Thursday, February 02, 2006

On Tour and Hating Every Minute of it

Nils, otherwise known as "that voice in my promo you hear at the top of my show". (OK, AFTER Elmer Fudd people) has written a great post on what its like to tour solo as a perfomer.

Flip side? What its like to tour as a crew member. The show? Beehive - a pastiche of Motown, Brit-pop solo artists from the 60s and other similar era girl groups. Each performer (there are 4) has certain "turns" she does. That is to say, the same singer performs Aretha and Tina Turner, the other does Diana Ross and Grace Slick, the third does Dusty Springfield and Lulu - you get the idea. The 4th is the narrator.

There is a pit band live onstage, not the pit, whose members change every city stop. Only the music director (who also plays 2-3 instruments) is the same.

And there are costumes - oh my, are there costumes. Each performer changes about 30 times, and 2 of us who get to keep track. Oh, AND we have to sing backing vocals on offstage mics when we're not doing changes. Uck.

This is a bus n truck tour, so we get on the bus, drive from city to city, stay in hotels or apartments, and if you're on the crew - DO NOT GET A SINGLE F-ING DAY OFF. Or half day for that matter. For MONTHS. Because of the costumes, the unending costumes that have to be repaired, (or not, but I'll deal with that later) or shoes that have to be repainted, or laundry, OH MY GOD THE LAUNDRY. Or how about the performer who will only wear a specific brand of hosiery, and you are in butt-f-ck Egypt and the drugstore doesn't carry it?

Then you get to hear screaming, Lots of it, and then she blows out her voice yelling at you and then the stage manager yells at you. But we all know she smoked enough weed the night before to kill a horse, and thats why she's hoarse. (cute, huh?)

Anyone who thinks all women are dainty and perfumed has never been backstage with a bunch of dancer/singer/actresses, thats for sure.

So I mentioned repairs? Here's a cute thing that you don't know about performers. (whispers) they are needy. Shocker, huh? So sometimes they feel like they aren't getting enough attention (because only 799 of the 800 seat audience applauded the previous night) and they "create" something for you to fix, so that the other girls can see that they are getting fussed over.

And because this type travels in packs, its like a disease - and they ALL start to get needy. And then the lighting guy starts doing one of them,so you lose your "bitch and moan" buddy and life becomes a real hell-hole.

Ah, but I forgot about the musicians. These guys are a real piece of work - they are "jobbers" - they can read charts and that is their only redeeming quality. They usually have not enough personality or talent to play in a band, so they job from theater to theater, doing pickup work. And I mean that in every connotation. First they try the performers, but none of them are hip enough for the girls, so then they have to try with the crew. My assistant was younger and stupider than me, and I spent WAY too much time dragging her out of stupid situations.

And every day is check into the theater at 9AM, unpack all the costumes. Do the laundry, do the repairs, set the dressing areas, setup the quick change booths, prep the booths. Then you have to go shopping for makeup, for hosiery, for whatever crap hey lost broke intentionally left behind. By this times, its about 5PM. So you eat whatever the stage manager picks up for you, and then you have to stay and wait for the ladies to arrive so that you can mostly watch them get dressed and makeup. (you have to be there in case they need help, even though they do this every day in real life without your help).
Once they call half hour, you check all your quick change booths, you move to your first cue, and then you run the show.
After the show, you pre-soak tomorrows laundry, wash the hadnwashables and hang them to dry, pick up after the slobs, and pray a bar is still open. Rinse and repeat for a week. Except for the one day when someone destroys their costume and you get to make a new one. From scratch. On a counter in the dressing room because there is nowhere else to put the sewing machine. With none of the original supplies used.

Then on Sunday, after the 7PM show, while the performers go to an after-party usually thrown by the management, you get to pack. And pack. And pack.
And then get on the bus.

And now you know why I have in my heart such a great loathing for all that is musical theater.

Ok, you say - thats a bunch of girls. What about guys?
Here is my one great example of just what a pain male singer/dancer actors are: One night, we couldn't find the white shirt. The basic white shirt that every actor had as his base. We searched EVERYWHERE. Except one place. Apparently "hang your shirt up with the hangers provided" translates to: "wrap it around the pipe under the bathroom sink".

Enough said. (Hey Nils, did I pass the audition?)


Blogger eclectic said...

Oh, well done!! Having been both cast and crew from time to time (although blessedly, NOT on tour...) I wince at the accuracy of your descriptions! However, with a few summers' distance, I now remember the experiences fondly. Time's funny that way.

11:00 PM  
Blogger Opera Gal said...

oh, I probably could write a book after 16 years of that. That story is just a normal "day at the office".

8:04 AM  
Blogger Nilbo said...

Hehehehe WTF ... you can tour with me any day.

While I, personally, an not needy, I would often hear stories of the divas from the week before. In one case, a female singer who will remain nameless (unless you email me) trashed her dressing room and threw a hissy fit that carried over into complaining on her band's website because - despite the fact that the rider specifically said she "really didn't care for carnations", there were carnations in the flower arrangement in her dressing room.

In another case, I had a woman falling all over herself apologizing to me because the sandwiches on the cold cut plate were made with "regular" mustard. Evidently, the week prior, another diva had come through and bitched her out and made this old woman (a volunteer!) cry because there was no Dijon mustard.

So, touring solo sucks and touring in support of a group sucks. The answer must be touring in a group as one of the stars.

Or, you know, not touring at all. But then, how does one get that applause?

And HA! My verification letters: kdbbq (!) Clearly, they haven't heard abour Ms. Lang's aversion to meat.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Katy Barzedor said...

Oh, Opera gal, I'm so so so sorry!

Dear lord. I think I'd have pepper sprayed all those bitches before the tour was done.

Wanna be my costume wizard when I tour with my one-woman show (I'd tell you the title, but this is a family site)? I promise not to act like a diva, and I won't break anything on purpose.

Oh, and Nilbo..BWAHAHAHAHA!

9:30 AM  
Blogger Opera Gal said...

BFE - I got my revenge. I'll send you an email, since this is a family site. :)

2:54 PM  
Blogger Kranki said...

This post made my stomach clench in sympathy. OH GOD! What a nightmare. I don't know how many of those "performers" can look at themselves in the mirror after the stuff they pull. Shameful. The shirt wrapped around the pipe thing is just, sadly, sooooo typical. Pleae write a book. I'd buy it.

5:22 PM  

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