and shakes it vigorously.  I detect a British accent. “I’m going for a swim, it’s ghastly hot and I’ve already been here for two days.” “Would you like to join me?”

“No thanks”, I say “I just flew in and would like a couple minutes to unwind.”

“Your loss” he says to me.  “I’ve already taken the bedroom at the top of the stairs; we have two more that you can choose from.”

He continues talking and telling me all about his audition and how he got here. He asks me if I had fun lying to the Bahamian Government while going through immigration.  While he is talking, I begin to realize that he was promised the same roles as I was.  Before I can respond to this he is out the door and on his way to the beach.

I am stunned. “Don’t let it bother you, It will all work out” I say to myself.  I walk up to the second floor of the condo and find a room that looks like no one is living in it.  I drop my bags and open the blinds. Looking out I realize that the room doesn’t face the beach. As a matter of fact I later find out that none of the rooms do.  I quickly stop by the bathroom and head back down to the main floor.  There I find a card with my name on it sitting on the entry table.  It’s an invitation to a pizza party/get to know the rest of the cast by the pool this very night.

With that I head out the front door to smoke and to check out the property.  My unit is about one of thirty.  The condos are surrounded by a fence; a cement walkway in the front courtyard leads to everyone’s front door.  The landscaping is beautiful, the tree and flowers create a tropical paradise.  I stay on the path following it to an outdoor bar that sits poolside.  From the bar I can see the ocean.  Actually the property boarders the beach and is separated by a retaining wall.  I sit in a lounge chair and close my eyes.  I can hear the waves lapping at the shore.  According to the thermometer nailed to the nearest palm tree, it is a beautiful 86 degrees outside.

That night I change my clothes and head to the pool. I meet the entire cast poolside and my head begins to swim with all the names. Some of the cast I recognize from New York and Florida. But for others this is my first time meeting them.

The party is a lot of fun and everyone is on their best behavior. That night after the party I go into the kitchen of the condo. I realize that I never got pizza because they ran out. I open the fridge. The Company put some food in there to get us through until we get a chance to shop. I grab an apple and walk up the stairs to my room.  Once there I peel off my clothes and swing my legs into bed. It’s late September and a breeze is blowing through the open window.

“Thank you God” I whisper and fall asleep.

Chapter 2 Rehearsal Part 1

The next morning the alarm clock sounds and pulls me out of a restless sleep. All in total I figure that I got about 4 hours of sleep.  I guess I was nervous about what today was going to bring.

The sun is starting to rise and move across the wall of my room. Slowly I am becoming familiar with my surroundings and I remember that I am in the Bahamas. I squint my eyes and look at the clock. Its electronic numbers tell me that it’s 6 am.  I love the mornings and find that’s when I am at my best.

I swing my legs out of bed and walk over to my suitcases that lay open and unpacked. I begin to riffle through my bag in search of rehearsal clothes. I pull out my best dance wear and throw it into my dance bag.

I pad out into the hall and stop in the bathroom on my way to the first floor. The mirror reflects the image of my morning face, my hair is standing up in all different directions and my eyes are bloodshot. “Hot.” I say out loud to no one.

I stumble down the stairs letting the muscles in my legs find their strength. Still in my pajamas I grab the remote and turn on the television.  I mindlessly begin searching for news from America. Katie Coiric’s familiar face greets me. I walk away from her and into the kitchen.

There is a counter in the middle of the wall that separates the kitchen and the dining room. The entire house is decorated in an early “Golden Girls” and I feel that I am living in sunny Florida.

I search the cabinets and find a toaster, place two slices of bread inside and wander back into the living room. I open the drapes that cover the sliding glass door. The door slides open and I walk into a fenced in backyard. Geckos look back at me with their wide eyes, throats expanding.

I look around at my surroundings, I feel a little like an alien seeing a foreign planet for the first time. The air is warm and the rising sun does little to change the temperature. In the distance I can hear the crash of waves on unseen beach.

I smoke a quick cigarette and it’s time to get to business.  I grip the frame of the door and begin my ballet barre,(this is a practice that I get into for my remainder with this company.) Thoughts moved through my mind while I worked through various plies. “What would today bring?” I ask myself. I would have to really be on my toes and pay extra attention to my surroundings. I began to soothe my nerves when the smell of burning toast pulls me back into reality.

Chapter 2 Rehearsal Part 2

I eat breakfast quickly, rinse out the bowl and jump into the shower. I haven’t heard a peep from my roommates, so I’m assuming that they still have not gotten up yet.

The water blasts out of the shower head and pushes me back.  It’s hot and powerful.  I close my eyes and drift. While I am standing in the shower I feel as if someone is standing there watching me.  I open my eyes and a shadow appears on the shower curtain.  “Hello?” I ask.  There is no answer, so I peek out from behind the curtain and no one is standing in the bathroom.  Closing the shower curtain, the shadow is no longer there.  “Must be my imagination”, I think to myself.

I get dressed and head back to the living room. My mind is racing in a thousand different directions this morning.  I need to make sure that I have everything that I need with me today.

The layout of the house is pretty basic.  It’s clean and cozy and sparsely decorated. In the living room two couches face each other.  They are separated by a round wicker table covered with a piece of glass. The prints on the couches scream early 80’s beach house. Everything is done in pinks and oranges. The television sits atop a piece of glass that is suspended between two wicker towers.

The living opens into the dining room. There is a long table surrounded by 6 chairs. The chairs are decorated to match the living room furniture. An oval mirror hangs behind the table bringing the whole look together. It is of course made out of wicker.

The television has not been turned off and I can hear the familiar sounds of Regis and Kathy Lee. One of my new roommates bounds down the stairs waving his hand in my direction. “Morning!” he shouts. He then busies himself in the kitchen getting breakfast.

I walk back into the dining room and open the curtains. The window looks out on the parking lot. There I can see three vans waiting to take us to rehearsal. I’m told that if no one is using these vans, we were allowed to take them on outings.  I am a little afraid to drive on the roads here; my first experience was a little harrowing.

Several cast members begin filing past the window on their way to the vans. I feel like a child on the first day of school. Dance clothes are replacing pencils and books. I grab my coat and head out the door.

Chapter 2 Rehearsal Part 3

Several members of the cast are standing near the vans as I approach.  I grind out my cigarette, flick it into the brush and summon up what I imagine to be a good “Company” voice. It is very important for me to fit in right now and be a team player.  I am surprised that I am working for the “Company” again, let alone doing it while in the Bahamas.

“Good Morning!” I blurt out. Typical greetings ring out in response. One of the chorus girls under her breath mutters “Child it is way too early for that.”

We climb aboard the vans and pull out of the parking lot, our driver looks the wrong way before pulling out into the road. Thankfully this time it’s ok, because nothing is coming in our direction. Driving out, we pass an old faded sign that’s stands guard at the front of our complex. Its white paint is peeling in sheets and one of the letters is hanging loose. Welcome to Guanahani village, it reads.

Everyone is clearly on their best behavior, the small talk is almost painful and the van is packed to capacity.

The van pulls to the end of the road and we are forced into a roundabout.  The van circles round and round, everyone in the van is being pushed up against the walls.  No one is sure how to get out or where to go.  Our driver finally makes a decision and pulls out of the roundabout and takes off down the road. We are now heading back past our homes and The Guanahai Village sign passes us again.  The cast look at each other in the van but no one says a word.

Looking out the window, the area of the Bahamas we are in is nothing more than several beautiful homes with several shacks selling T-shirts and touristy stuff packed in between them. Palm trees line the streets and the sky is clear and an amazing blue color.

Happy and content is how I am now feeling.  Here’s to good times and new friends, I raise a toast in my head.

We finally reach our destination.  The van pulls up to a hotel with a circular drive. Stopping in front of the front doors the cast piles out. Everyone is telling stories and trying to top each other.  The laughter is deafening as we enter the lobby.

I look around and laugh the lobby and stifle a laugh.  They have the same decorator as we have at the condo, except this color palate is all white.

In one corner sits a Parrot in an ornate cage.  His squawks can be heard above the roar.  He is so excited that he is jumping up and down screeching and yelling “Hello, Hello!” to anyone who will listen.  The sign on his cage lets me know that his name is Pete.

The lobby is very busy. Tourists of all shapes and sizes are running everywhere.  We continue to dodge them and find ourselves walking down a long hallway and into a reception room.

Chapter 2 Rehearsal Part 4

This hotel reception room is the place that we will call our home until we can move into the theater down the block.  We are told that process will happen in three weeks.

I look around the room. It has wall to wall carpeting and a portable wooden floor set up in the center of the room. In reality, it is a basic hotel ballroom with nothing too spectacular to see. That is, until you notice the view.

One entire wall is a row of glass doors that open onto a veranda. I walk out on to the veranda and looking down I can see right into the pool of the hotel.  Several guests are laying poolside in portable chairs in basic variations of dress.  They are all soaking up the sun. Beyond the pool is a spectacular view of the ocean. The hotel has created a huge sandy beach shipping in sand and lining it with palm trees.

Walking back into the room I notice that they have set up mirrors for us.  Then I realize that they are not mirrors at all but a makeshift wall in the middle of the room will mylar stretched over boards.  This looks pretty good except that sometimes the reflection gives you that “funhouse” look where you have a large head and small body.

Looking around the room I notice the following items. A producers table has been set up and is covered with several computers and telephones. The stage managers desk is set up and close to the Producers table. It comparison it is covered by a giant clock, various bottles of aspirins, a first aid kit, a cast sign in sheet and a big box of candy.

The day is beautiful; the sun is being reflected off the ocean and into the room. I feel safe and warm and excited to get started.  I walk over and stand in a warm spot on the carpet.

“Good Morning Everyone,” chirps a voice forcing me to turn around. Standing there with a big smile on his face and a stopwatch around his neck is our new stage manager. To me he looks a little like Uncle Fester from the Addams Family. Much later in the process he will become a very close friend and confidant of mine.

“If I can have your attention” he yells above the noise of the cast, signaling with his hands to lower the noise. “We have a couple of things we need to go over.” He begins to read off a list of do’s and don’ts that would be tolerated during the rehearsal process.

Continuing with his speech he announces that “Our director will be delayed as well as our choreographer for the next couple of days.” “But,” he continues “I would like to introduce their assistants that will be working very close with you during your stay here”.

The sounds of happy camp still ring in my ears.

Three people came forward and introduced themselves. I recognized two of them from my previous stint with ‘The Company’. These assistants would later prove to be the very backbone of our existence. They would also be the only part of the creative team to save these shows.

Stepping forward we are then introduced to the assistant director. I also remember him from my previous experience. He began to explain his theory on cast bonding.

After introductions theater games of trust would start. Run, jump, drop, roll, crawl, fall down, stand up, look into each other’s eyes, tell each other how glad you are to be here.

The minutes became hours. The sun began to set in the sky. Around and around the room we run. We look to each other but now fear and loathing enter our gazes. These theater mantras at first were said with joy, they later became ways to hold onto our minds and our individual selves. We become the assistant director’s puppets. Jump, we jump, roll, we roll, dance, we dance. Run, we run.

Faster and faster we run.

We wander the room touching, hugging and laughing and this continues for days without stop. Until we began to mumble under our breaths “This Sucks.”

Chapter 3 The Chopping Block Appears Part 1

Day in and day out we continue walking around and around the room. The sun once shining is now blazing and burning our eyes. The temperature that was once cooled has now been raised a good 20 degrees. The electricity has blown out about three different times, pulling what’s left of our energy with it. According to everyone who lives in the Bahamas power blackouts are common, daily occurrences.

I keep glancing at the door.  A new person that I haven’t seen before enters the room. “Thank God,” I think. Please be a savior, someone to stop this madness. Please be someone to bring order to this madness. Please be someone who sees’ us and wonders why we look like the cast of Awakenings.

“Run!” screams the Assistant Director. “Sit, stand up, drop to the floor, be an animal, jump up, now be a monkey”.  Everything he yells out, we do.  Now he is asking us to run around, shake someone’s hand and yell out “I’m glad you’re here!” We do this all at top speed.   Exhausted, I begin to believe that this is the way Manson trained his followers. 

Why is this new presence doing nothing?  They are just standing there smiling, watching this madness. “Help!” I want to scream but the only thing that leaves my mouth is “I’m glad you’re here!”

Several additional people begin to enter the room and stand with this person.  They are all standing there watching us run around.  They stand there watching, hands down by their sides, big smiles on their faces. 

“Hello everyone”, our Stage Manager yells waving his hands in the air and running into the middle of the room. “I need everyone’s attention.” We continue running not sure what we are supposed to do.

“People,” he screams “I need everyone’s attention.”  We pause for a moment and look at each other. Do we have permission not to move? I ask myself.

Motioning to the people who have entered the room he says “I want to introduce someone”. “This is your director,” he says pointing to a large man with thick glasses and frizzy hair. He is about 6ft tall and dressed in a bright white shirt with the company logo on it. I look over this man. He stands there with smile on his face. The smile looks forced and phony. “Trust me,” it says. I’m not sure that I do. Then I notice his shoes, old and torn, his eyes are looking at me but he’s not speaking to me. He’s just standing there staring at us, big goofy grin on his face.  I am starting to get nervous.  “What is he looking at?’ I want to scream.  He continues staring, just staring.  I look behind me, no one is there. Who is he looking at? I spin around again quick, still no one is there. “Crap, I’ve worked with him before” whispers someone in the cast.  “He’s 40% blind in one eye and 60% blind in the other eye.”  We learn that this happened because of an accident in the park.  A flash pot went off in his face and he lost his eye sight.

Stepping forward with a smile still on his face he waves his arm like a Price is Right spokes model. “Ladies and Gentlemen” the director says. “I want to introduce someone who you will be spending a lot of time with, your musical director.” With that a skinny bald man with bad posture steps forward.  “He looks like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons” someone says under their breath.

The cast is actually excited for the first time. Our savior has arrived. this is what we are here for, we are here to sing and dance, dance and sing, oh joy lets sing instead of walking around like the living dead. 

“Everyone grab a chair and join me around the piano” says our Musical Director. No one has to be asked twice, we fall over each other to get chairs, chairs beautiful chairs for sitting and singing, and singing and sitting. This cast has been around in the theatre for quite some time and we begin to form our sections.  Sopranos over here, altos there and the baritone and basses move to the back. We grab our music, sit up tall in our chairs, open our mouths and fill the room with singing. We turn pages at lightning speed. A hand shoots up; we come across the word QUAH.  We ask the musical director what it means. “The music was written by a southern musician” he tells us “That’s when the quah comes in and the soloist finishes” we are told.

We are informed that a click track will be playing while the shows go on and that the music is in the process of being recorded. Our vocal sections will change, and change daily. An overheard rumor spreads through the cast. “Did you know the NYC casting director was fired?” someone whispers. I have music to learn, I think to myself.  “I’m very sorry and thank god it wasn’t me.  I respond.

 

Chapter 3 The Chopping Block Appears Part 2

Our musical director is a brilliant man and his stories fill our heads, stories of Sondheim, Robbins, Fosse and Elaine Stritch, tales of drugged out 70’s and whacked out 80’s, tales of who’s who, who’s not, who’s what, who was, who wasn’t and who isn’t. His stories fill the hours, more and more stories, we haven’t sung in awhile. “Christ he’s driving me mad” someone hisses. “Shhhhhh” I say. “Geoffrey stop talking” he says to me. “Sorry,” I say. “God what an asshole” the voice hisses again. “Shhhhh” I say again turning around placing one finger up to my lips. “Geoffrey stop talking!” he screams at me. “Walk away and get water,” the voice in my head says, so I do.  I stand up and walk over to the water cooler grab a cup, fill it and walk out into the hallway.

This was to be known as the day I stormed out of rehearsal.

I head down the hallway and walk into the men’s bathroom.  “God, this is making me crazy” I say to my reflection in the mirror.

When I walk back into rehearsal our Stage manager has posted a sign written in black marker.  NO REHEARSAL, MEETING TOMORROW, BE THERE, it says in thick black letters. “What’s going on?”  Cast members begin asking each other in a panic.  I shudder to think what might be going on.  The stage manager pulls me aside.  “You have nothing to fear but some do,” he tells me. We ride back to the hotel in complete silence. I toss and turn all night. 

The next morning we enter the rehearsal room, and chairs are around the table, a video screen is set up. “Where is the director?” Someone asks. “Away on a trip,” is the response from our Stage Manager. The cartoon version of Cinderella is placed into the video player, and two Company Executives who we have never seen before enter the room and call out the first name on their list.

“Follow me,” he says. Everyone looks around because people keep getting called out of the room, but no one comes back in. The video finishes and a Company Executive place a new tape in the VCR.  It’s the cartoon version of Beauty and the Beast. More people are called out of the room, ten in total. 

There is a moment of silence and then it’s over. Shaking and crying no one is sure as to what’s going on, and then the Company Executives enter the room.  “Can I have your attention please?” he calls out. “Your fellow cast members have been let go because we made a mistake in casting.”  “So tomorrow you are going to come back here and rehearse, we are moving forward.”  With that said they turn on their heels and leave. 

We look around and huddle together for warmth.

Chapter 4-PARTY FOR THE DEAD

The minute we are allowed to leave the room by Corporate, we run to the vans. It looks like a scene out of a chase movie with car doors slamming and tires screeching out of the parking lot.

Shock is the word that comes to mind as I look into the faces of the people in the van.  No one is talking and the tension is so thick.  I think that we all want to get home to see if what we were just told is true.

The minute the vans pull into the parking lot everyone piles out and begins to run to their homes. We search for the bodies. Some of the “dead” were not able to get flights out and have to leave in the morning. The Company is in serious breach of several contracts but no one knows how to handle that. Anger, hate and lawsuits are brought up. Tears and hugs go around, “I quit!” someone yells. “Don’t do it, it will get better” is the response.

In the theatre community when someone quits, gives notice, gets fired or drops dead…we throw a party. It seems to be the way to deal. We are also celebrating that we all didn’t end up without jobs.

People begin running to the stores. Houses fill with decorations, punch bowls are dusted off, costumes are designed and beer is bought.

I stay in my room; I’m not good with goodbyes. I deal with it in my own way. The sound of laughter and assorted “fuck them” and “fuck the Company” pepper the air. I read a book, I watch television, I call NYC, I make a drink (something I would start to do a lot ) In short, I avoid.

There’s a knock at my bedroom door, it’s one of the dead, I answer, “Fuck you” she says, “You’re so god damned cold” she tells me. “I thought you were my friend and you can’t even say goodbye”, she slams the door in my face. Tears begin to stream down my cheeks, she’s right “I’m cold,” I tell myself.

I turn up the volume on the TV, and stare at the wall. I take a walk, I walk to the door of the party, I reach for the knob, I go home.

I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling.

The alarm begins bleeping and pulls me out of a nightmare I was having where a giant rodent with white gloves is laughing and chasing me. I swear off vodka for the moment. I run downstairs start the coffee, I dig through the cupboard and pull down saucers and cups, I pour the coffee and stack the cups one on top of the other. I go door to door finding the dead packing and offer coffee. “Keeps your mind off dealing,” I think. I drag luggage to the parking lot, I ring buzzers. Are all the dead who couldn’t leave here? I hug and kiss and say I’ll see you soon.

They pile into three vans and drive off, I wave and blow kisses, I crumble inside. I return home to find rehearsal is still on, lots to do they say lots. We were supposed to have a spokesperson from the company come to give us lessons on the history of the company. No one feels like having pixie dust blown into their eyes or up their ass today.

A new executive is brought in to help us cope. She enters the room in her power red suit

(This is to be the only color she will ever be seen in) one of her faces smiles and says trust me, while her other face says “Don’t fuck with me”.

We all smile meekly, god help us, please help us. We aren’t allowed to talk of the dead, this is a direct order from Power Suit.  We all wander around with blank looks on our faces, are souls are wounded.

We rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. I kick peeled and old shrimp off our rehearsal carpet. I look at my face in the stretched mylar. God I’ve aged so in one night.

We are told that drug testing will now start, and I wonder if vodka is a drug.

Chapter 5-REEFER MADNESS

The holes left in the show left by the dead are enormous, my job originally consisted of understudy to three major roles, now a fourth is assigned and I am in every single minute of all three shows. Understudy rehearsal for me begins in the bathroom, I carry my script and find I do greatest actor among the porcelain. The bathroom becomes my best friend; no one can bother you here. Now in times of stress my body thinks that it has to go. We all deal with the stress differently, my roommate blasts the Spice Girls 24 hours a day. Tell me what you want, what you really, really want? I want to snap that fucking CD in half my mind answers.

Fear has gripped us by the throat and we become smiling zombies eager to please. A change in our contract gets handed to us. We are told to sign it now, by the end of rehearsal day. It takes away what little rights we had. Sign it or leave on the 2:45 we are told. Later when someone messes up a step or flubs a line we mention the 2:45. The 2:45 gets closer and closer.

We have moved out of the carpeted rehearsal halls and into the theatre. We are all excited because Halloween is right around the corner. It is another chance to throw a party and we prepare. One of our cast members has been collecting bits of string and feathers left by a Cuban show that shares our rehearsal space. Our new space is a giant stage covered with a thin board that sits on top of 12 feet of concrete. My shins and back groan when I dance, keep smiling I tell myself.

The drug testing is now in full swing. I get to go in the last group because I tried pot I tell them, I just didn’t inhale it. This last group consists of people who have vigorously been taking Golden Seal; we laugh and wonder if it really works.

The drug testing takes place in the islands hospital. The clinic reminds me of those movies where people sit in a boat fleeing a country of horrible conditions. If I see a chicken sitting on someone’s lap in the waiting room, I’m out of here. The nurse jabs my arm with a needle for the fourth time trying to find a vein. Finally she thinks she’s found one and holds the needle to my arm with a thick band of tape. I haven’t given much blood before, but I’m sure that it’s not supposed to hurt this much. When she is finished she removes the needle. I see that here is a giant bruise left on the inside of my arm, it’s actually four bruises that have grown together into one.

I’m supposed to return to rehearsal, but instead I go to the pool and lay in the sun. The waves behind my head crash onto the beach, leaving bits of discarded tampons, all is right with the world I say to myself, and I fall asleep.

I wake to the sound of children in the pool, and I collect my belongings and stumble back inside my condo to lay in the air-conditioning. I’m out of coffee the only thing to keep my wits at a razor sharp jitter. So I throw on some clothes and walk to one of the only coffee stores on the island. Walking up to the counter I rder a bag to be ground and a large coffee while I wait. “No coffee” I’m told. The man behind the counter points to a hand written note taped to the register. The sign simply says “No Coffee.” No coffee in a coffee shop I wonder?  “No coffee on the island,” I’m told. I’m sure that I will die when my body finds out what my mind already knows, no matter there is still vodka on the island. I have already reached a point living in the Bahamas that most things make no sense and that’s the way it is.

I go home and prepare for our Halloween party. I dress all in black throw a store bought hood on my head and enter the party as the grim reaper. I look more like a crazy Fosse dancer but who cares.

Little paper tombstones decorate the house, with epitaphs to the dead written on them. Paper bats with the faces of the producers hang from the ceiling. We are in full swing at the party when the news arrives.

Someone’s test came back positive for drugs.

Chapter 6-THE 2:45 PREPARES FOR TAKEOFF-PART 1

We had been warned during our meetings about eating poppy seed muffins and that they can cause a reading in your blood that shows you’re doing Heroin. So now we need to come up with another story. “Who is it?” we ask. We have sat through endless drug speeches and seminars put together by the “Company” to show us the dangers of a “wild” lifestyle. I look around the room. No one is munching out of control, no one is laughing repeatedly, and no one is following their fingers with their eyes. All the signs we’ve been told by the company is a direct result of pot smoking.

We feel as if we are trapped in a Shirley Jackson book, the book where someone has placed their hand in a bag and pulled out the black dot. I’m sure another speech about the dangers of drug use is in the works.I’m 33 years old and I feel as if I can’t dress myself, feed myself or use the bathroom without a speech on the correct way to do it from the company. They also have rules, so many fucking rules it’s hard to keep track of all of them. The rule book we are given has rewrites of rewrites in it. Point with two fingers we are told when giving directions, so no one thinks you’re pointing at them. Only one finger comes to mind when I think of this company today.

At the party for the dead one of my friends stumbles into the room so drunk that he closes one eye to look at me.”Oh Christ!” he says falling off his six inch heels. “I knew this would happen”. His drink jumps out of the glass and onto the floor as he falls on the couch. I’m not sure why he’s wearing heels today or yesterday or tomorrow but I am an early believer of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Once again one of our celebrations turns as sour as the milk in my fridge during a Bahamian blackout. No one feels much like partying but everyone feels like drinking.

The bell at the front door rings and everyone jumps; we are used to people just walking in, so this must be important. A cast member answers the door, standing there is one of our fellow performers his face streaked with tears. Without any warning and without any questions he makes an announcement. “It’s me,” he blurts out, “I’m the one who had a positive drug test.” “I smoked pot two weeks before I came to work for the company.”

“That’s it,” I yell! Two weeks before, Christ, you don’t have to be Colombo to figure this one out. It’s our alibi, the golden clause, the icing on the cake. We are smug in our legal knowledge. “If you smoked pot two weeks before you were hired there is nothing they can do, you weren’t under contract.”

“I already tried that defense,” he says meekly “and it didn’t work.” I envision “Power Suit” sitting on high, a long white wig flapping in the wind of her banging gavel; a lesson must be learned she screams.

We do what we do best, we help him pack.

Chapter 6-THE 2:45 PREPARES FOR TAKEOFF-Part 2

Rehearsal starts right up the next day, and now the stage is for scenes and dance numbers and the dressing room for vocal rehearsal. We start with the dance numbers and re-learn what we learned yesterday, and change what we learned last week, and then one half of what we learned two days ago gets put at the end of what we learned twenty minutes ago and then we re-learn what we haven’t learned but they meant to teach us. My mind begins reeling; I can’t make heads or tails out of what I’ve been learning. But we push on and on and…Why are we learning this?

Suddenly a cast member screams out that “They can’t take it anymore,” the music stops and all heads whip around. “Several of our cast members have been fired and no one will talk about it,” she screams tears flowing down her face. Suddenly silence falls across the land, somewhere in America a cow stops giving milk, children stop playing, and our shoulders begin to rise. No one knows what to do and no one will look at each other.

Suddenly Power Suit rises in the audience and walks the ramp at the front of the stage, her heels gliding over the newly installed linoleum placed there by the Cuban cast. “I did all I could do,” she says addressing the cast. “It was beyond my control, we even called on Mr. E and he couldn’t do anything.” With this she looks around at the cast, daring someone to challenge her view of the events she just laid out. I imagine her on her bat phone to Commissioner Gordon trying to save someone’s job. Tears begin to well up in her eyes but no one believes her. We do believe however that she practiced her crying by cutting onions. As soon as the tears appeared they disappear. “We have to just do our jobs and move on,” is her final philosophy. With that she glides back down the ramp, through the entrance and back into the casino.

I’ve heard enough and ask if we can take a break. I walk into the music room which is still a Cuban show girl dressing room, light up a cigarette, and look at my reflection in the mirror. Breathe I tell myself, breathe and relax. I begin to achieve this when a giant rat walks under my nose.

Chapter 7 THAT IS THE SLOPIEST DRAG QUEEN I EVER SAW

At night we become regulars in the only Bahamian gay bar on the island named “Endangered Species”. There are five of us sitting there on a hopping Friday night. Actually there are only other two people in the bar with us, bringing the total to seven. “It’s usually busier in here”, says the barmaid.”Funny,” she said that last week and the week before that.

I look across the bar at the leopard prints that cover the wall, chairs, settees and every bar stool. I absently tap my foot to the latest tunes from 1980 that are blaring through small speakers suspended above the bar. An old man winks at me just before his head hits the bar. I sigh and put away my fifth straight vodka.

My five best friends are with me. I raise a glass to salute them. The rest of our cast is asleep, safe at home in the condos. We have all become much closer since the slaughter wiped out so many of us a couple days ago. I become aware that I can hear the ticking of my watch, the needle on the record begins to skip, and the dust from the ceiling fan settles.

Suddenly the front door opens and we can feel a blast of heat from the outside. “Thank god,” I mutter “more people to get this party started.” We crane our necks towards the door with great anticipation and in shuffle two of the worst looking drag queens I’ve ever seen. Both of them are about 6’5. They are wearing sequined gowns, covered by sweater vests and both their hair is flat to their head and uncombed. One is wearing big thick Mr. Magoo glasses that barely hide the fact that her eyes are crossed; at least they take your eyes away from her large buck teeth. I raise my hand and order another shot of vodka.

I toss it back and we decide that this night has come to a screeching halt. Stumbling out to the van we collectively decide it’s easier to drive on the other side of the road if you’re drunk already. Sliding into the front seat I put the key in the ignition and the van roars to life. We arrive back at the condos in record time and I stagger back into the house, climb the stairs to my room and pass out.

The morning comes earlier than I planned. The sun rises and blasts through the windows. I climb out of bed and pad over to the thermostat. I push it as low as it will go. Frost appears on the windows. “It’s like a goddamned ice box in here,” my roommate yells from somewhere in the house. “I can see my fucking breath.” “Geoffrey please find a happy fucking medium with the air-conditioner,” he screams. I roll over in bed and pull the covers up; it’s the best way to battle the cold.

Chapter 7 Part 2 THAT IS THE SLOPIEST DRAG QUEEN I EVER SAW

I am supposed to be at rehearsals today so I am not sleeping as soundly as I would like to. I rise up on my elbows and look at the clock, damn it, I’ve over slept a whole ten minutes, and my schedule will most definitely be thrown off. Panicked, I jump out of bed and peel off my disco clothes, I stink. I make my way to the bathroom and stripping off my underwear, I accidentally drop it into the toilet.

The water wakes me, and I try to hurry up, avoiding a lot of my grooming rituals, trimming off time. I run down the steps in my towel and start the coffee, pour a glass of orange juice and add a little vodka just for taste and to forget, what I’m not sure yet.

Running back upstairs, I dress, run out the door and climb aboard the van. Happy smiling faces have been replaced with bloodshot eyes and grimaces. “Ugh,” I grumble…mmm is everyone’s response. We drive to rehearsal and spend the whole day learning something that might be cut, but might get put into another of our 3 shows, or we might never see it again. Understand? That is how it is told to us as we learn it. Most of the choreography and staging will get dumped when the people from corporate show up again.

Every day I enter the casino or get to take a break, I plunk a quarter into the slots and pull the lever. Hoping for three cherries I get lemons, no win. If I win I plan on leaving, that’s the deal I make with myself. Today, no luck, I’m here for another day. We enter the theatre and the director is walking around the stage with his face pressed up against the script, turning it around and upside down. He doesn’t see us but then again he doesn’t see much of anything. He’s blind and he’s been referring to me as George for a week now.

Being on the stage we learn that because we have no mirrors we can roll our eyes as much as we want without getting caught. Crossing the stage, our un-prepared choreographer who blames our director for everything comes up with another brilliant idea; let’s have the boys dance the opening number with swords. So basically the number he choreographed without swords is now going to have swords. He demonstrates the swords by waving it around while he does a few of the steps he can remember.

Let me explain, we have been in sword class learning the art of combat from one of the greatest fight directors in the world, day in and day out we have been learning and after rehearsal we have been practicing in the parking lot. We have even worked at home creating invisible targets to practice on. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5a, cut down. Those are the basic steps of sword fighting then you plot out the fight. The only sharp objects our choreographer has picked up lately have been a knife and fork. The man has gained at least 20 pounds since we got here.

Swing the swords at each other like this he says swinging the swords haphazardly at us. Then do a cartwheel and a handstand and land with a sword slash. Again he slices the sword at us. I get a cramp in my head from rolling my eyes. We work late into the night on this number, changing and re-changing, only to have it cut from the show before we leave that night.

We all stumble out of the van and into the house, no dinner tonight, I’ve lost my appetite. I pick up the phone and dial my subletters in NYC. The phone bill is in and you owe $1600.00, we got an eviction notice and your dog needs an operation. Unfortunately, this is the happiest news of the day, I stumble up the stairs and fall asleep in my dance clothes.

The thunder begins to rumble in the distance and my bed begins its strange rocking that it started a week ago. I’m safe at home I think and fall asleep.

NEW BLOOD AUDITIONS-Chapter 8

The Stage Manager approaches me to tell me that I have to appear for a meeting with the Director the next day. He looks deeply into my eyes and adds that the company casting director will be there? “Is anyone else going to be there?” I ask, the sweat already forming under my t-shirt. He shrugs. I spend another night of tossing and turning.

I arrive for my meeting and I am prepared for anything, I’ve already packed my suitcase and several boxes. I have saved all the scripts and script changes that have been given to me, they now total nine. I plan on selling them at a yearly convention in Florida that the company has. I figure if nothing else that I will make a ton of money doing this, even though the first page of the script tells me all about publishing and sales rights. Great I will make tons of money but get a criminal record along the way.

I arrive the next morning for the meeting and I am asked to wait in the hallway, I feel as if I am back in high school waiting for the principal. I wrack my brain trying to figure out what I might have done. Maybe I got caught rolling my eyes or sighing, I gotta watch that.

My name is yelled out and I jump to my feet and grabbing the door knob I whisper a prayer to the Magical Baby Jesus.  “Dear Magical baby Jesus please make this quick and painless, amen.”  With that, I push open the door.

I enter the room, and sit in a chair placed in the middle of the room. There is nowhere else to sit. The director and casting director are sitting in front of the chair but they are looking down and not at me. I feel that I am about to pass out and I can feel my pants sticking to my legs. I clear my throat. The director lifts his head and through his thick glasses, looks at the wall behind me. I look behind me only to once again realize that it has to be me he is about to speak to.

He smiles a pained smile which causes his eyes to get really big and fill up his glasses.”We were worried about hiring you,” he says. “Your reputation for being a problem has followed you here”. I’m not sure what he is talking about. True I did work for the company at one of their theme parks and I found myself always in trouble.

I quickly explain to him that I was an Equity Deputy when I worked at the parks. What this means is that as a performer we are protected by a union called Actors Equity. This union tells the company what they can and cannot do to the performers. It turns out that the chemicals they were using during one of their shows to create fog were making the performers sick. Of course the cast made me go to management and then to Equity, hence a problem employee is born.

“Oh that explains everything”, he says. “I just want you to know that, we think that you are doing a fantastic job and you’re a credit to the cast”. My jaw drops open. “That’s it?” I think all that packing, sweating and another sleepless night just to receive a compliment? Unfortunately, I would need to remind the director of his words at my hearing months later.

They now seem very relaxed and excited to get back to work. “Do you have any questions?” the Director asks pushing back in his chair. “Actually I do”, I answer looking at the two of them. Taking a breath, I quietly ask “When do the Broadway auditions begin?” The Directors eyes get really big and he leans in a little. “Who told you that there would be special Broadway auditions set up for the cast?” he asks. Pointing to the casting director I answer “he did.” I explain to The Director that we had been promised several things to get us to sign our contracts and that I am going to do a little follow up on them.

Now I had been in constant contact with the casting director before I was hired and he mentioned these auditions several times. “One of the several perks,” he said.

The Director sighs and leans back in his chair. “There are no special Broadway auditions for the cast,” the Director says shaking his head. “Oh,” I say and leave it at that. I am not going to push it or follow up with a question about a second perk. I will ask but now is clearly not the time. That is how I got a reputation for being hard to work with, asking people to follow through on what they say. I look over at the Casting Director who now has a bead of sweat that is slowly rolling down his face.

The web of promises slowly begins to unwind.

Quickly thanking them for their time, I stand up and leave the room. Several cast members are sitting out in the hallway, they the next victims waiting to enter the room. They quickly gather around me. I tell them that the Director and Casting Director told me that “I’m a credit to the cast.” “Who told you that?” they ask shocked. “They did,” I say tilting my head towards the door, “And oh by the way there are more surprises.” “Number one, there are no special Broadway auditions for our cast” I add. “That we were told when we were all negotiating our contracts.”  “What?” Everyone screams in unison.

“Ta-ta” I say with a wave. I don’t say anything else I just go on my merry way. Let the next victim question them when they enter the room, let someone else get in trouble, I plan on keeping my nose clean. Someone in the group throws a book at my head and it misses by an inch before hitting the floor, I pay no more attention.

It’s time for another explanation, this is the only company that I know of where you can start as a dishwasher one day and become head of casting the next. Literally, that’s what happened to the Casting Director; he told me that during phone conversations. That alone should have been a red flag. It’s great that you can climb the ladder and that you don’t need experience in the field you’re going to enter.

One day when things were getting tough and long in rehearsal, one of the producers gave us a pep talk. He explained that when he starred in community theatre things never went the way they should and that we should roll with the punches. We find it funny that he felt the need to lecture professional actors and dancers on how to do their jobs. See dreams really do come true.

I return to rehearsal where we are told that its audition day for some new lucky victim that they flew in to use as a replacement for one the dancers we lost to the firings. We are asked to leave the theatre so they can audition him without everyone watching, making him nervous. The whole cast gathers up their stuff and heads out into the hallway.

“Run for your life,” I mumble to him out of the corner of my mouth as we pass him on his way in. The whole cast is now standing in the lobby of the casino, and someone gets the idea to run up to the balcony and watch the auditions, only the bravest step forward.

Nine of us crawl on our hands and knees up the stairs at the back of the theatre to the balcony. Staying low we hide below the rail at the back of the theatre. If anyone was to look up we would have been spotted, nine pairs of eyes watching.

They sing, dance and make him read from the script. When they are done, they offer him a job. I can think of no bigger way than to punish him.

To add insult to injury, we would later find out that he was making more money than all of us. In the future he would cower in fear with us, when the second shoe began to drop.

A HOUSE FULL OF WATER-Chapter 9

We are to start puppet training in the next few days. One of the shows has several “fish” puppets in it so we need to rehearse. We are handed sticks to practice with and pretend they are the fish until the puppets arrive. It has now been awhile that we have been living in the Bahamas and we are used to their customs. It has its own vibe and way of working. Nothing works out the way that. The locals laugh when they see our frustration and say “Welcome to the Bahamas.” There seems to be two speeds to island life. Slow and off.

Days later a slightly unwashed crunchy granola puppet lady arrives to help us put puppets in the show, unfortunately the puppets did not. It seems that they will be held in customs for months because the Bahamian Government doesn’t understand why we need giant fish puppets to make our show work.

One of the meetings we hear through the grapevine didn’t go very well. No one knew the details but it wouldn’t be until several days later that the screaming and yelling would start. Then we would know the full extent.

Before I arrived in the Bahamas I had choreographed two pieces for a showcase in New York. One of these pieces was photographed and appeared in Dance Spirit Magazine. The other had been bought by the city of New York for a performance for first night.

I hired a friend of mine to work out all the details and make sure that first night was a success. Unfortunately, I would spend a lot of my free time calling and if I was able to get through, e-mailing NYC to make sure that everything would be alright. We were not supposed to be returning to NYC until the next year.

My friend had mailed me a copy of Dance Spirit Magazine with the picture of my piece in it. Excited, I brought the copy of Dance Spirit to rehearsal, there I showed the director and he said “Oh, that’s nice, I didn’t know you had a brain in your head.” I chuckled to myself for two reasons. One was because I don’t know what having a brain in my head had to do with a picture in a magazine and two because his eyesight was so bad that he had to turn the magazine upside down and around to look at it.

“Damn it!” ”How many times do we have to tell you that you’re dancing in the pit?” the Choreographer scream’s at us during today’s rehearsal. We are a little confused today because the entire space of the stage is now covered with carpet that is supposed to represent stairs, beds, bookshelves and a large wooden box. I understand that they need to be creative because they don’t have tools at their disposal. But using carpet cutouts to represent the set? I don’t need to tell you that carpet on top of linoleum on top of cement made for a great treat. We would land on the carpet and go sliding by.

A HOUSE FULL OF WATER-Chapter 9 Part 2

Our daily rehearsals start with a warm up. These warm up’s are conducted by the Choreographers three assistants. This warm up consists of stretching and winds up as an aerobics class. We are told that warm ups are mandatory and we are forced to jump around like lunatics. One day the power blows in the ballroom and we forced to continue in the dark. “This will build a team spirit” they tell us.

Our rehearsal space keeps growing as we begin to take over more rooms in the hotel. When the hotel is too small for what we need a satellite rehearsal studio is created in the front of an out of the way restaurant. This space is used just for sword fighting.

They now have the rooms split into dance training and character training. Characters were hired to be part of the experience once we are onboard the ship and they also have their own show. In one of our shows the characters appear as part of the story. We are not allowed to refer to them as “characters” but are told to refer to them as “dancers”. This is one of the oldest battles within The Company.

One day an audition is held in the main ballroom for an adagio team that appears in one of the shows. Even though in my contract I had been asked to do it, they feel that it is fair to have everyone audition. There are four couples auditioning and we lift girls over our heads again and again, while the Choreographer looks on. During the audition we are asked to also lift the assistants, lift each other and lift the Choreographer. No one is sure of what the point is but it is clear that we have nothing but time on our hands. Unfortunately all this lifting injures one of the dancers for and he is out for quite some time.

At the end of the day, we limp home. The cast opts not to take the van for two reasons, one to work out our muscle cramps and two because the vans had started to smell like feet.

The next morning we get a phone call in letting us know that they are giving us the day off. As of now, we don’t have an official schedule but we have asked for one for quite some time. There has just never been one and we are at their beck and call, sometimes late into the night. An idea occurs to us and we set up a dry erase board on the front door of one of the condos, with a daily schedule that we create. You are now required check the board to see when you are called for rehearsal and it can change several times in the day. I have been at every rehearsal so far but today I have the day off.

I go back to bed and then wake at the crack of noon, get dressed and head to the beach. It is so beautiful that I fall asleep. The whole cast is there and we adhere to Rule #1, no show talk on our day off.

A HOUSE FULL OF WATER-Chapter 9 Part 3

The day at the beach was what most of the cast needed; it was one of the first days that we had off.  Returning to the condo, I find a note pinned to my door from the Bahamian post office. They are holding a box for me and that I can pick it up tomorrow.  My birthday presents had finally arrived. My birthday was in October, but who cared I could celebrate it now months later. The next morning, I get up early and I run to the post office. I find out that I had just made it in time. The window at the post or office that you pick up boxes is only open for an hour.
I find myself impatiently standing in a line behind 5 people. The woman in front of me turns and tells me that if “Window closing time comes and you’re still in line, that they will close the window and I will have to come back tomorrow.” “What?” I say a little too loud.  “I am supposed
to be at rehearsal in an hour and all day tomorrow.” Everyone in the post office turns their heads in my direction. I look at the armed guard staring at me and decide I need to calm down and adopt the “Who gives a crap” Island attitude before I get shot.

Soon it will be my turn. I am now next in line and I can see the clock on the wall. I have 5 minutes left before “Closing time.” It is finally my turn. “Next!” screams the postal clerk sitting behind the tall desk, he looks great for being 130 years old. I run up to the window and excitedly hand him the letter that was taped to my door stating that there is a box for me. He slowly reaches out his hand and with his old, dry, broken fingers and slowly takes the note. Scanning it with his red and tired eyes, he pushes back in his chair and lowers his legs to the floor and slowly walks into the back room. The ticking of the clock now sounds like the Telltale Heart to me.

An old man took my ticket but a woman now comes out of the back with a mangled cardboard box and bangs it down on the counter. “Sign here” she says handing me a pen. I sign. I grab the box and turn to walk away. “Open it” she says. “I was going to bring it back to the house, it’s my birthday you see and……” “Open it,” she says again, a little louder this time in case I didn’t hear her the first time. I open it.

Presents though slightly mashed fill the main box. Beautiful bright paper and crushed ribbons cover the different shaped boxes sitting inside. “Open them,” she says. I look at her and she looks right back at me. She slowly spells the word open, just in case I am retarded.  “I will already, gosh give me a minute.” She taps the box with her finger. “Here?” I ask hoping I could do it at home. She begins to spell the word here and I stop her. “I get it, I get it” I say.  So grumpily I open each box while I sing Happy Birthday to myself with tears rolling down my cheeks. That will be 36 dollars she says putting out her hand. I don’t ask why I just paid and left.

I return home to find the phone ringing off the hook. I grab it up and one of the girls is in such a state that I can’t make out what she is saying. I drop the phone and run over to her condo. I open the door to find a waterfall in the middle of her house. The water is about three inches deep and luggage is floating everywhere. The water is pouring down the stairs, leaking from the walls, coming out of the cupboards.  There is water everywhere. I call the front office and they jumped into action. Five minutes later a woman appears at the front door with a mop.

THE BRIT DRESSED AS A PILGRIM Chapter 10
I know that at this time you are asking yourself, “Why didn’t they leave?” Looking back I ask myself the same question. I can’t really find an answer but I do have a couple of thoughts.

Performers are whores in a way, we get paid to perform and we love it. We will do anything to get attention and if we believe in a project with all our hearts and souls, we just want to see it through to the end. I guess it’s true that we need love and as they say “Applause means love.”

That is one way to look at it. The other way to look at is to say that we are fools. Either way, you be the judge. It is hard to figure out what everyone needed and why everyone stayed. Some of us had bad home lives, some had great home lives. Some ate garbage and some ate caviar. We came from all walks of life and we all created our own paths.

Pain killers could also be another reason and some of us popped them like candy. They are very easy to get them in the Bahamas along with several other drugs. I’m not saying that everyone took drugs, but some of us took them to help cope. Others ate out every night, or dated within the cast, or went to the movies, or went shopping or cried themselves to sleep. We had been stripped of our emotions and were lead to believe that our fates were in other people’s hands, which they really were at this point.

Thanksgiving is a time for giving, so the company gave us two hundred dollars to feed thirty of us. I volunteered my services along with another cast member to be party organizer.

I put up lists so people could make whatever food items they liked. I then used the money they gave us to by turkeys and bags of potatoes. We took table cloths and napkins from the hotel and pilfered anything we could find that was not nailed down to help in the decorating. We lifted silverware from restaurants and stocked up at liquor stores. We took and took because we had a party to plan.

I bought a set of Christmas lights to create a centerpiece and ripped down palm tree branches to decorate the foyer of one condo. People carried over their
tables and we decorated late into the night. The centerpiece was fabulous, it not only plugged in, you had to light it. We were bound and determined to let
people have a wonderful holiday because we were so far from our homes and our loved ones.

That night while all the turkeys sat defrosting in peoples fridges, we had another power failure, this one lasting for hours.

Every time we turned around one cast member could be seen collecting bits of string, ribbons and pilfering table cloths from the maid’s closets at the hotel. He was very crafty and would take these little bits of trash and found scraps and turn them into amazing costumes, drapes, renewed table cloths with trimmings and clothes.

Today he was hard at work sewing black table cloths together to make a pilgrim costume. We had talked the only Brit left in our cast to give a speech at our
dinner dressed in costume. One cast member asked this Brit if they celebrated thanksgiving in Britain.

Finally the day for our festivities arrived. We pulled out our best clothes, cleaned up the house and prepared for a day together.

Everything looked beautiful. All the hard work had transformed one of the condos into a showplace.  I was on pain killers for my back and legs and drinking wine and vodka at the same time. I had no pain, and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Upstairs while the guests arrived we took our Brit upstairs and turned him into something out of the Crucible. He came down the stairs, his long skirt dragging on the steps. Reaching into his sleeve he read a thanksgiving story to us that he had prepared. The crowd erupted into wild cheers and whistles, flashbulbs went off everywhere. It was a beautiful day that went late into the night. The only person not to join us was our Choreographer; he had a football game to watch.

One of our new cast members that they flew in joined us at the party, she was a tough no nonsense broad, straight out of a dime store novel. She was the sweetest girl with the mouth of a gunslinger. She wouldn’t last long and defect later in the contract.

Everything was beautiful. The house looked spectacular, the dinner was amazing and for the first time we forgot all our problems and celebrated our friendships. And then, the power went out.

VACATION IS RUMORED-PART 11

The cast schedule is hand written on the dry erase board and for the second time since we started, I have the afternoon off. I am very excited because a friend of mine has flown in from New York to visit and I plan on showing her the Bahamas.

I plan for a big adventure; first stop is the dolphin lagoon. Since the vans are busy transporting the cast to and from rehearsal I do a little research about how to get around the island. Right now, the easiest and quickest way is to take the bus. This is the bus that the people who live there take. Basically, they are converted van’s that run the length of the island. To get one, you stand on the road, wave it down and hand the driver a dollar.

There are four of us who decide to take the bus to the dolphin lagoon. Standing out on the road we flag down a bus and climb aboard and ride downtown. This bus is really just a cargo van with seats that flip down.

Climbing aboard everyone stops and stares at us. I smile and nod as I walk the 3 steps to my seat. I squeeze into a seat next to a very large woman and find myself hanging half in the aisle. I smile again and nod; she just grunts turn away and looks out the window. This woman makes the bus lean to one side. Once we get back up to speed we hear the tires make a grinding sound against the metal frame. We pass vendors selling hand painted company merchandise; better start now before the company finds out. Their hand painted version of “The Mouse” is hysterical and decorates everything from handbags to straw hats.

Finally, we arrive downtown where we meet our water taxi and we are off.

The Taxi bounces over the water, sending sprays of it into our eyes and mouths. There is a slight chill in the air as the sun sits high in the sky.

We finally arrive at the Dolphin encounter. It is a series of wooden floating decks attached to each other forming a corral with one end open to the sea. The trainer in charge is about 18 years old and wears a whistle around his neck. Every time he speaks he lifts the whistle and blows it. I’m not really sure why as we don’t see any dolphins yet.

He asks us to form a line and we are handed life jackets. No one is allowed in without one, even though the water is about 3 feet deep. Slowly everyone creeps down a ramp that leads us into the water.

Now the trainer lifts the whistle and blows long and hard. Two dolphins swim into the coral.

One dolphin named “Jake” swims right up to us but the second dolphin named “The Fatman” refuses to swim over to us and stays at a healthy 20 foot distance. The trainer blows the whistle making Jake “perform” all sorts of tricks. He jumps, he splashes and he humps my friend. I’m not sure that the “humping” was part of the show.

The trainer blows his whistle and “The Fatman” swims up to me. He is balanced on his tail so it looks like he is standing up. The trainer blows another series of whistles and “The Fatman,” begins splashing and spitting water in my face. For this trick he gets a series of fish. It is explained to us that the dolphins are not captive mammals but are free to come and go as they please.

We wrap up the day throwing fish to a baby dolphin that giggles and spits at us.

I return home to find a message on the phone; another meeting is in the works for tomorrow. I climb into bed early, and even the shaking of my bedroom cannot keep me awake, I drift into sleep.

I rise early; the sun still hasn’t come up. I go downstairs and spend 45 minutes warming up with a ballet barre. I don’t have a barre, so I keep one hand on the sliding glass door. After eating a quick breakfast, I shower, dress and mentally prepare myself for the day.

The cast have started having secret meetings to discuss meeting about the meetings that we’ve had before. Then we have meetings to plan about having future meetings. Nothing gets done at these meetings except we agree to meet again. Today we plan to meet to have another meeting and talk about future meetings, and then we meet to get everyone up to date about new meetings. So basically nothing gets done except that everyone is very vocal and complains about our conditions and how we are being treated. When it comes down to meeting in front of the producers, the sound of crickets drowns out our silences. Everyone is afraid to lose their job and no one speaks.

After todays cast meeting we have another meeting with the Producers and the staff. The casting director now stands in front of us.

“Hi, everyone.” he says into the microphone. He is met with silence “How is everyone?” he asks hoping to get some sort of response. Everyone grumbles feigned happiness. “What I want to tell everyone is that because of the delay of the product, we all feel that everyone should have a nice break, and be home with their families for the holidays”.

The cast look around and at each other in stunned silence. “Then we will all meet in Italy,” “You all mean so much to us and we feel that a break would be great.”

“When?” shouts a voice from the back of the room. “We aren’t really sure yet, but we will let you know?” “Why?” shouts another. The Casting Director raises his hand and blocks the lights in his eyes.”As soon as we find out,” he responds.

Not happy with the answers another person yells out “When will that be?”  Now becoming agitated he shouts out “I said as soon as we find out.” He has become slightly impatient with the group.

The cast agrees to have another meeting soon to discuss this meeting.

The Casting Director taps the microphone “Oh, and one more thing, I have new contracts for you to sign before you leave”.

HO HO HORROR-PART 12

The argument is already in full swing by the time we enter the theatre. Several cast members had an early morning rehearsal, leaving the rest of the cast to lounge in their beds one extra hour. We arrive at the casino, enter through the theatre doors, and head down the ramp to the stage. We place our dance bags on the tables and everyone pretends that we don’t hear anything. Silently, we all glance at each other.

“Fuck you” screams The Director, “I am senior show director at the parks, and when I give you a direction, you take it, you don’t ask me any questions.” The cast member that he is screaming at is in tears, and she has begun to shake. She puts her head down, and quickly walks the ramp at the front of the stage. He follows her as she walks over to her dance bag, pulls out paper and pencil and begins to write. As if in a television episode, she speaks her thoughts out loud as she comically writes with large gestures. “Dear mom this place sucks, the director is an asshole.” With that she glances at The Director and storms up the aisle out of the theatre.

In rehearsal, whenever we ask this director for character development he tells us to watch the cartoon version of the film. As we all know cartoons are all trained in the Stanislavsky method of acting.  Soon the response to his series of questions including “Why can’t you move faster?” “React bigger?” “Jump higher?” is summed up best by a cast member who screams out “Because we aren’t fucking cartoons!” I’m surprised that no falling anvils are placed into the shows.

Another day spent with lunatics. Another cast member and I pretend we are in strait jackets with our arms tied behind our backs; we rock back and forth and sing “It’s a small world.”

The Choreographer doubles over with laughter at another one of his funny ideas, no one else laughs. When he has one of his brilliant ideas, we are in deep shit. He comes up with new dance steps for a part we have already learned, the steps look all too familiar because they are usually taken from a current Broadway show. We find that if he doesn’t take the steps from the show, he steals them from their television commercial.

After two hours of this new idea, someone asks for a break. “I always give breaks”, he responds. “I came from the Equity theatre” and “I will give one when I am ready”.

Blue in the face and gasping for air, we move forward. One of the cast members begins to slow down, her face is flushed and she bolts into the wings. I follow. She is doubled over and crying.”Two down”, I think to myself.

“I can’t do it, I can’t,” she sobs. “I was hired as a singer, and this is putting a lot of pressure on my knee”. “You can do it, I say, now get back out there before we get in trouble.” “I won’t go back out there, this is bullshit,” she says.

I go back on to the stage and get The Directors attention. “What now?” he screams at me. I tell him what’s going on and one of the choreographer’s assistant’s walks into the wings. Unfortunately, the cast member in trouble has danced herself right into a meeting scheduled for the next day.

We break for lunch, its pizza again. We all meet at the pizza parlor in front of the theatre, and go over our early morning woes. When we return our flight information for our break has been posted. None of us are leaving on the same day.

START SPREADING THE NEWS-PART 13

It is a very busy morning for the cast as we prepare to run the show for the department heads. They are here to watch the final run-throughs of what we have learned so far. Everyone is wearing their best dance clothes. The girl’s faces have been painted and most are wearing false eyelashes. We are exhausted by all these rehearsals and we push ourselves to the limits. It would really be terrible to be “let go” at this time in the rehearsal process but that is still a legitimate threat. The ‘Company’ posted a list of how we should look for today on the stage managers wall and we are told to follow it to the letter.

We run the three shows back to back for the next two days, at full tilt. The audience is made up of department heads and they don’t react to anything that is being presented to them. When the cast is not on stage you can find people napping in the wings and being woken just in time for entrances.

Our nerves are jangled and frayed. I sit on the steps that lead to the wings and smoke my second pack of cigarettes for that day. There is a mouse stuck to a glue trap that continues screaming as I inhale. It is five feet away from me and doesn’t know what is happening to it. I walk over and pick up a stanchion and bring it down killing the mouse. I can’t stand to hear or see things suffer and this is a quicker death than for the mouse to starve. I end up sticking the stanchion to the glue trap and the dead mouse. I’m too tired to feel really sorry for his death, but I couldn’t free him.

Like trained monkeys we smile and nod when the Director or The Department heads address us. The Director and staff are so busy kissing the Department Heads butt’s that they don’t see one of the girls nodding off to sleep. I hope that the director bought a box of depends because if anything went wrong he would mess himself. He almost chokes while laughing at his own jokes in front of the cast. It is clear to us that he is just as nervous at pleasing them as we are.

We are a hit on the first day, and they love us, but there are to be many changes in the show. This comes as no news flash to us. A day hasn’t gone by without major change.

When we leave the theatre the Director pulls me aside and tells me that I looked great today. He was worried because he thought I was looking lazy for the past week. Here’s another place that I have to clarify. I had let my understudy do my role while I taught him and stayed right by his side. That’s how I looked lazy.

Tonight the Director is rushed to the hospital with severe de-hydration. We won’t see him again until we get to Italy.

We aren’t nervous to continue the next day without the Director present. Even when we swordfight, we move like a well oiled machine. It feels like a black cloud has been lifted. The Company Heads are happy and the department heads are happy and we are happy because we get the next morning off.

We go home to our condos and drink in celebration of a great run. Soon we will be back on our ways home and points beyond. Or so we think.

HOW DO YOU GET A TREE INTO A VAN?-PART 14

The island is now in full swing with everybody getting ready for Christmas. Everywhere you look are little reminders that the holiday is coming. Many of the local Bahamians are wearing little Santa hats and putting up mistletoe. A feeling of ease has settled upon the cast and we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Allegedly, everything didn’t go so well at the run-thru’s and the company feels that we need to go back into rehearsal. Our initial contracts were only 3 months long. The Company feels that the shows are not ready. We are now going to change many of the numbers that we spent months learning.

To combat this, the Company has added another rehearsal space. This way no one gets a day off and they can finish the product that they want. This new space is just up the road past our condos. It is the banquet hall of another hotel.

From the look of things when we arrive at the venue for the first time it’s clear that the original name of the hotel was “The Flea Hop Inn.”  As we walk inside, we are asked to push the tables out of the way before we start rehearsal. Today we begin with sword fighting. Our fight director has a clear vision of how it should go, if only the director and choreographer would stop changing their vision daily, we would be done by now.

In the middle of the fight scene the choreographer suddenly wants a big dance number. He jumps up and starts swinging a sword while twirling around us “Can you believe that I never had a lesson?” he asks while we were busy ducking out of his way.

The main stage in the casino is still for running parts of the show that have big dance numbers. We quickly find that with our new additional space we spend most of our time running between the two venues.

Today we learn of a new “dilemma.” Our cast is full of amazing singers with incredible voices but the company has added voices on a click track to “sweeten” their sound. This has thrown the cast into turmoil once again.

The Director approaches one of the African American female cast members who is currently wailing and singing the hell out of one the songs.  I feel like I am sitting a Baptist church watching a sermon when the director asks this girl “Can’t you be more ethnic?” He then goes on to do his imitation of what “be more ethnic” means. He acts like he is in a minstrel show.

Now during the dance break of this number the choreographer has another one of his brilliant ideas. “I was watching a church revival on TV the other night.”  “Can’t you jump around like that?” He begins to jump around like he is on fire.

There is no end in sight.

To keep us in a holiday mood, our Stage manager steals and stuffs a fully decorated Christmas tree that he took from the hotel into his minivan. “Tis the season” he says.

We begin decorating for our island Christmas party, it’s still pretty hot, but we pull out our winter wear that we have packed away in our closets. All our houses get filled with Christmas lights and tinsel and eggnog is made. We gather together where people read a poem entitled the 12 days of the company and rehash all that we have been through. Then we finish by singing carols.

We have been through such and emotional and draining mess, and yet have so much love to share with each other.

After our party, I stumble home, tuck myself into bed and pass out.

A BAG FULL OF BALL DUST-PART 15 

Its time for another meeting, this one is to be for information on how to survive Italy. We alll meet at one of the condos,the meeting is to being held by the casting director and the power suit. “Remember to bring a rain coat and rain booties” says the power suit,”It got awful wet when we were there” she continues with this fascinating story,”The streets of Venice flood all the time”‘ Imagine I think to myself a city built on water,flooding, truly astounding!

We are told what to bring and what not to bring, some these run the gauntlet from sensible to absurd. “Bring Advil, but dont bring drugs”‘says the power suit. “We will be staying in a four star hotel”‘says the casting director, and be aware that the mail service really dosent exist there, so we will recieve all your mail and send it on to you. The meeting goes on and on and information really isn’t given to us,not the information that we need, its more about packing tips.”We will wire all your money electronically into your accounts, until we take possesion of the product”‘says casting. “When will that be?”we ask. “Im not really sure”,says casting. He looks at the power suit and sweat begins to form on his upper lip. He begins to look pressured from the question, not to mention the tight lipped stare from the power suit. “Now lets get down to business”‘he says, I have another contract for you to sign.

We begin to form a line, like cattle to the slaughter.

“I need to read my contract”, says someone.”No time”,says casting. We sign and leave.

I lay in bed and look at the shadows on my ceiling, I drift in and out of sleep all night long.

We spend the next day in rehearsal, changing everything that we learned. We put things back into the show that we cut during the second week.We have learned every possible combination to this show that we can learn. No one is retaining anything. We push on.”Lots to do”, say’s the assistant director.

We are now rehearsing new things every day, and nothing is really set.

A sign is posted on the call board of the theatre.The heads of the company will be throwing us a christmas party.They will pay for the first two drinks and then we will pay for anything we drink after that.

The night for the party arrives,and the company has reserved a special bus to drive us to the restaurant. We dress in our finest clothes and walk the parking lot of the condo. The bus arrives and we pile in and drive off to the party, the mood is very light,we joke and laugh,we are like children on sugar.I haven’t seen us this happy in months.

The bus climbs the long hill to the restaurant,and the setting is magical, lights are covering the trees and the moon is hanging in the sky.We enter the place,warm lighting falls across the walls and soft music is playing. Its a trap I think.

Raffle tickets are being handed out to the cast as we make our ways to our seats.We look around the room with our mouths hanging open,we are in awe.

We have made it,we went into hell and we came out alive.

The heads of the company are patting themselves on the back,one of them picks up the microphone and begins the show. It starts as a roast to the other company heads.”We had a hard struggle,but we made it”‘says one. I imagine him wearing dance clothes and sweating next to me.They continue the show with back patting and stories about each others wives. Laughing and pushing food into their mouths they finish the show by swilling down liquor.

The raffle begins and numbers are drawn out of a hat,we all begin to win prizes,more company gifts are given.

We drink and dance late into the night,they make another announcement.”We have gift bags for everyone.” Everyone recieves a bag with a watch and glass christmas ornament. “Hey I got a bag of dust!”yells one cast member.

For the first time we are treated really well,maybe It wont be that bad,maybe its all over and we will move on to the next phase,we are sure that it will be smooth sailing from here on out.

Boy were we wrong.

Geoffrey Doig-Marx holds all written,printed and electronic rights to NOT ONLY MAGIC FLOATS

 

TIME TO PACK-PART 16

 

 

I am up at 6am,I’ve already packed and re-packed and packed some more.I have become anal retentive with my packing,I need to make sure that everything is really set for a quick check out of the Bahamas. We are leaving,leaving,leaving, I begin to sing and dance around my room,grabbing up a sweatshirt and pulling the arms long, I dip my invisible partner.

 

I run down the stairs and pull everything out of the fridge and drop it into a garbage bag,food that I bought that I will never eat.I run around the house stripping beds,creating piles of towels,throwing all the letters that the company gave me into the garbage.

 

I drag gallon water bottles back to the office,I get my bill,and the total is 100.00 for charges that I cant figure out.I dont care I just pay it because we are leaving,leaving,leaving.

 

I run door to door and help people clean out their houses,everyone is so happy.I help people drag their luggage over to one of the condos that we are storing our bags at and I volunteer to drive the van to the airport because everyone has a different flight.We pile luggage into the vans squeezing everything in to make for a quick exit.

 

We talk about our plans for when we arrive at home.”I’m going to Rays Pizza”,when I get home says one.”I’m finding another job”,says another,”Im gonna eat eggs”,says a third.You see one time we saw a sign that said the island was out of eggs,so its become and inside joke. I hug everyone climbing out of the van,and return to drive the next batch to the airport an hour later.

 

We are given envelopes to give to the departure people at the airport,these envelopes each contain 15.00,thats the cost to leave the island.I would pay anything to get out of there.

 

Its now my turn to leave, I am on the plane with five others,its a little double seater plane. Our stewardess has frosted blue eye shadow and a surly attitude.”Take one and pass the basket”,she growls at me, I take a bag of pretzels and pass the basket. One of the cast members picks up a magazine from a nearby seat.”Do you always take something that dosen’t belong to you?” says Helga.The name we gave our flight attendant. It seems that she was reading a hot article in The National Equirer,and he lost her page.

 

The tiny plane dips and spins everytime we hit an air pocket,my hands begin searching for the floatation device under my seat.

 

We are getting closer and closer to florida,where we have to transfer to another plane to get us home.We land and our seats rumble shaking everything not nailed down.The flight attendant kicks open the door and leaves the plane.

 

We look around confused,are we here?

 

We climb off the plane and I drop to the pavement kissing American soil. We run through the airport finding our next flights out.We all board different flights and leave.This flight is my chance to get a quick nap.I drift off.

 

When I open my eyes we are landing, the emerald city is getting closer and closer,I say to myself.We land,get off the plane,get our luggage,and I split a cab back into Manhattan with another cast member.”I’m home,I’m fucking home,” I scream.

 

I run the five flights off stairs to my apartment,open the door and am stopped dead by the stench of decaying cat litter.The slow dripping of water in the sink is bouncing off piles of unwashed plates.My dog limps up to me,he is un-brushed and matted, the cats are howling for food.

 

“Im home?” I say again.

 

Piles of un-paid bills litter the house,final notices and disconection letters are stuffed in books. A shelf has come down in my room and the cats have turned my clothes into a nest.

 

I begin to clean, and I dig through the piles of filth,cat hair is swirling around me, blown by a breeze in the apartment. Tears of frustration begin to slide down my face.

 

The front door opens and in stumble my subletters,the smell of beer announces them before thay walk in.”I’m home,” slurs one of them.

 

BIG CITY OF DREAMS-PART 17

 

I wake to the sound of a garbage truck backfiring,the sun is coming through the dirt streaked windows.I open my eyes and my mind begins searching it’s rolodex, “What am I supposed to be doing today?”,I say to myself.

 

I stumble into the living room,my subletters are snoring loudly.Empty beer bottles and half eaten food cover a spot I cleaned on the counter last night.The cats are pushing against my legs,demanding food. A new day has begun.

 

I make phone calls to get my dancers together for rehearsal,I run to the newstand and buy the latest copy of Backstage.I franticaly search for any auditions that I can go to within the next three weeks.I circle everything. African American Women Wanted for Aint Misbehaving,reads the ad,I circle it.I will spend the next three weeks at every possible audition.I call all the casting people I know.My new agent wont speak to me,she is still mad that I took a job with the company. Everyone I see says the same thing,”Dont you have a job already?”

 

I run into several cast members at these auditions,”I have a call for Titanic”,says one.I walk the streets of New York and see the company logo everywhere,it has taken over New York, 42nd street is void of its past charms.Hookers and junkies have been replaced with this cuddly icon,its face twists and laughs at me,”Fuck you”, I mumble.I walk past the theatres and a new company show has moved in,I’m doomed I think.I turn on TV,commercials carry the company logo on everything from diapers to television stations.I call my parents and they believe the myth and wonder why the company could possibly do any of the things I tell them they did.

 

The world believes what they want,starving children in Africa clutch the company icon while flies buzz around their head,children in Mexico addicted to glue sniffing wear t-shirts with the company logo on it,a junkie falls asleep standing up,his head droops over the front of his shirt,the company logo stares back at me.I also bought the myth before,I believed in everything that they told me until I worked for them.I think that they put out a great product,I just don’t like the way they get there. How many people do they have to step on before people catch on.I grab lunch at a hamburger joint and I skip the Happy Meal because another plastic company face stares at me.

 

I go into a bookstore and buy every Italian tape and book that I can find,I plan on being fluent when I get there.This is one of the reasons I took the job, money and Italy.

 

I go to a party and see some of the dead there,we laugh and joke about everything that has happend.There is an invisble stigma attached to being fired from the company and several of them believe in this.Some of the dead think that they are not good enough, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.I dont think Ive ever seen a more talented bunch of people in my life.Many of them have gotten jobs,but some have been so depressed that they dont leave the house.One of the dead subletted out his apartment and was left homeless when he returned to New York.The papers dont want to hear their story,the heads of several unions express how sorry they are,but they still let actors go on these jobs.The stories have found their way to New York,everyone is in disbelief.

 

I run into several actors who have been offered second cast contracts for the company,”Mop floors,”I tell them,its less heartbreaking.

 

I come home and the message light is blinking,its company casting.”I will be sending you information on surviving Italy.”says the voice.Is there a pamphlet on surviving the company? I wonder.

 

Geoffrey Marx has all copyrights to NOT ONLY MAGIC FLOATS including all printed and electronic rights presentand future beginning June 1998

 

 

NEW YEAR IN NEW YORK-PART 18

 

Its New Years Eve day and I am so nervous that I can hardly stand still, I pace my house,”What if my work sucks?” I think to myself.”What if someone falls,and everyone laughs?” I am so nervous about showing my work to the city of New york, I mean this is the big time, this is it.

 

I arrive at the lobby of the building and am stopped by a door man,he looks at his list and ushers me in.The place is filled with people,so many people are there that they are standing up the staircase,they also stand behind the stage. Im given a program and I read that we are sharing the show with City Ballet and a big broadway star.I suck in my breath.

 

I recieved good luck e-mail from the cast and two phone calls from London.”I hope that everything goes well,and I wish I was there”‘says one call.The cast has become my family and even though we are seperated,we talk every day.I stand watching the show behind my swing dancer,so nervous that if you looked at her from the front you would only see one of my eyes.My breathing is shallow.The dancers enter the stage. Loud silence fills my ears. The beating of a drum is heard,its the begining of the music.

 

The show goes so well, and people give a standing ovation,thats for me I think,thats for me! All this hard work and look at the response. The head of the orginization comes over to me and thanks me.I fly all the way home.

 

I meet one of the cast for breakfast early one morning,we sit on his terrace.It’s still warm in New York. We talk about what we have been through and the responses from other people. No one believes us, “How can the company do that they ask?” We ask ourselves the same question.

 

I return home and pay off 2000.00 in bills that my subletters have run up in my name.I kiss the debt goodbye and get rid of a joint bank account I set up for them in case of emergencies.The only emergency they had was they needed a new nintendo game center. So the bills went by the side.I begin packing to go to Italy.Im so excited to go to the only country I have ever dreamed about. I have images in my head of beautiful young men and women all lounging around drinking coffee.I snap my fingers and say “Guido my latte is cold, could you please heat it for me?” I envision streets paved in brick,and old women tottering home with a loaf of bread tucked under their arms. Fast cars and girls with beehives tied up in silk scarves.

 

I did’nt know then,that it would be a rollercoaster ride further into hell.

 

CIAO BELLO-PART 19

 

 

Geoffrey Marx has all copyrights to NOT ONLY MAGIC FLOATS including all printed and electronic rights presentand future beginning June 1998

 

 

CIAO BELLO-PART 19

 

I have a car service meeting me at my apartment to take me to the airport,it is stopping first to get another cast member and then he and I will go on together.I have emergency phone numbers posted on the fridge and I have re-set up all the bills and pre-wrote my rent checks so all they have to do is send them to the landlord and deposit money into my account. “I’ve also hired someone to come in once a week and clean”,I tell them,actually he’s coming in to make sure they aren’t fucking up again.I hug the cats until they demand to get down,and I lay on my dog and promise him that I will be back.

 

I close the door behind me,”Wish me luck”, I say to myself and I begin the five flight climb down to the front stoop.I light up a cigarette and watch the smoke swirl around my head.

 

The horn blows twice and scares the shit out of me. I look up,its the car service.I throw my bags in the back and climb in.On the ride we talk about everything under the sun even though we saw each other every day since we came home.The ride out of new York is very quick and we arrive at the airport.We pull up to the curb and I swing my legs out of the car. “Geoffrey!” a voice screams,I turn around and another cast member jumps on me hugging and kissing me,she begins to talk so fast about her break that I am having a hard time keeping up.

 

We talk towards the front door and I begin to see different members from the cast arriving,everyone is coming in from all over the country. I see our new company manager standing off to the side chain smoking and holding a clipboard. From here on out I will refer to her as useless. Useless tells us that we are supposed to have a holding room,but someone forgot to call,so we stand on the side of the entry right in peoples way. She’s really not sure when we leave or what gate we leave from or how many of us there are or if we transfer or when we eat or how long the lay over is. I’m so glad they put someone competent in charge again. Useless is so nervous she runs to have another cigarette and then lights a second one off the first one.

 

More and more cast members arrive, one of the girls packs like she is going on the Titanic, she has more steamer trunks than Lady Astor. “They are full of wigs and dresses”she tells her audience of strangers.

 

One of the cast members goes to the counter and gets all the information that we need and passes it along.Useless cant be seen behind the smoke screen she’s puffed her way into.

 

My body thinks that it has to go to the bathroom, so I continue going in and out of the mens room repeatedly.My body begins to react the way it did in the Bahamas, just seeing everyone again has started a trigger effect. I jokingly ask if anyone can see cocaine on my nose.

 

We board the plane, a show in itself. “I want to sit by the window!”yells a voice,”You better not snore!”yells another, and “Dammit girl is this part of your weave?”

 

The flight attendants look at each other nervously. We taxi for take off and we clutch on to each other,after our last flight on Flinstone Air we are still afraid of flying.

 

The plane roars into the air and no one listens to the flight attendants as they go through their safety tips. “Geoffrey!” whispers one of the cast members, but because she is wearing her walkman she is talking louder than the captain. “Geoffrey!” she wispers again, this time topping the roar of the plane, everyone turns around and looks at her. I shrink, “Baby,can you rub my feet,they are killing me!” she continues talking and I smack her arm “Will you please take off those damn headsets you have been screaming at me for the past ten minutes, and no I will not rub your feet!” “I’ve been screaming?”she says. “You have!” I say.”Oh my god, I didn’t know! Im sorry everyone!” she announces to the entire plane. She spends the rest of the flight opening and closing the compartment above her seat, various objects fall on sleeping passengers.”I’m sorry!” she whispers, her walkman back on her head.

 

We fly into the night.

 

 

ARRIVAL IN ITALY-PART 20

 

The plane touched down for a stop over in Germany, we shambled off the plane bumping into each other, I made my way to the nearest coffee bar. “I dont know if you can smoke”said Useless digging in her bag for her cigarettes. Our british cast member made his way into the terminal to join us, he was bright eyed and relaxed, we on the other hand were shaky and grumpy.

 

We stayed in the terminal for a couple of hours before making our way back onto another plane. Our cast member the Lady Astor who had asked me to rub her feet, was clunking people in the head while she tried to arrange her twenty carry on’s. She pushed and pulled her cases all the while cramming them into any free space she could find, she asked people to move their belongings, so that she could get all of hers into one place. She would delay the plane a full twenty minutes while she performed this one person show.

 

The plane roared to life, and we were on our way.

 

We played games, reverting back to our childhood. I was sitting between Tickle me Elmo and Sleep and Snore Ernie. While the giggled and snored, we made our descent into Italy.

 

We were here and I couldn’t have been any more excited.We left the plane and made our way to the baggage port. I saw a nearby porter and pointed to my bags as they moved on the conveyor belt, I told him in my best Italian that my dog had a head cold.He looked confused.

 

They had a bus waiting for us and all of our things, we climbed aboard and sat there waiting for an hour and a half while Casting and Useless put their heads together to figure out what to do.

 

A new rumor began to move through the cast, it seems that the three assistants had written a letter to the head of the company stating that the choreographer was one of the worst people that they had worked with,and that if something was not done to control him and stop the changes,they would not return for us or future casts. I don’t know what the outcome of this letter was, but the Choreographer was not returning at this time and would join us in three weeks. This would give the assistants time to clean the shows and teach set choreography, this concept was great on paper and would make the cast very happy. It would be upon the Choreographers return that daily changes and verbal fights between him and the director would begin,forcing the cast and producers to choose sides.

 

We arrived at the four star Hotel Lugano, which was fifteen minutes outside of Venice. This was to be our home until we took possesion of the product, this was also to be one of the biggest lies to told to us by the company. We would look back fondly at this time while we wore hard hats and feared for our lives in a shipyard.

 

We still had our old company manager for several weeks in Italy, we had fondly nicknamed him Sorella,which means sister in Italian. He was there to teach Useless her job,we would miss him more than he would know,when Useless took over.She would spend so much time kissing the ass of Power Suit that she would start to split the cast in half. I would later march up and down the halls of the hotel asking cast members to put in their votes for new company manager while I loudly demanded a recount against Useless.

 

My room was beautiful it faced the alley of another building and I had a great view of the swimming pool with its green algae and floating garbage. I was in heaven, as I made my way out the front door to find a restaurant. I passed the company managers door and saw a suprise, the word MEETING TONIGHT was written in dry erase.

 

WE VIEW THE PRODUCT-PART 21

 

The meeting is held in the bar of the hotel. Its a little welcome to Italty meeting, and everyone is here. One of the executives who was involved with the firing of the dead is there, so we take a head count. I knew this executive prior to this job and always felt that I could trust him, I would learn later that everytime we spoke to him in confidence and it would be sworn to secrecy, all information would be passed along to the executives. Once I asked him about a verbal knife that he stuck in my back and he would deny it, but he was the only one I gave this information to. We also felt that it would be quite a shame to fly all the way out here and then be sent home,but we are used to sitting on egg shells. We are told in this meeting that we will be getting a larger per-diem than we did in the Bahamas, a per-diem is for daily expenses that you have to deal with above and beyond your salary. We are given food money and laundry money, because there are no places to do your laundry in Italy except for dry cleaners, most of us buy clothes lines and hang everything up in our bathrooms.

 

The Assistants are staying in a hotel that is located a short walk away, you leave the hotel walk through the train station and come up on the other side of the tracks.When the Director and Choreographer arrive this is were they will stay as well. This is also to be home for any executive who views the shows and Casting and Costumes will also live there. Useless has a temporary stay in that hotel until they move her to live with us.

 

We are handed access passes to the shipyard that have our pictures on them as well as company information. The directors secretary’s name and phone number is written on the pass as well. She would later prove to be the very backbone to the entire operation and the only staff member not to lie to us and really be in our corner. I would later thank her for that.

 

I am given an executive pass by accident and told that my real one would be ready in a day or two. I keep this as a souvenier, and would pull it out when I needed it. This pass can get me into areas that only the executives and staff can enter not the cast.

 

The cast is told by Casting that we will stay in this hotel for our entire stay in Italy except for ten days during Carnivale and then we will stay on a luxury greek cruise ship. Power Suit stands up and tells us that she has seen the brochure on this luxury greek ship and that its just lovely.

 

More information is given and we are told that we have to tip our housekeepers and hotel staff,and our rehearsals will be held in a gym,and that we would get a discount on membership. We can go to rehearsal and when we are not being used we can keep in shape.

 

The meeting ends and we all go out to our first Italian meal on Italian soil. I get a great night sleep and get up early in the morning. Once again the company rented vans for us to drive in, we all climb aboard and drive to the shipyard.

 

When we arrive we are split into groups and given hard hats, no more than five to a group. We walk towards the product. It stands so tall and from tip to tail its as large as The Empire State Building. We walk up the gang plank past the Italian workers who are whistling at the women,grabbing their crotches and making large boob gestures and into a world of steel and metal, sparks are showering down on us and exposed wiring and pipes. The Italian workers stop working everytime we walk past one of them to show their apprecation for our female cast members, with kissy sounds. I am reminded of the scene in the movie Brazil were you see Robert DeNiro for the first time as the handyman, thats what this looks like, one giant mess.

 

Over here is where the stage will be and over there beautiful lights will cascade down the celing,says our tour guide, we look and see nothing but exposed wiring that is making little zzzzzt noises as the electricity hits exposed metal.

 

Somewhere in the distance a siren blasts.

 

COSTUMES AND MORE COSTUMES-PART 22

 

 

When the siren blasted,all the Italians ran past us and off to lunch.They pushed us out of the way and ran down the gang plank.

 

We continued on our tour,we saw so many things that were supposed to be there but nothing existed.”Heres the pool”said the guide,a large gapping hole.We were showed several bars and clubs,sitting rooms,special outside and inside areas.It was nothing but wires,pipes,plaster and exposed wires.Walls and floors didn’t even exist.

 

“Isn’t it beautiful?”said Power Suit,they have come so far since the last time I saw it.”When was that I thought?”when you looked at the blueprints?This product was supposed to sail months ago and there was no way it could even be moved.

 

We finished our tour and returned to the hotel.A new note was written in dry erase,it gave times for costume fittings.I had a couple of hours to kill before I had to go try on mine, so I hit the streets.

 

I ran into two of the assiatants on their way to rehearsal.

 

Its time for an explanation,these three assistants who would turn these shows around again and again only to have their hard work destroyed by the Choreographer and Director, were nothing short of amazing. In the minds of the cast we would go out of our way to make sure that all the executives would know how great we thought they were,even though they were staff, none of us thought that way about them.We would watch them work very hard only to have the Choreographer grab all the credit.I never saw them roll their eyes or speak back,you could only see their shoulders rise up around their ears during times of stress.

 

I walked the streets of Italy.I have been all over the world and the entire United States and I have to say there is nothing more beautiful than Italy.The clothing,food and the people are among the best things my mind can pull up.I pressed my nose to shop windows,and looked at all the amazing food.I looked at my watch,it was time to make it back to the hotel.

 

The costume department had taken over several rooms on the other side of the Lugano.It was packed full of costumes,several of us learned what parts in the show we would be doing by what costume we would try on.Several costumes for the dead still hung on their hangers.Costuming was never told about any changes so they continued to make several for each cast member.These costumes were so beautiful,they went out of their way to use the finest material that they could find.We had been flown to Florida when we were in the Bahamas for initial fittings.I had four sets of costumes for the shows because of all the understudy work, not to mention my own costumes for every minute of every show.

 

I would stand in each costume while the Director would look on and give his two cents. He couldn’t see anything that well so when he made a suggetion,costuming would grumble under their breaths.Half the costumes had been lost in transfer, so we wouldn’t be able to try on all of our things.

 

I was ehausted when we were finished with our fashion show.I returned to my room to take a nap.I slept until dinner,the phone would wake me.It was one of the cast calling around to get people together for dinner.I got up,showered and made my way down to the lobby.”Want to go out tonight?”asked one of the cast.I didn’t have to be asked twice,we would finish dinner,run home,take a power nap and then head out the door.

 

We drove for about two hours with several of the cast,we would make this journey again and again.We arrived at the club Black and White,and signed for membership.

 

ARE YOU A MODEL-PART 23

 

 

We enter the club Black and White a place that will become our home away from home until we wear out our welcome. We speak to the staff at the door, I start in broken italian and finish up in loud english. I always though that it was funny how we believe that if we cant speak someones language yelling in our own language will have us understood. In the first hour I have meet the owner, the bartenders, the doormen, security and almost every patron of the club. The first thing that I do is cement our stay for tonight and the future. We are treated with Carte Blanche because they think that we are the ice show, somewhere in my knowledge of the Italian language I told them this.

 

The club is packed full of people, there are two large rooms, both are pumping loud house music, so we scream to be heard. I walk the hallway outside the main area and become one of the most popular people of the night, this is because we are American and they think I ice skate. I think they view us as if we just got off a spaceship. I would like to say that I think Italy is crammed full of the most beautiful people in the world, they are kind and caring and I couldn’t spot an ugly one in the bunch.

 

I have lost the rest of our group, because we are being pulled around the club by several of the patrons. I get to explain the meaning of Madonna’s song Frozen to several people who hang on my every word. During this facinating story, I look around the room and catch the eye of this beautiful man, I excuse myself and walk over to him. His friend is so happy to try out his english that he begins to translate everything, after an hour of his questions on what I think about about Baywatch, I begin to tire and spend another hour trying to lose his friend. We find a corner of the club and I begin to translate myself. One of the cast members sticks his head out of a curtain and yells help, it seems that one of the clubs clientele wanted to show this cast member a really goodwelcome to italy.

 

Through talking to my friend I find out that he’s a model for Dolce and Gabanna, this is no big suprise to me.The hour is getting late so we all have to be leaving, we vow that we will return the next night. We all bid farwell to our new friends and on the van ride home we talk about our night. We return to the hotel and I stumble up to my room, we are all so happy to be here. If this is what its going to be like here I want to die in Italy.

 

I fall asleep and wake in the morning, I run down to the dining room and order coffee in Italian.

 

We have rehearsal that day and all walk out to the van.

 

Our rehearsal space is in this beautiful gym, we start the day with our warm-up and then the assistants begin their work. We go through one whole show and cement all the choreography. I look around at the rest of the cast who for the first time have smiles of their faces. This is how we work as performers, teach us and we do it. We will spend the next three weeks cleaning everthing and the show begins to come together. I have understudy rehearsal with the assistant director and discuss character development, “How do feel when this happens” the assistant director asks me about my character. We would continue at lightning speed cleaning and pulling the show together, we would continue working hard and healing old wounds left by the Director and Choreographer.

 

Until the Choreographer returns.

 

YOUR DANCING IN THE PIT AGAIN-PART 24

 

 

 

 

 

The floor was all mapped out with different color tape, each color represented a different show.It took us awhile to figure out which was which, but we adapted. Stairs were upstage and two speed traps (to make actors dissappear) were mid stage and a lift was down center, all marked in tape. “This is the way it’s gonna stay”said the assistants, the cast would look at each other in hope, we were afraid that it would change the minute Heckle and Jeckle returned. Producers would come and go in and out of the room constantly all the while speaking on cell phones. It seems that the crew had been in Italy a lot longer than they were supposed to be and that their vacations had been delayed.One of the crew decided to leave because he had enough, but he left a tool box behind with all of his own tools. I was standing in the hallway smoking when I eaves dropped on Power Suit on her cell phone. “Is that asshole still bothering us about that tool box?” she hissed into the phone,”Throw the damn thing away,and make hims stop calling.” She looked at me,smiled and waved.

 

We had a new member of the team arrive at rehearsal one day, she would be the voice of reason, the voice of the cast and basic mom to all of us. She was our new stage manager and would make the Director and Choreographer stop acting like children and return to the business at hand, she would also yell out for the cast to take a break. The Director and Choreographer would say that we weren’t ready for one and she would tell them that yes we were. She had quit smoking before she started this job and would start bumming cigarettes from the cast a little at a time until one day she would begin full on smoking again. She became a voice of reason in this insane little world.

 

The cast had started a count down towards the choreographers return, we were all very afraid of having things change again.

 

The next day we entered the room and the Choreographer was sitting behind the table, he stood up and spoke. “I hear that the assistants did an amazing job and I am so proud of them, but as we know in this business things have to change. I wont be changing much, I will just be tweeking things.” This would mean that everything would change at least one thousand more times, I wish that I was exagerating but I’m not. He would also tell us one more time and that would mean at least ten more times. We changed one of the lyrics in the show during rehearsal to fit this situation.

 

There are things an actor knows

when he’s so far from shore

Like when they tell you one more time

they mean its seven more

 

We would sing this with glee everytime he would yell out one more time.

 

I would go about my blocking and I would constantly be dancing in the pit, I would look down at my tape marks and I thought that I was safe. “Are you really that stupid?” the Choreographer would ask me one day. “I guess I am.” I responded

 

There was no drinking fountain at rehearsal and we asked for water, “We can’t afford it.” was the response. So the stage manager would take money out of her pocket and buy us water.

 

We have a posted scheduele at rehearsal that tells us where we are supposed to be at all times and when our days off would be, as hard as our stage manager would try there would be constant changes to it on a daily basis, we would begin to work with out days off and that would mean we would go out to the bars and return home have four hours of sleep and go right back to rehearsal all day. It started to take it’s toll.

 

I looked at the scheduele and there must be some sort of mistake, we had three days off in a row. It seems that the staff had a meeting and so we had time off. The cast ran to the travel agent office.

 

JOLLY OLE ENGLAND-PART 25

 

 

We scramble to get tickets to get as far away from the product as we can, we lay down any amount of money to get away for three days. I suggest to another cast member that we should go to London and visit one of the dead, he calls her and cements our days off.We will be staying at this big rambling home in the country, while we frolic our nights away in the city of the Queen Mum. I pack as quick as I can and we are off to the airport. One of the other cast members join us, so the three of us play little games on Italian Airlines until we land.

 

We are picked up by our friend the dead, and we cram into her little car and drive off on the wrong side of the street. I am so happy to see our friend and we fill her in on all the details, she just came out of her hibernation after being killed by the Company. She seems very happy, but still feels that there is a stigma attached to being fired from the Company, I tell her that its in her head, little did I know that I would feel this same way later.

 

We pull up to the house and meet the people who have taken on the role of Mom and Dad, they begin to parent us and treat us like on of their own. They are the nicest people and ask if we are hungry.”Yes”comes the response,and the Mom figure begins to lay out a banquet fit for the King.We eat and eat, until we are full and then we are given a tour of the surrounding countryside. Old churchs with their mountanis towers bonging out the hour and tombstones long covered with vines stand in our path. Her dog runs ahead of us, while we take pictures of everything. I snap away at a sign that politely says “Please dont let your dog foul our walk.” I cant stop laughing at this as I imagine this sign in New York.

 

“I am trying hard to pull my life back together” she says,”But its been really hard.” I crack a joke and skirt the issue. We watch the sun go down.We walk back to the house and settle in for the night, I share the room with my constant companion and best friend, we talk about his boyfriend and drift off to sleep.

 

In the morning we are greeted with an enourmous breakfast and eat until we drift off to a nap. We prepare to go into town that evening where we will take in a show. We drive to the station, climb aboard the train and arrive in London an hour later.

 

We run all over the city trying to get tickets and the only ones we can find are for the show ART, I didn’t get it because before it arrived in America it was way to British for me. We spend our evening running from store to store, I buy a t-shirt with a logo on it. Once again this t-shirt will be an important piece of a ludicris puzzle concocted in Power Suits mind and start her to unravel.

 

That night we finish in a pub.

 

PSYCHO BITCH FROM HELL-PART 26

 

 

We bid our friend goodbye and fly back to Italy the night before we have to return to rehearsal. We arrive at the hotel Lugano and we are buzzing with the news of our trip. Everyone is trying to top each others stories. We all traveled and made it back, except for one person missed her flight.

 

I go to bed and get up the next morning, a new note is written on the dry erase board. DUE TO THE FACT THAT PEOPLE COULD NOT MAKE IT BACK ON TIME, NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO LEAVE ON YOUR DAYS OFF, FROM HERE ON OUT!

 

I make it down to the dining room for breakfast and everyone is grumbling about the note.The children have to be punished for the mistake of one.

 

We go to rehersal and join hands to form our energy circle.The Director has now arrived and begins to give us a speech on how important it is that we make every rehearsal and that we cant miss one. I begin to feel like Joanna from The Stepford Wives, I feel like something strange is happening to us and no one on the outside will listen. Everyone thinks that its an honour to work for the company, they dont see the big picture.

 

I have worn my new t-shirt from London to rehearsal its black with white lettering that says PSYCHO BITCH FROM HELL. Everyone thinks that its funny and the Director squints his eyes to read it and laughs.

 

We start warm ups by jumping around and the back of my legs begin to groan. I go to the stage manager and tell her that I need to warm up a little slower than this and I would like to stay in the room and do my own thing in the back. I also put this past two of the assistants who feEl that its alright as long as I stay in the room. I will do my own warm up starting tomorrow.

 

The next day I begin my own warmup in the back, I do what I can of the other warm up and when my legs begin to hurt, I do my own thing. After warm ups, one of the assistants comes to me and tells me how she thinks that I am so rude doing my own thing. I tell her that I have cleared it through the proper channels, and she begins to scream at me that I am so rude and I dont follow along like everyone else and that she will speak to the producers.

 

I find Useless and tell her the story, her cigarette smoke swirls around my head as she nods and tells me that she will look into it.

 

An un-schedueled run through is about to take place and the cast is unaware of this. Everyone who has anything to do with the shows file into the small cramped place, making it hotter and smaller. We are under the microscope and the show has changed so many times we are not sure what version we are about to do.

 

The show goes really well and we pull it off once again. It’s time for Power Suit to stand up and address the crowd to pat herself on her own back. We are told that we have worked hard and that the shows look great. People from each department stand and give us their insight. The cast look at each other.

 

The next morning at breakfast we get the truth. “I didn’t understand one minute of the show”, says cosmotlogy.”The cast is amazing, but the show sucks”. We arrive at rehearsal and are greeted by Power Suit, a speech follows. Their is a meeting for the cast tonight, Carnivale is starting and we have to move out of the hotel and board the Greek Cruise Ship tomorrow.

 

WE ARRIVE IN HELL-PART 27

 

 

We gather once again for a meeting in the hotel bar, for new information on living aboard this greek cruise ship. Our original contract stated that we would all have our own single rooms while we worked for the company, but who reads contracts.

 

One of the producers who always states company rules and regulations by rote (this is also the same one they sent to the Bahamas to fire everyone because of his lack of human emotion in situations will start the meeting. For lack of confusion I will refer to him as puppethead from here on out.)

 

Puppethead stands before us and tells us how happy he is with this Greek Cruise Ship and how beautiful it is, he continues blowing smoke up us, telling us how great it is to be pioneers for the company. I imagine roughing it for him is wearing the same tie two days in a row. Power Suit joins in with him, they are selling us as hard as they can like a twisted Pat Sajak and Vanna White.

 

“When do we get off?”asks a question from the back.”Not really sure,”says Power Suit,”Are their phones?”asks someone else.”We have cell phones.”responds Power Suit.”Where do we eat?”yells a voice, I,well,you see,we, comes the response from Power Suit. Useless feels that this is her chance to be hero and jumps up to save Power Suit. “We at the company will do our utmost to make sure all your needs are met”,Power Suit glares at her, and a small drop of sweat begins to run down her face.

 

The door opens and in comes the calvalry, its our Cruise Director, and former company board member. He is charming,kind,sweet,charasmatic and a bold face liar. He will sell us an invisable suit with matching shoes. “Hello darlings, hello sweethearts”,he bellows.”I’m sure that my darlings will have lots of questions and they will all be answered.” He promises that he has rented a wall of telephones that will sit just off the gangway and he continues to promise us anything just to get us to stop asking questions.Once again when he is done speaking we look around confused, all the information has been twisted and re-twisted and we stop asking questions because we are so confused. This man is the Govenor in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He is king and master of the sidestep.

 

The meeting is now over and we return to our rooms to pack once again.”What the hell was that all about?”mumbles a cast member under his breath.I turn on the television and a game show is on. I think that the main goal of this show is for women to show their breasts to the audience, because every five minutes someone rips open their blouse.

 

I put a cd on the discman and begin to pack.

 

In the morning we all drag our luggage down the stairs and leave it in a room off to one side of the back lobby.I grab breakfast and talk to the rest of the cast. “I’m really confused and I’m not sure what the hell we are supposed to be doing?” I say this to no one in particular. We all finish breakfast, and I run to the flower shop to get flowers for the woman who cleans my room.I meet other cast memberes who have the same idea.

 

When we return a truck has arrived to move all our stuff to the Cruise Ship.

 

We are all going to the mall today to wait for the Cruise Ship to be ready for us, they have given us the day off from rehearsal. We will spend a full eight hours at the mall because the ship got lost in a storm on its way to meet us. I wander in and out of the same stores until I get the idea to drive to a castle that we see on our nightly drives to Black and White.

 

We spend several hours at this castle, it is Napoleon Bonaparte’s summer home.It is so beautiful and has a huge garden surrounding it. After all this splendor we return to the mall. A total of 12 hours have passed and we are ready to arrive at the Greek Cruise ship. We all pile into the vans and drive to the shipyard.

 

We pull up to the main gates of the Shipyard, there is a cement wall surrounding the entire yard, the top off the wall has broken glass bottles lining it. This is to stop people from getting in or out.

 

Black smoke is rising far above the shipyard and the smell of burning rubbish is in the air.

 

Someone in the van begins to cry.

 

A PLAGUE ON YOUR HOUSE-PART 28

 

The “Greek Cruise Ship”sat docked in the water of the shipyard, this is the area that when a ship is built they flood it and let it float free into the water. It was large and white with a yellow and blue logo on the smokestack.The logo was an African American wearing a 70’s headband, the ship was covered with rust and dirt, black smoke poured out of it’s stacks.

 

A yellow gangway leaned against one side, and our luggage was in several huge piles on the docks. We climbed the gangway where we met our first ferry boat crew member who procceded to search us. We all had our best faces on and we smiled with gritted teeth. We were herded into a main room and told to wait with several other crew members who would be working with us on the product,then we were told to get in line and meet with the new human resource people to get our room assignments.

 

I was standing in line with one of the cast members and we were singing Staying Alive. “Next!”screamed the person from human resources. We started doing the bump when the voice screamed again, “Next! I dont have all day!”

 

“Give me your passport!”said human resources.”I dont have it on me,” I lied. I had worked enough overseas jobs to know that you dont ever give out your passport. “Well I want it when you get it!” yelled human resources. I looked at my fellow cast members to see if they were hearing the same thing that I was. “I am going to only say this once and you better listen!” said human resources “Here’s your key and your room is not ready yet.” “Next!!” he screamed in my face.

 

I moved down the table to the next person”You have to get your own luggage, because they are on break and if you dont get it now you wont get it until tomorrow!”said person number two. “Where do I get it?”I asked. “In the holding deck”, she said. “Where is that?” I asked. “Next!” she screamed in my face.

 

I dragged my tired body down to holding to locate my luggage, it was scattered all over the place and took me two hours to find it. I crammed into the tiny elevator after being moved out of line twice by other crew members. I found my room, turned the key in the door and laid down on the bed.

 

I closed my eyes to rest for a minute. Suddenly I was awoken with BONG BONG BONG! This bell ringing was followed by a series of announcements.Announcements to tell me the bell was about to ring, announcements to tell me to listen future announcements and announcements to tell me not to listen to past announcements. Then the bells would ring in between.

 

My new cabin was so small, but I had worked on Cruise Ships before and living in New York helps to adjust you to small spaces.About 10 members of the cast worked in the character department and were crammed two into a cabin. This had become their breaking point and they threatened to walk out. The company would treat these people like second class citizens, even after their cast unity speeches.Two of our cast members gave up their cabins so the characters would have some living space, this would hold them over for a little while.

 

I went to dinner that night and ate something that looked like food, I finished the meal and went to my cabin. My stomach lurched and I ran into the bathroom where my dinner proceeded to leave me from both ends.

 

Pretty soon the sound of vomiting and toilets flushing drowned out the announcements and bell ringing.My face was flushed and my forehead was hot.

 

Then there was a knock at my door.

 

THE THEIF WEARS A SCARLET LETTER-PART 29

 

 

I opened the door to my cabin and a sweet smiling woman was standing at my door a circle of happy little bluebirds flew around her head. “Hello Sweetie”,she chirped,”Are you not feeling well?”

 

“Im feeling better now that I got it out.”I said.

 

“Well heres a little yellow sticker for your door”,she said. I looked into the hallway and all the doors were covered with little yellow stickers.”Whats going on?” I asked. “Were not sure, its seems a lot of people have all come down with the flu at once.”

 

I followed her down the hallway knocking on doors.

 

We knocked at one of the cast members doors and a voice from inside screamed “WHAT?” he flung open his door .”WHAT?” he screamed again in my face.”Hello sweetie”, I chirped “Are you feeling sicky.”

 

“God Damnit”, he screamed his white Kimono moved with every gesture he made with his fan. “I cant get one moment of peace on this god damn tugboat”,he said.He closed his fan and then cracked it open again with the flurish of a demented Flaminco dancer.”Well heres a little yellow sticker for your door” I said.He slammed the door in my face and I began to laugh.

 

I walked the entire ship and almost every door had a little yellow sticker on it. The sound of vomiting was deafening.

 

Days passed and the ship took on a ghost like quiet, we were denied coffee because it could be the water, the food became bland and tastless. A roach climbed out of my friends rice at dinner one night. At rehearsals we were told nothing except that a team of specialists were coming to find out what happened.

 

Several posters with the companies movie logos lined the hallways and dining rooms of the greek cruise ship. Several of them were in italian. I asked one of the producers if we could take them to decorate our rooms. “Of course you can, just dont get caught”, was his response.So posters began to dissappear at lightning speed.

 

At this time we beagan our long list of company classes that had nothing to do with performing.Classes in sexual harrassement which really are confusing to performers. If you cant stand in the wings and flash your butt to someone on stage, why get into the business.We also had classes in boat safety, living with minorities, people with handicaps are just like us, and the all time favorite You cant get AIDS from a toilet seat. I was in class one day doodling a picture of Power Suit with a spear through her head when I noticed a poster of Snow White. She was surrounded by the dwarves and she had just woke up from being dead. I put the poster under my arm when we were dissmissed for lunch and carried it back to my room. I arranged the rest of the company crap that I had won that week in front of the poster.

 

That night we went into Venice and when I returned we learned that a ship wide search for the Snow White poster was in progress. I began to panic and went to my room to plan a way to return it. There was a knock at my door and I threw the poster under my bed. Useless and Uncle Fester stood there. Uselesses face was an angry mess. “Can we come in?” she said. “Of course”, I replied. “Im gonna get right too it, I know that you stole the Snow White poster”, she said. “Who was the Judas”, I asked. “Never mind” she said “Just get it back!” “Stealing is a company offense, and is punishable by termination”, she said. I began to sweat, she was standing directly in front of a stolen Winnie the Pooh poster and with every word Winnies face twisted and began to glare at me.

 

Useless continued with her company script until I stopped her with “Is there anything else?” Her face reddened and she turned and walked out the door Uncle Fester followed. That night under a cover of darkness I returned the poster.

 

The next day I talked to puppethead and he told me that he once fired someone for eating a roll. I imagined that for my offense I would be shot in the head.

 

THE DRAGON GROWLS-PART 30

 

 

Rehearsals started to get monotonous, same old story again and again. Nothing was set in stone,to be honest it was’nt even set in JELLO. Everyday we would start and change everything that we had just learned, this started to really sit on my nerves. I had all this understudy work to learn as well as my own and nothing ever stayed the same. I began to let people know that I would learn my understudy roles when they were set, I knew the music and the lines but even they changed daily.

 

Power struggles were in full swing on a daily basis between the choreographer and the director. The choreographer would speak under his breathe saying that the director was an idiot. And the director seemed to fear for respect because he would slide up next to a cast member and buddy them up.All the time Power Suit would sit there on her cell phone with a sour look on her face. Company camp was looking more and more like the Jim Jones day care center.

 

More and more people began arriving in the shipyard everyday, and the Italian workers would not know what to do. We were isued a white hard hat that we had to wear when walking through the shipyard. Entire walls of steel would be flying above our heads as we made our way in or out.There was also three pay phones for the thousand of workers on the ship, these were located across the shipyard.

 

Laundry day arrived for the cast and we bundled up all of our things and dropped them off. We had now gone without any clean laundry for three weeks. We were the guinea pigs once again for the new laundry service. Days went by and we went down into the hull of the ship to pick up our laundry. It seems that our laundry bags had broken open so now the clothes that they could find had all turned blue.They lost every article of my clothing and what they found had been placed on a table for everyone to pick through. I dropped off twenty five pounds of laundry and all that returned to me was 10 pairs of white underwear that was now blue.

 

The word on the ship was that the dancers all had bad attitudes.

 

We spent our days in the tiny rehearsal studio working out the technical nightmares that we would face daily.One part of the show used a mechanical dragon. So when the scenes were rehearsed they had two performers use a rope to represent this creature, as they swooped the rope at us we ducked it and waved our swords at it. Three times I asked aloud if the Dragon would be breathing fire, I was assured again and again that it wouldn’t. I had done a convention years before for the company where we were told that a little pyrotechnics would be used, the time came for the fireworks and they blew us up. We literally flew through the air, so I got used to asking the same questions again and again until I would get the truth. You have to wear them down.

 

We came back to the shipyard to find that the Italians had gone on strike again.

 

LET THE BREAKDOWNS BEGIN-PART 31

 

Little by little the madness that we had to deal with on a daily basis began to take its toll. We started to mentally breakdown.Cast members would burst into crying jags that would last hours,sometimes days. A knot in a shoelace could bring forth a flood of tears.

 

People would refuse to leave their cabins. If you asked what the problem was,the answer was always the same-everything is wrong. We  would stand by each other at times like these, I had learned at an early age that joking was a way to deal with such problems. If I could bring a smile to someones face I knew that my job was complete.

 

At rehearsal myself and another cast member would put on our invisible straight jackets and sing Its a small world after all, while we rocked back and forth. Life aboard our Greek cruise ship had worsened, we could no longer purchase beverages with dinner unless we bought tickets at the human resource desk between certain hours. This would prove to be very difficult because the desk would close at 4pm and we rehearsed in theory until 5pm, we could never get to the desk in time. One day I made it to the desk in time and purchased 20.00 in tickets, I was golden I could drink all I wanted. I put it to the test at dinner. “Hi, can I have a coke? No coke! said the grimacing slop boy. “How about wine? I asked, No wine! said slop boy who’s patience was thining. “How about coffee? my last try, Get into the next line said slop boy. I looked at the line that stretched through the dining room and into the front hall. I picked up my tray and made it half way to the table before the first tear slid down my face. I was at the end of my rope.By the time I reached the table I was sobbing. Cast members put their arms around me and tried to comfort me. What are we gonna do? said one cast member. Geoff always makes us laugh and now who will cheer him up?

 

I could’nt stop crying, and everyone was looking at me. Someone spotted Power Suit across the dining room and walked me over. “Power Suit? said one of the cast members. We were now standing in front of her. “What!? she yelled without looking up.”Power Suit? the cast member begged. She looked up rolling her eyes, then she saw me. “Whats wrong? she asks. I began to tell her everything all the while tears are streaming down my face and I am trying to hide my face with my hand. Other producers came to the table and when they saw me crying they quickly ran away. Puppethead did a 360 degree turn to get away from the table. I let it all out and when I was done she swore she would do something. All she did was file it away in her head that I was a mental case.

 

I went to my room and cried all night, we had an evening rehearsal that day and I missed the van ride over. So I had to walk the five miles to rehearsal. When I entered my stage manager asked me if I was all right. Thank you I answered, it means alot to me to be asked.

 

Useless had been told that I did’nt show up to rehearsal and spent the evening trying to talk me out of my cabin, even thiugh I wasn’t in there. I was written up for the whole incident.

 

Geoffrey Doig-Marx has all written,printed and electronic rights to

 NOT ONLY MAGIC FLOATS

 

 

 

 

 

 

A TRAIN RIDE WITH PUPPETHEAD-PART 32

 

A day off brought such joy to the cast that we spent the night before planning where to go. We are in and Italy its time to run around. We pull out our maps and decided on a day trip to Rome, lets see where Christians were tortured by the Romans and take our minds off what we are going through.

 

Several of the cast is meeting in the lobby of the Hotel Lugano to walk over to the train station. I run down the stairs of the hotel and right into Puppethead. It’s still at the time that I believe he is someone that we can trust, he has pushed that idea into our heads again and again.Looking back I believe that I always heard words leave his mouth,but I never saw his lips move. I stupidly ask him along.”Why not?”he responds, his trusty cell phone in his hand. He’s never far from big brother.

 

The train ride is a lot of fun, we are a little uneasy. I mean after all we are riding with one of the producers and our mouths are cleaner than they have ever been. The conversation is full of emptiness and idle chatter, it’s like we never spent anytime together. We arrive in Rome tired and a little hungry so we leave the station and head out to lunch. Three blocks later we enter an American hamburger joint, the free prize giveaway is another company icon. She is hanging from the ceiling tied with fishing wire, her fins moving slowly in the breeze that erupts everytime the front door opens.I look closer and notice that someone has splattered her with tartar sauce.

 

Our adventures in Rome bond us all closer and I even believe that Puppethead is having a good time whenever he erupts in laughter. One cast member leans over to me and tells me to watch saying the F word. I wonder how many times I have said it that day alone.

 

We enter the arena where so many people died giving great entertainment to so many. The history is told to us and we learn that they also can flood the arena so that sea creatures could eat many a Christian.

 

A day full of stories of death and a company producer are more fun than anyone should have. I look at my watch and decide to take the train back. I have a date planned for that night and I need to rest. Puppethead asks if he can ride back early with me. On the walk to the station I begin to let down my guard and let him in on several personal cast jokes. One that still sticks out is that we refered to Uncle Fester as Sorella which means sister in Italian. I tell him how I cant wait to get back to New York and work with my company. I go over my entire stay with the company starting from the first day I ever worked for them. Interested and hanging on my every word, his wooden head nods in agreement.

 

Hours we spend on the train talking about everything.

 

The next day I get a call from Uncle Fester. He got in a lot of trouble because he let the company call him Sorella and that trouble came from Puppethead. I hunt down Puppethead, I am so angry because he talked. I was told that everything was in confidence and now this rat had betrayed me. I find him in the hallway and with deer caught in the headlight eyes, he lies to me again. “I never said anything, I would never do that!”

 

The cast plans a way to catch them in their own lies.

 

THE SECRET TAPE RECORDINGS-PART 33

 

One critical person has not been introduced in this story, he is Power Suits boss the only person that she has to answer to. He is an old song and dance man who worked as a cruise director on another ship. I will call him The Bull.

 

The Bull is a smiler and a winker. Charming and deadly as a serpant. We answered to Power Suit, she answered to him and he answers to the company god.

 

The next day we go right back into rehearsal. On my way into the studio the Director stops me. “Can I ask you a question?”he says. “Of course you can,” I say. “Do you remember the kid who was at the audition with you? We are thinking of using him for the next project. “I think I remember him.” I say “Good.” he responds. “Was he a good dancer?” he asks. He is now one foot in front of my face, his eyes fill up his glasses. “I think so.” I mutter. I walk into the rehearsal room.

 

We start with a number that we have done a grand total of fifty three million times and have never finished. Only this time Im asked to move into the back while the rest of the cast gets re-choreographed. Three of the boys have now been pulled down front forming a merry trio. Im left in the back with another cast member, and he’s been choreographed to bang a pot. The air in the room begins to feel very thick to me. We do this new version again and again until we are ready to drop.

 

I walk out of the rehearsal room and into the hallway and I see the director asking other cast members about the same dancer he was asking me about. I use the mens room and return to rehearsal. The choreographer slides up next to me and says “I’m so sick of this shit.” I begin to feel sorry for him.

 

We begin the number again and the Director enters the room and stops us. We have been dancing for hours, the sweat is running down our faces. “Can you make them do this?” he says placing his right foot next to his left leg. “That’s it!” says the choreographer picking up his bag and leaving the room. Power Suit follows right behind him and into the hall.

 

Take fifteen says the Stage Manager.

 

The cast looks at each other. I walk into the hallway and practice my italian with the front desk of the club. I can see power Suit from where I am standing and she is talking the choreographer into staying.

 

I return to the rehearsal room and a list has been posted, we are to have another break that sends us home. The product has been delayed again. The list is in the order that we are to have our meetings with Power Suit. New contracts will be discussed. My name appears at the bottom of the list, just after a cast member that the Director assured me that they where going to replace.

 

I return to the hotel and begin to pack. I have a feeling that I am about to go down.The first of the meetings are starting that night and people are armed with their tape recorders again.

 

The first person returns from their meeting. They were asked to sign another contract that will extend them for a full year. I know in my heart that I can not stay and put up with this for a full year, nine months was long enough.

 

I am also living right next door to Useless who opens her door anytime I leave my room. I begin to think to myself that I never want to work in this business again unless I can call my own shots.

 

I spend another sleepless night tossing and turning.

 

 

 

Geoffrey Doig-Marx holds all written,printed and electronic rights to NOT ONLY MAGIC FLOATS