Archive | October, 2013

The Power Of Christ Compels You!

21 Oct

Greetings from somewhere over Kansas or Nebraska or one of those flat, expansive states where, from what I can see, no one lives for miles and miles. Today is my first travel day with the company of Evita and we’re traveling from St. Louis, Missouri, to Los Angeles, California for the next three weeks. I was in St. Louis in January with Flashdance, so I did most of the touristy stuff then, not realizing I’d be back for two weeks a few months later. I did return to the St. Louis Zoo because, well…I love zoos and that one is free (and quite excellent). I’m glad I went to the top of the Gateway Arch in January because it was closed for the first week or so of our stay because of the government shutdown, but I had an amazing view of it from my hotel window .There’s nothing much more inspiring that looking out your window and seeing a national monument gleaming in the sun with the Mississippi River flowing beneath it.

A St. Louis sunset as seen from my hotel room window. Not a bad view...

A St. Louis sunset as seen from my hotel room window. Not a bad view…

I got to spend some time with friends from college and even a former co-worker from New York who relocated to St. Louis a couple of years ago. I was taken out to lunches and treated to a fantastic game night of “Cards Against Humanity” that made all of us laugh so much that we had to take a break – and some Aleve – because our faces hurt. This is what touring’s about for me – reconnecting with the people that matter in my life.

Of course, it’s also about experiencing the city in which you happen to be working. Because I had already done pretty much everything I wanted to do in St. Louis the first time I was there, I had to find new things to do. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but I learned that St. Louis was the city in which the events occurred that inspired “The Exorcist.” In 1949, in a small house in a lovely little suburb of St. Louis, a Jesuit priest performed an exorcism on a teenaged boy. The exorcism took over a month and actually was performed in multiple locations, including a hospital at St. Louis University, but the house is the only remaining building associated with the event, so of course I had to do a drive-by to check it out.

My first time seeing “The Exorcist” was in graduate school. The film was being re-released and for the first time, some cut material was being shown, including the famous spider walk down the stairs. My friends and I went to a late showing and we arrived to find the theater absolutely packed with people. We ended up having to sit in the third row, which is way too close in my opinion, but it was the only available option. I had a hard time getting into the film because the four guys in front of us were distracting me. One guy was on his phone through most of the movie, actually answering it and saying, “I’m at a movie! Listen…can’t you hear it?!” as he held the phone up to the screen. His neighbor had put his arm around him and was lighting the tips of the next guy over’s cornrows on fire with his lighter. Anytime anything remotely gross or disturbing happened, they shouted at the screen and then would laugh at themselves or the people sitting around them. Who could focus with all that going on? There was also a baby crying somewhere behind us. Yes…an infant at a midnight showing of “The Exorcist.” When security finally asked the mother to leave the theater, someone in the back row started clapping, which led the mother to come back into the theater with the baby in her arm and she started threatening to fight people. There were a good three or four minutes of shouting back and forth before security finally dragged her out of the building, so I missed a lot of what was going on. But if I have to be honest, the parts that I did see I thought were hilarious. Her spinning head and the awful things poor little Linda Blair had to say and do. I simply didn’t get why people thought it was the scariest movie ever made. When the movie was first released, people actually fainted and threw up during the movie out of fright and shock. I didn’t get it.

I was not brought up Catholic and in my church we were taught that miracles and demon possessions didn’t happen anymore, so the very idea of demonic possession was as frightening to me as the idea of an alien invasion. I thought the movie was fairly shocking, but because I didn’t believe it, I couldn’t be afraid of it. After falling into a YouTube “Exorcist” wormhole late one night and watching video after video and reading article after article about the Exorcist House, though, I felt a little uneasy driving up to it. I don’t think my belief about possession has changed, but…you don’t want to tempt fate, right?

The Exorcist House in St. Louis, MO. The exorcism apparently happened in the upstairs bedroom - directly above the living area with the bay window.

The Exorcist House in St. Louis, MO. The exorcism apparently happened in the upstairs bedroom – directly above the living area with the bay window.

The neighborhood is quite unassuming and, honestly, so is the house, but there’s something very creepy about the place – especially the upstairs window of the room where the exorcism supposedly occurred. I was surprised to see a car in the driveway – I don’t know why I was surprised that people live there, but I suddenly felt very awkward coming to gawk and take pictures of their house – the house where the Devil slept, as it is called in some news articles. I have a healthy appreciation of the macabre and I can totally appreciate and understand spending the night in the Lizzie Borden murder house or spending a weekend in Salem, Massachusetts, but living in the house where the Devil may or may not live…? That’s a bit much for me. And surely they must be bored with all the gawkers like me who want to see “The Exorcist House.” In any case, I took a couple of pictures and got the heck out of Dodge. That night I went home and downloaded “The Exorcist” and watched it alone in my room. I still think “The Silence of the Lambs” is far scarier because I know that there are crazy cannibalistic murderers out there in the world, but I have a healthier appreciation for “The Exorcist” now, too. I still can’t imagine it making me want to vomit, but it did give me a great idea for a Halloween costume…

Jasorcist

Advertisements

The Hardest Part Of Show Business? The Hellos and Goodbyes.

10 Oct

Greetings from 32,000 feet above somewhere in Alabama. This morning I left Indianapolis and the company of Flashdance to go to St. Louis, where I will meet up with the national tour of Evita again.

The past three days have been difficult for me. I’m a very tender-hearted person, though I try my best to keep that from people. It’s one of my greatest assets, but it’s also my Achilles’ heel, and people take advantage of it. I’ve never been good at saying goodbyes, which makes being in show business tough because it seems like you’re always saying goodbye to someone. I thought I was going to die when I had to say goodbye to my friends in Japan. I wasn’t sure if anyone had ever died of a broken heart, but I was sure that I was about to be the first. I didn’t die, but it hurt for a long time. It still does from time to time, but not as badly.

Friday my replacement flew into Indianapolis to start his training. I tried to fit 10 months of experience into three days of training, but there’s only so much you can do and, as harsh as it sounds, there are just some things he has to learn for himself. It was a real challenge for me to let it all go – to not get picky about how the shirts were being folded or how he counted his money. I had to remind myself that it’s no longer my show and he will do things his way, but I got frustrated nonetheless. Flashdance has been my baby since the show opened in January and I’m very protective of it. I’m sure my replacement will be fine, but I really had to distance myself from him and the job while trying to teach him how to do it properly. It was also hard for me to remember sometimes that all of this is new to him, so he was going at a much slower pace than I would have. It wasn’t his fault – I know he was overwhelmed and it is a lot to learn in a short amount of time – but my frustration wasn’t just about teaching him the job. It was also – and mostly – about the impending farewells.

I spent a lot of time on my own when I first came out on the road with this show. I didn’t know anyone and honestly, I needed some alone time to regroup from what had been a very trying autumn in New York. Meeting people is difficult for me – despite being a performer, I am terribly shy when meeting new people and I’m not the type to go up and introduce myself or invite myself along if people are going out. If I’m being completely honest (and isn’t that part of what this blog is for?), I was also terribly intimidated by the cast, not only because of their enormous talent, but also because they were working actors and I was not. Because I felt I was a failure as an actor, I assumed that they would, as well, or just assume that I was a talentless hack whose only real skill was folding and selling a t-shirt. I was relieved to find that that wasn’t the case at all.

I remember when I started selling merchandise at the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, before I became the manager there, I was standing outside with a rolling merch booth, setting up for walk-out. I looked up and saw two beautiful young women walking out of the lobby and I immediately recognized both of them and wanted to crawl into a garbage can and hide. One I had gone to school with in Oklahoma City and the other I had done summerstock with in Louisville nearly 5 years earlier. They both were surprised to see me and came over to chat. It turned out that they were both in the show – Lyndy was the dance captain and Jess was covering Cassie and a few other roles. These girls – my peers and colleagues – had made it to Broadway and I was selling t-shirts at their show. Just around the corner, my friend Jeremy had just made his Broadway debut as Enjolras in Les Misérables at the Broadhurst. My friend Brandi was next door in the chorus of Spamalot. Lyndy and Jess were in A Chorus Line and my friend Julie was playing Christine twice a week in The Phantom of the Opera. All of them performing in Broadway shows on the same block. And I was selling merch. I was so embarrassed and ashamed and I made a half-hearted joke about it to Jess and Lyndy. They were both so wonderful about it – one of them said something to the effect of, “We have all done random jobs to get by. We’re just happy you’re going to be here with us.” It wasn’t condescending. It wasn’t fake. They meant it. But this feeling of being “just” the merch guy has always been there. I’m a full-time manager now with insurance and a livable wage and I’m seeing the country and I am incredibly grateful for it. I take great pride in the work that I do, but the truth is, I’d rather be performing.

The intimidation factor coming into Flashdance was exacerbated because of two people in the company in particular: Rachelle Rak and DeQuina Moore. Rachelle (we call her Rak or Sas) has been in more Broadway shows than I can count. She’s what we call “old school Broadway” and her reputation often precedes her. Rak doesn’t take any shit off anyone and she will tell you what she thinks without sugar coating it. You know what you’re getting with her, which is something I really admire about her. I knew of Sas not only because of her résumé on Broadway, but also because of a charity event called Broadway Bares – a strip show featuring literally hundreds of dancers and Broadway stars to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Sas has done Bares a lot and I was familiar with her because of a video clip I’d seen of her doing a Wonder Woman number one year. I have a thing about Wonder Woman, and Sas looked amazing in that costume.

I also knew about Rak because of a documentary film that was made about the audition process for the revival of A Chorus Line. She was up for the role of Sheila and in the film, she is seen at a callback 8 months after her initial audition. The audition panel behind the table (the producer, the choreographers, the director and the casting agent) said that they didn’t think she’d given them the same audition this time and would like to see her do it again, only this time trying to do what she did 8 months ago. She did the scene again and when it was over, before walking off the stage, she told the casting director that she wanted to see him backstage. Their conversation isn’t in the movie, but Jay Binder comes back to the table and tells the panel that Rachelle wanted to know whether she’d booked the show or not before she left, which is almost unheard of in this business. It’s ballsy. Like, big, brassy bull cojones kind of ballsy. The kind of thing that can put you on a casting director’s blacklist. The documentary shows the very tail end of the conversation between Rak and Binder and, understandably disappointed and hurt, she leaves in a bit of a huff. That’s the impression that the film left of her, anyway – that she’s pushy and bitchy and ungracious, and I was terrified of her.

And then there was DeQuina. I knew of her, as well, from her work on Broadway in Little Shop of Horrors and Legally Blonde as well as the “Turkey Lurkey Time” scene in the movie “Camp.” So I was already intimidated by her because she really is stunningly talented and beautiful. Our last night in Pittsburgh, I turned on the TV and there she was on HBO in a movie called “Joyful Noise” with Queen Latifah and one of my idols, Dolly Parton. When she boarded the bus the next morning to head to the airport, wearing her gigantic sunglasses and struggling with two oversized bags, all I could see was her standing between Latifah and Dolly and I thought, “Lord! She ain’t gonna have nuthin’ to do with me!”

What I didn’t know was that two months later, in New Orleans, Louisiana, I’d be out with Rak and DeQuina after a show, laughing and having the time of my life. Walking with the two of them down Bourbon Street, we darted in and out of bars as they danced the night away and I stood watch over their bags and drinks. I don’t dance in public unless it’s choreographed and I’m getting paid, but my jaw was on the floor the whole night as DeQuina and Rak wiggled and shimmied and Cha Cha Puus’ed™ their way down Bourbon Street. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time, and I loved the feeling of walking through New Orleans with those two gorgeous women on my arms. I was honored and flattered to have been one of the cool kids that night.

A few nights later I ran into Rak again on the way out of the theatre. We walked back to the hotel, arm in arm, having a very honest and heartfelt conversation about “the Business” and Rak’s experience with “Every Little Step,” the Chorus Line documentary. The Sas that I had seen in that film and that everyone thought they knew from her Broadway Bares numbers wasn’t the Rachelle walking down Toulouse with me. Behind the glamour and the glitter and the showbiz is a genuine, kind, loving, no nonsense woman with a heart as big as her smile, which is huge. She gave me invaluable advice and encouragement and opened up to me in a way that I never expected. I no longer felt like I was a cool kid for the night, but an actual friend.

Rak left us in April when her contract was up. DeQuina and I were both heartbroken, but I know it affected her more because she and Rachelle had become very, very close. Because of our schedules – her in rehearsals and doing press and me visiting or staying with friends in almost every city we went to – DQ and I didn’t hang out as much as I’d have liked to until Kansas City, which I thought was going to be my last city on the tour. By then a good chunk of the cast had left and been replaced, and in Dallas we welcomed a new company member named Doreen to the show. She was going to take over the role of Louise in Chicago, so she started rehearsals in Dallas and had her put-in in Kansas City. Doreen would come by my booth every night and say hi and our first night in KC, when the temperature was around 105º, she bought me a cherry Italian ice to help me cool down. It was the best and most appreciated Italian ice I’ve ever had.

When I left in July, I didn’t know if I’d be coming back to Flashdance. There were so many people in the company that I was going to miss and with the uncertainty of my future with the show, it was really hard to know how to feel. I didn’t know if I should say my goodbyes or not, but if I didn’t, then I might never get the chance. It was a weird situation and I was actually quite happy to get to come back in Memphis for a few weeks. Knowing that I had a definite end date allowed me to get some more time in with my friends before I had to give a definite goodbye, but at least I’d have some closure.

Memphis was, beside New Orleans, maybe my very favorite stop on the tour. We had four extra days off there, and I made sure I got to spend time with everyone I could. We certainly created a lot of memories there, but I spent the majority of my free time with Doreen, DeQuina and a handful of company members with whom I had really bonded. We ate ourselves silly, saw all the sights and even had a religious experience with the Reverend Al Green.

Indianapolis was my final stop on the Flashdance tour and honestly, it was a huge  letdown after Memphis. But I made sure I went out after the shows and spent time with my friends, trying to get in as much face time as I could with everyone before I had to leave.

I wanted to give everyone something as a going away gift from me to express to them how I felt – a combination thank you note/love letter that would somehow let them know how much they really meant to me. I wasn’t sure what to do, but then I remembered the videos that my friends in Japan had made before we left – slideshows set to music. Tony had made one using every single photo he’d taken since day one of the tour. Katie had put together a slideshow including video she’d taken and photos that all of us had posted on Facebook throughout the tour. I remembered how moved I was by them and how much I treasure them now as a reminder of that incredible time together, so I decided to do something similar.

I shared the video with the Flashdance family before I posted it publicly for everyone to see. Because I had seen so many of my friends on the road, it only seemed fair to share it with them, as well, because they had made the experience just as meaningful for me as the company had. I was sad to realize that the majority of the photos I had taken didn’t include anyone from the show because I had spent so much time by myself when we started. Pictures with company members started showing up about midway through. It made me wish I’d spent more time with them.

After the final performance in Indy, after we’d loaded out the merch booth, DeQuina, Doreen and one of the show’s dance captains, Lynorris, came over to my room and we watched “The Butler” together. During the movie, Lynorris and DeQuina pronounced that they thought that I would have most certainly been right there, fighting alongside them for their rights if we were living in the 60‘s. It hadn’t occurred to me until then, but I was often the only white boy in our little group. And they were right – I would have been right there with them. I can’t imagine a world in which they could not be my friends. My family, even.

All of us were a little choked up over the movie, but when it came time to say goodbye to the three of them I couldn’t hold back my emotions any more and I went into the ugly cry. After they left, I packed up the last of my stuff and went to bed – still crying and contemplating going downstairs to say goodbye to the entire company the next morning. I knew if I did that I’d embarrass myself, so I stayed in my room until I knew the bus was gone. It was a sad day for me.

So I have started a new adventure with a new group of people – most of whom I don’t know. Many of whom I haven’t even met yet! I miss my Flashdance friends, but I have to get past that and start making new friends, which is hard for me. But Flashdance proved that I can do it. I am one of the cool kids. They just don’t know it yet. Thank you, Flashdance family, for teaching me that.

Take your passion and make it happen!

I’m Not The King…I’m Just A Singer

3 Oct

There’s no real way to say this without sounding like a complete douche nugget, but…when you’ve worked on Broadway as long as I have, “celebrity” really loses its allure and mystery. Broadway is a very small community and you often find yourself working with, around and for some pretty famous people. Yes, I have only worked on Broadway as a merchandiser (and we are the bottom of the totem pole as far as most people are concerned), but I have worked on over 50 shows on Broadway alone, not counting off-Broadway, national tours and my years working at the Metropolitan Opera. One of the first things my boss told me when I was hired was, “We’re here to do our jobs, not to bother the actors or the patrons – no matter who they are.” And I’ve had interactions with some pretty famous people (hold on tight, I’m about to drop a lot of names here): Hillary Clinton, Ricky Martin, Kathleen Turner, Billy Joe Armstrong, Tyne Daly, Heidi Klum, Ben Stiller, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Earl Jones, Luciano Pavarotti, Ted Brokaw, Audra McDonald, Mario Lopez, James Franco, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes…blah blah blah. It’s hard to imagine that I could possibly be nonplussed by these people now, but I am. In New York, you get used to seeing Sarah Jessica Parker walking through Shubert Alley or standing in line at Starbucks with Kevin Spacey and you don’t freak out over them. They’re just people like you and me.

This is not to say that there aren’t still folks out there that would make even me starstruck. Barbra Streisand, Beyoncé and Julie Andrews are the first three that come to mind. I don’t know how I would react if I got to meet any of them. Especially Barbra. And part of me hopes I never do meet them. Julie Andrews came to see a show that I was working in New York a few weeks ago and I was stuck working the booth in the basement, so I never even got to see her. I would like to think that I’d have maintained my sense of professionalism, but…she’s Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp. I very well might have turned into a blubbering mess. But the fact is, they’re still human beings. They’re people who are fallible and vulnerable and tangible. They are still alive and for that I am very, very grateful. I fulfilled a lifelong dream of seeing Barbra Streisand in concert last year – twice! – and I am certain that it will stand out as a highlight of my life even when I’m old and gray.

One celebrity that I will never get to meet, and one who seems to be so unfathomable to me, is Elvis Presley. He died only a few months after I was born, so I wasn’t around to experience him at the height of his glory. Or, more accurately, the many heights of his 20-year career.

While we were in Memphis last week, several of us paid homage to the King by visiting Graceland, his mansion located on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Of our group, I think I was the oldest and probably the only true Elvis fan of the bunch. I’d been to Graceland before – twice, actually – but this trip was somehow different. I think because I was finally old enough to really appreciate the man’s accomplishments. My previous trips were more for the camp value – the tackiness of the Jungle Room and the jumpsuits – but this time I went with a sense of reverence, awe and respect.

DSCN7414

Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, TN

Graceland itself is much smaller than people expect it to be. It even looked smaller than I remembered when we drove up to it. Walking in the front door and looking into the living room and music room, most people started commenting about the dated decor. The plush white carpeting and the 15-foot white sofa with blue velvet curtains and the stained glass windows separating the living area from the music room. It wasn’t included in the audio tour, but I remembered from the first time I’d been that Elvis’ body had been laid in state in that music room before his burial.  That also reminded me that he had died just above our heads on the second floor. The house was no longer tacky and laughable – it was somebody’s house. A family had lived here, played here, laughed, cried and died here. But there was no mention of his wake in the music room. The stairs leading up to the second floor have been closed to the public since Elvis’ death out of respect for him and his family, which also adds to the myth and the mystery surrounding him. Graceland is no tourist attraction – it is a shrine.

DSCN7286

The living room and music room at Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, TN

Walking through the rest of the house, pausing to look at the awful (but original!) carpeting in the kitchen, the bizarre mirrored stairwell leading to the over-the-top blue and gold TV room with a giant lightning bolt painted on the wall, I stopped marveling at the early-70’s decor itself, but I started focusing on the amount of decor. Every last inch of the house is decorated – painted, carpeted, or, in the case of the billiards room, covered in pleated fabric. It became fairly clear that Elvis was making up for the things that he and his family didn’t have when he was growing up. That was also apparent when walking through the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum across the street. But somehow it didn’t come off as pretentious – it just felt like he wanted to provide his family with nice things because he was finally able to.

DSCN7352

The Trophy Building hallway at Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, TN

ElvisLeatherSuit

Left: Elvis wearing the black leather suit during the ’68 Comeback Special.
Right: The suit on display in the Trophy Building at Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, TN

Next to the house is what’s now called the Trophy Building, and it may house the most awe-inspiring/intimidating hallway I’ve ever walked through. On both sides of the 80-foot hallway are Elvis’ gold, platinum and diamond albums (diamond indicates sales of 10 million copies or more!) and his three Grammy Awards, which incidentally were all won for gospel albums. It’s outrageous to think that one human being accomplished so much as a musician in 20 short years. It quite literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. Turning the corner from the trophy hallway into the museum-like trophy building, you’re overwhelmed by another facet of Elvis’ success: the movie and TV memorabilia room. In this room are costume pieces and posters from Elvis’ movies as well as costumes worn in his concerts, including the famous black leather suit he wore in his incredible ’68 Comeback Special. In terms of sex appeal, no one can touch Elvis in that black suit. This was the King at his absolute peak physically, vocally and financially. On the walls of this room are also humanitarian awards given to Elvis for his charitable contributions and old checks that Elvis had written to dozens of charities around Memphis, including the Boys and Girls’ Club of Memphis and the Memphis Jewish Community Center. There’s also a plaque in honor of Elvis’ 1961 Hawaii concert that raised $64,000 to help build the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. This was a good man who gave back to his community, his friends and his family. People are quick to write him off as the overweight man in a too-tight jumpsuit and mutton chops, but he was the real deal: a celebrity – quite possibly the biggest celebrity ever – who remembered where he came from. How anyone could walk out of that trophy room without feeling humbled is beyond me.

DSCN7394

The trophy room in the racquetball court at Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, TN

But it didn’t end there. From the Trophy Building you are guided to the racquetball court, whose walls are covered from floor to ceiling with more awards – gold and platinum albums from Elvis’ international and posthumous sales as well as a selection of some of his famous jumpsuit costumes. While you’re completely gobsmacked by the sheer number of awards on the walls, you’re listening to Elvis singing what has been called his most emotional and personally connected song, “If I Can Dream,” and “An American Trilogy.” “So hush little baby, don’t you cry/You know your daddy’s bound to die/But all my trials, Lord, soon be over.” It’s nearly impossible to not be moved. I couldn’t help thinking about his daughter, Lisa Marie, and what it must be even now to hear those lyrics sung by her daddy. And as we moved outside to the meditation garden and the Presley’s graves, I was overcome with a sense of sadness and gratitude and awe. There I was, standing at the grave of one of the greatest artists of all time – a man whose work I so admire and grew up on – missing someone I never even knew.

DSCN7404

Elvis Presley’s grave at Graceland in Memphis, TN

Elvis Presley still doesn’t seem real to me. It’s impossible for me to imagine what it must have been like to be him – to walk a mile in his blue suede shoes. His was the ultimate American dream come true – to come from nothing and become a legend. I often wonder if these huge superstars ever regret their stardom. Do they ever wish they could just hop in the car and run to Target and not be noticed? I remember a night when Britney Spears came to see Shrek The Musical on Broadway. She was in town doing her Circus tour at Madison Square Garden and had the night off, so she brought her two kids to see the show and it became a zoo. Paparazzi knocking people down trying to get photos of her and her boys, people screaming her name and scaring the children. She had to be walked into the theatre after the lights had gone down and had to leave before the end of the first act to make sure she got to use the restroom before anyone noticed her. Unfortunately, two young girls walked into the bathroom as she was walking out and started screaming, which started a domino effect and ultimately she and her entourage had to leave before the show ended. And all she wanted to do was take her kids to see a show. I can’t imagine what that life must be like or what kinds of sacrifices have to be made to maintain it or what kind of toll it must take on someone’s life.

I recently heard a story about a man who approached Elvis and said, “Oh, I can’t believe I’m finally meeting the King!” Elvis replied, “I’m not the King. Jesus Christ is the King. I’m just a singer.” I don’t know if that story is true, but I sure hope it is.

What Can One Say About Indianapolis? Not Much, So I’ll Let Menudo Take It From Here…

2 Oct

Greetings from Indianapolis, Indiana, where last night I had my very last opening night of Flashdance The Musical. I know I said goodbye to the show back in Kansas City, but I knew there was a chance then that I’d be coming back to the show for a couple of weeks. This time I’m not coming back because I’m permanently moving to the national tour of Evita . I’m really sad to be saying goodbye to these folks and I’m even sadder that Indianapolis is going to my last city – especially after the wonderful two weeks we just spent in Memphis. But…sometimes it’s time to move on. I look forward to joining up with the company of Evita again next week in St. Louis, but my Flashdance family will always be in my heart. At least I’ll have the chance for a proper goodbye this time.

Friday my replacement for Flashdance will arrive in town. I’ll train him this weekend and then on Monday he’ll travel by bus to East Lansing, Michigan and I’ll fly off to Missouri to meet up with the First Lady of Argentina again. Tim has never toured, let alone done merch on the road, so there’ll be a lot to explain to him, but he’ll be fine. Hopefully I’ll have some time to show him the highlights of Indianapolis, assuming I find any of them. So far the town does not impress. Then again, I did just spend two weeks in Memphis, Tennessee, where the people just ooze with Southern charm and hospitality. I can’t believe I’m going to admit it, but I am kind of glad to be away from all the BBQ and baked beans and fried chicken and potato salad and sweet tea. I’m not sure how much more I could have taken! Now, though, I find myself in a town full of chain restaurants, which isn’t much better. Oh, well…there are worse things in life like, you know…a federal government shutdown. But I digress…

The last time I was in Indianapolis was in February 2010 when I was doing the Theatreworks USA national tour of Junie B. Jones. I played 4 characters, including one that had a mustache and one very lovely lunch lady who had impeccable Rockette-esque high kicks. In the course of that one hour show, I had 12 costume changes, which averages out to about one costume change every five minutes, which doesn’t sound bad, but some of the costume changes were 45-second changes. And remember those mustaches I mentioned before? Well, the company gave me six to last me the entire 6 1/2 month run of the show, generally doing 2 shows a day, 6 days a week. I was also given a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of toupee tape with which to tape the mustaches to my upper lip. During our first dress rehearsal, I ripped one of the mustaches in half trying to get it off during a quick change. That should have been an indication of what was to come.

After about three weeks on the road (about 36 performances), I started feeling some pain every time I’d rip a mustache off my lip (I had to do that 5 times a performance). After four weeks (48 performances and 240 mustache removals), I started noticing the blood. Small chunks of skin were being ripped off my upper lip every time I’d peel one of those mustaches off. It hurt. A lot. Per Equity rules, I had to keep wearing the mustaches because they were part of the costume design and I was required by my union (and by my sense of professionalism) to honor the designer’s vision, but once I started noticing blood, I spoke to our stage manager about the issue. She didn’t really have much to say other than reminding me that I was required to wear my costume as it was given to me in rehearsals, so I called my union. Our representative at Actors’ Equity told me to stop wearing the mustaches right away and that she would speak to the costume shop back in New York to see what we could work out as a compromise. When she called me back, she said to stop wearing them altogether. Apparently the costume shop had meant to send me out with toupee tape that was intended to be worn 1-5 hours, but they’d given me a bag full of tape that was meant to last 3-5 days. No wonder I looked like I’d been shaving with a rusty razor! Instead of 3-5 days, I was only wearing the mustaches for 3-5 minutes and, even with sweat, those things did not want to come off. It was the first time I fully understood what a blessing it was to be a part of Actors’ Equity and to have the support and protection that the union provides. It’s often frustrating to be an Equity actor – your employment options are certainly more limited – but it’s worth it when you need help.

Now if they could just help me find a restaurant that stays open past 10:30!

29149_429031677812_2222114_n

The fabulous Gladys Gutzman – Queen of Snacks!

17443_247622392812_895040_n

The hateful mustache…