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.
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