Friday, March 29, 2013

Closing Day

It's closing day of Pinocchio. (Insert sight of relief from entire cast and crew) It's not that I haven't been having a good time. It's a wonderful job! However, I'm going into a very busy stretch for the next two months, and it will be very helpful to have my whole day to work, instead trying to put in a few hours after arriving home exhausted and ready for jammies at 3pm.

I realized this morning, after firing off a 3rd request for being reimbursed for a budget I fronted for a show that is now closed, that I am becoming less patient. Or perhaps less of a doormat. Alan calls this my Terrier mode. I am quite polite for the first two requests, but after that, I need to be paid. Now. I'm a professional. This is how I earn my money. And, I'm not afraid to begin the small courts claim process if I'm really annoyed.

In any other industry, it is unthinkable to not pay bills. But somehow in theater, things fall through the cracks, everyone is struggling, and there's often an attitude by the theater staff that we should be lucky to be paid at all, or worse, the idea that "We're struggling, so all of you should be thrilled to pitch in and help us survive by agreeing to accept pay late, or less pay, or wouldn't you like to donate your fee back to the theater?" Some people can, and do. I can't. And I'm kind of ticked off when they extend contracts, and and then act shocked when you try to enforce them. "Well, NOBODY is getting paid," they say with wide eyes, " We're not getting paid either."

Uh huh. That doesn't really count as an answer to: "When will I get my money?."

Most of the places I work are great, or fine. I get paid on time. I get budgets when I need them. And if they really truly can't pay me, they are very apologetic, and tell me when they will be able to. Now that I'm hemming twice as many pants, I'm not counting on my theater money to pay rent. But, a contract is a contract. I still pay bills and plan vacations with my costuming money.

This year, Alan and I came out significantly ahead of where we were the year before. But we still have financial goals we are working towards. We want to keep travelling once a year or so. We've paid down our debt, and one more really good year will finish it off. I'd like to start converting credit card payments we are no longer making into (gasp) health insurance and a RothIRA. But any little hicough at this point can still derail us. Especially when we were both working on the same project, and neither of us get paid at the same time.

But things are better than they were several years back. We have the luxury to be more choosy. And now is a good time for us to re-evaluate where we would like to work next season, based on our experiences this season.

(And I'm going to stop typing now, because I started this post this morning, and finished it after our last performance, and everyone who wasn't driving had champagne before we left for home....)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Looking the Part..

I get a lot of comments about how put together I am most of the time (these people are usually not the ones seeing me roll out of bed, throwing on workout clothes and a hair band and running out the door to put Fox makeup on). In a city like Seattle, where casual dress rules, and black polar fleece is your "dressy" coat, it doesn't take much effort to be the most dressed-up person in the room.

When it would be perfectly acceptable to go to all but the dressiest of occasions (weddings, etc) in jeans, why do I choose to dress up most of the time?

I'm sure it's a combination of factors: Partly, because I went to college in the South, where for most of four years I was the most casual woman on campus, and the only one without makeup. Partly because I spent a year out of college touring with a theater company, so makeup went on in the evenings after a day setting up for the show. I also spent 7 months in Cambodia, where any makeup I put on would sweat off within minutes. So, while I'm comfortable going around with a naked face if I have to, I prefer dressing up when I get a chance.

Another reason is the "What Not To Wear" philosophy, which I had discovered for myself when I was on tour. For the duration of my time with the dinner theater, I was the Kitchen Manager, and part of my duties included leading my own crew plus a team of volunteers to break down our travelling kitchen and pack it back into the trailers at the end of each night. At the time, for convenience's sake, I generally wore patched jeans, my uniform polo, and a headscarf, with my stage makeup have been recently removed. After overhearing several older male volunteers refer to me as "the little girl in the headscarf," I filed the idea away that, without makeup, at 5'2", to most older people, and especially older men, I could be mistaken for a teenager. I repeated this experience one day at the Thrift Store I managed. While managing the Costumes for the professional Opera in my college town, I'd noticed the same reaction from the older Tenor in the show. He treated me very differently as I ran around in my work clothes than he did at the cast party, when I had on a red dress and lipstick.

Upon moving to Seattle to begin forging a career as an Actress and Costume Designer, it was natural to dress up for auditions. How to dress for Costume Design Gigs took some thought. I chose to go into my first interview dressed to the nines. I had a very small collection of photos of my past costuming work, and no design degree. But what I did have was the ability to look professional, and to do research ahead of time to present. I got the first gig. I got another gig in film after that. A few films later, I was dressing an older Equity actor, and he told me that I was "The best-dressed costumer in Seattle." He treated me well, and gave me no problems.

From that point on I've made a personal decision to always look well when presenting myself as a designer. It inclines the women in the cast to trust that I'll dress them well if I dress myself well. The men I work with (either as production team, or in the cast) are more inclined to take direction from me. The parents of the children I'm costuming know from my appearance (they've told me) that I look like someone they want to have teaching their children how to wear clothes. So all in all, win-win.

Now, a lot of people I speak with say they don't have time to dress up. I've found this to be a cop-out. Dressing well doesn't actually take more time. if you go about it in the right way. The fastest clothes you can throw on your body is a dress and shoes (two pieces). It only takes me about 5 minutes longer to "dress up" than to walk out of my door with undone hair and a naked face. My full "ready to go" routine takes 40 minutes, including time for a bowl of cereal and a cup of tea.

Here are a few tips I've found that facilitate looking good, without taking more time.

1. Have a few flattering knit dresses. They're fast to put on. They can dress up with heels, or down with tights and boots. It's quick and easy and looks great.

2. Invest in a few Pashminas. They quickly finish off an "outfit" without any work picking out jewelry. They coordinate a slightly mismatched look, they can be a shawl if you end up in a cold restaurant or workspace, they can quickly cover your hair if it starts raining, and they look perfectly fine over a jacket, too.

3. Wear tights. I can cut 2-3 minutes off a shower if I'm running behind by not shaving my legs. For casual looks, footless tights and ballet flats look great.

4. Purchase hot rollers. That allows you to set your hair and put on makeup in the same 5 minutes, and generally, hot roller curls last longer than curling iron styling.

5. Minimize your makeup/hair routine. It shouldn't take an hour to put on evening out makeup, and less time for day wear. My day face is less than five minutes. I throw on my moisturizer just before I dry my hair. That lets it set prior to makeup application. Then I roll my hair (2 minutes), put on liquid foundation and powder (less than one minute), pat on cream blush on my cheekbones (5 seconds), use a Stila liquid eyeliner brush to line my top lid (10 seconds), add Mascara (15 seconds), and throw on lipgloss (10 seconds). That's my 2-minute face. Then I pull out the rollers and hairspray. Thanks to waterproof eyeliner, the look stays all day, and the only makeup I need to carry is lipgloss in my purse.

Ladies, it's not hard to look our best. Looking well makes us carry ourselves better, increases the initial reaction from people we interact with (though that's just the first impression. What matters in the end is your personality, work ethic, talent and ability), and why not start out a few steps ahead, rather than having to work hard to make people respect us "in spite" of our appearance.

Alan and I were having a similar discussion earlier this week about prepping for an audition. A friend was asking how to prepare a headshot and resume. The question was asked, why bother? Shouldn't talent and presentation matter more than whether or not you cut off the messy edges, or format your columns into pleasing lines? Of course the talent should be the important thing. The neatest resume in the world won't get you cast in a musical if you can't sing. But do you want your first impression to be carelessness, or lack of ability to follow directions?

The same can hold true to appearance. We are taught that personal appearance shouldn't matter. That's true to a point. Personal appearance shouldn't be the only thing that matters. There are far too many women who have bought into the idea that being beautiful and holding onto youth is the driving force in life. (I should know. I worked for them in Southern California) But there are more women; talented, driven, professional, fun, lovely women; who have gone to the other extreme. We have been setting out be taken seriously, and forgotten how to be feminine. I believe there is room for both. You can be professional and stylish. You can be busy and put together. And I believe, in the end, the benefit to looking like we respect ourselves, and enjoy our appearance, can only add to the collective attractiveness of our whole selves.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Show Ending

My kids show is down to our last three performances. We couldn't be happier. Some shows fly by, and you can't believe they are over. Some shows are a slog to the end. Usually this is a scheduling thing, rather than the actual show. In our case, we opened more than two months ago, and have had a lot of single-show days (rather than our full booking of 3) plus a lot of days off between multi-show stretches. The winter show slot has to work around all of the school Winter Breaks. 70-odd shows at one show a day takes a lot of time to get through.

The end of our run also involves a carpool and an hour commute. So, by the time we've driven down there, done two performances, and driven back, our day is almost over. Most of us still have to go straight to our evening jobs from there. So, all in all - we have a cast who is ready to be finished.

It's been a lovely group of people. One very nice side effect of having a show out of town, is that this particular theater likes to do all of the front of house management by themselves. So we have our Musical Director and Stage Manager hanging out with us between shows. That's been a nice change.

We've been talking shop a lot backstage this week. The first Big Theater is holding their general auditions this week, so everyone is comparing notes on audition material, tips and tricks, and sharing experiences. I did mine on Monday. I think it went well. It was for the theater that I did their Christmas show, so this year felt a little easier than the years before. After my audition, a young girl out in the waiting room wanted to know my audition tricks. So here they are:

1. Have an audition outfit. I went to a workshop at the Big Musical Theater house in town, and one of their tips was to purchase one outfit that looks great and you feel comfortable in. Wear this to every audition. They won't remember if you wear it several years in a row, but you will mentally be one more step ahead every time you step into your audition "uniform." (Also, you won't have to stress each time about what to wear)

2. Prep your music. Every couple of years I send my regular several audition pieces off to a musician who then arranges my cuts into standalone 1-2 page songs. He takes all of my markings and puts them into the score. That way, an accompanist can clearly see what I want him to do, rather than trying to decipher on the fly some scribbled on notes on a photocopied score. I've had compliments before on how helpful this is. My auditions will go better if an accompanist isn't mystified by my markings.

3. Use songs and monologues you've already performed in a show. The main tip from audition books and workshops is "Prepare. Prepare. Prepare." Put in the same work on your audition that you would for a show. My spin on that is to excerpt songs and monologues from shows I've done. That way, the work I've put into developing the character, learning how to time the moments, and some basic blocking, is already set in my performance.

4. Wear a GREAT pair of shoes. This isn't in any audition book. I have a pair of white with purple and pink floral heels from Italy. I picked them up from TJ Maxx one day. When I bought my first audition dress, they were the only shoes I owned that worked. In my first audition that year, I got compliments on my shoes. And almost every audition after, I got told "Great Shoes!" I don't care why they notice me. Hopefully my performance is part of the whole package. But if the shoes are what stick with them, more power to the shoes.

Alan says, "Some shows fly by, and some shows are a Bataan Death March to the End...."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Old Me....

I have moved quite often since leaving home for college, and hope to do more traveling. I want to live in a place long enough to get to know the culture, not just visit. My idea of the perfect day would involve sun, a breeze, a picnic blanket, a large hat, and as much of my library as I can carry.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Opening Night!

It's the part of the process I dread. The Gala function. At any other theater, production staff is encouraged to bring their significant other to opening night, with a cast party to follow. Here, since the seats are limited, and everyone's parents want to see their kids on opening night, I opt to go solo rather than pay to purchase a ticket for Alan, who would rather NOT pay to see cute children perform...unless he directed them. (Gala tickets are also twice as expensive, to cover the food and wine.)

So, instead of having my ever-ready built in auto-date, I am forced into a room full of enthusiastic parents, trying to think up something to say. I've adopted a social anxiety coping strategy for these situations:

1. Come into the office the day of opening. Tidy up the disaster that has invariably broken loose during the last few days of production. Triple that if there were hats to make.

2. Find reasons to leave just before the Gala starts. Today, it was returning unused hat decorations to recoup some budget.

3. Return after the festivities are just kicking off. Wear something REALLY great so people notice that you are there.

4. Disappear into your office. Invent work. Stage the shop to look as if "amazing and busy things" are happening. This is exciting for parents getting the tour.

5. Cross through the lobby. The great outfit should attract comments. Have brief, cheerful conversations with parents about how great their kids are. This is usually true. The kids work very hard. Even more raving if the child managed to get into costume with all pieces for photos.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5.

7. Emerge from office at the dinging of the "all call" bell. Watch performance. (Or in some cases, when teching multiple shows, skip performance. Work during run. Emerge at intermission to mingle. Go back to office during Act II.)

Time to go. The bell is about to ring.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The (hopefully) last 16 hour work day is here. I'm putting up Sweeney Todd this week, and we decided to go Steampunk with it. Which is really cool, but has SOOOO many hats and details to put in. Yesterday I built 15 hats. Today I have 11 more to do. Luckily, once I've hit on the way to do things, I can crank them out in about 20 minutes. The unique Steampunk hats I built for individual characters takes a little longer.

So I'm up early, trying to get a start on the day with a cup of tea.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Arghhhh.. Argh!!!!

Welcome, Daylight Savings time. It's so kind of you to happen on a day when I have three shows. Today is going to take an extra-shot latte.

In other news, I have officially run out of clean underwear. Alan and I came home from vacation to discover that our downstairs neighbor was ill. With pneumonia. He didn't leave his apartment for two weeks. The washer and dryer for our house is in his downstairs unit. (To be fair, we control the thermostat) I've made a point to do laundry on weekdays, while he is at work, so that I don't have to be invading his place while he is home. This has mostly worked well. My job tends towards evenings and weekends, with the option to sew from home during the week.

Yesterday, I realized while dressing for a callback, that I have no more clean underwear. Not even granny panties (went through them last week). Not even the REALLY uncomfortable ones for special occasions. In fact, in a desperate move, yesterday I wore a swimsuit bottom.

I know, I know. There is such a thing as hand washing. But I'm going into tech for Sweeney Todd tomorrow, and doing fittings tonight for Romeo and Juliet (which only rehearses once per week, so technically is closer to opening than Sweeney, even though it opens weeks from now). I forget to hand wash when I stumble home at night.

Maybe there's one more hidden in the suitcase I haven't had time to repack...

Saturday, March 09, 2013

It's not quite 8:00 and I'm awake. I'm getting ready to start dress rehearsals for Sweeney Todd on Monday, and this week has been chock full of 12-hour work days. Today, however, I have a callback at 11:00, and Alan and I are going to see "The Importance of Being Ernest" this evening. On the way, we are stopping at a restaurant for my very favorite Lavender Martini. The drink is nice, but the best part is licking the sugar off the glass.

The sun is shining this morning. Crocus are blooming in our yard. Daffodils were waiving from the median on my way to work yesterday. Our backyard birds are more plentiful than usual. (They should be. We purchase them the expensive seed. Pure Thistle Seed. Attracts finches. There is frequently a lineup of birds on our terrace waiting for their turn at the feeder. Our back porch is a little birdie crack den.) I saw two out of three hummingbirds at our feeder yesterday - which normally they won't do. Nevermind that there are four little plastic flowers on that thing to drink from. They will chase each other away. You would think the makers of hummingbird feeders would know this about them.

I love our bird feeders. Now, granted, it does make me feel a little elderly to get enjoyment from watching them with a cup of tea from my window seat. But in a hectic life, it's nice to take a break for a moment and watch another creature that is entirely focused on the moment. And it's cheap entertainment. Finches can't eat the seeds without cracking open the shell. So they have to hold the seed in their feet, peck it open, and gobble out the meat in the middle. They don't do this gracefully.

It's cheaper than a movie...

Friday, March 08, 2013

A very long hiatus...

Hello blog world... It's me. I know. It's been a long time. I've missed this. The thing is....after five years of working non-stop trying to "make it" in the theater world here, I became kind of boring. My hobbies are at a standstill, since my job involves being creative on a daily basis. I've journalled sporadically at best. Quiet time is at a nil. And I'm married. Which is wonderful, but means that most of my "spare" energy and time is spent trying to date my husband...or at least, fall asleep at the same time for a change.

I had an epiphany around Christmas this year. I finally, FINALLY got to do a great show at a real live, professional, "pay your actors" theater with great people and sold out performances every night but a handful in an 87-performance run - something I've been working towards since I moved here (minus the children's theater work I do, which pays really well). I'm making enough money that I've begun re-evaluating what to keep and what to give up for next season costuming-wise, since I don't have to take every gig offered just to make ends meet. Getting the second alterations gig this year means that my portion of the bills are covered by hemming pants, and anything I choose to do beyond that is "discretionary."

But niggling around in the back of my mind was a sense that I needed something more than work. That should be obvious. Every women's magazine in the checkout line has that right on the cover. I even need something more than a wonderful husband - as much as I love my marriage, Alan has more to do in life the exist at my beck and call, whenever I have time to spend.

My 'Blessed Company', which has been chosen across many years, many different versions of my life, many different cities and states, and sometimes even countries, had fallen a bit by the wayside. This is natural, I think, when one is entering into a relationship and then into the early stages of a marriage. But I felt bereft of friends and support, and missed the letters from one set; the phone calls and texted photos from another. Finally, at Christmas, when I had a few months with a little bit of downtime, I set about reconnecting.

Then, by a miraculous happenstance, Alan and I took a vacation. On our way, we discovered that the Texas branch of the Company was going to be on the same vacation we were - on overlapping dates. We managed to connect at the fort in St. Augustine, and Alan met the 2nd branch of the Company. It was a wonderful time, and so wonderful to connect parts of my life to each other. Alan now understands why I love the Scobells so much, and they why I love Alan.

So, I'm taking steps this year to try to balance. I'm making an effort to extend invitations to people here. I'm going to Thai with a Stitcher friend of mine next Saturday. I've made a New Year's resolution to exercize 52 times this year. Alan and I took a much-needed vacation. I've told a few people "no, I don't have time to do that." And I'm trying to let myself stop working sometimes. And maybe, just maybe, I'll blog again....

Friday, March 01, 2013

Older "Overheard"

Rachel: "How long until I get to walk down an aisle and smile at you?"

Alan: "Do you mean get married? Or just walk down an aisle. 'Cause we can go to Safeway."

Girl in audience: "I like the White Princess!" (Referring to the African-American actress in the white dress. Possibly my favorite Storybook moment)

Kid in audience: "How come you reference Lady Gaga when your show is CLEARLY medievil?" (MENSA candidate, that one.)

Alan: "Are you Grumpy? Sleepy? Happy? Doc? Any of the other dwarfs?"

Rachel: "No, I'm Sore."

Alan: "I don't think he's one of the dwarfs. Sore-y"

Rachel: "The Canadian dwarf."

Dame Trott: (At a Panto of Jack and the Beanstock) "Because if a joke's worth doing once, it's worth flogging to death!"

Grace: "Dear Storybook Theater, you fill my heart with joy."

Alan: (While watching Friends reruns) "...what's the scenario...I mean, was I snoring?"

Alissa: "Today I saw Jesus. He was dirty, he was where you would least expect to see Him. He didn’t have blue eyes, and He didn’t speak english. And I saw Him."

Rachel: "I'm short!"

Alan: "No, I'm short. I'm 5'8. You belong in a tree baking cookies."

Thomas: "So Austin, what are you not going to do between shows?"

Austin: "Eat Sugar? Break my arm?"

Kid at Restaurant: "Guess what I did yesterday?"

Rachel: "What did you do?"

Kid: "I went to the SPACE NOODLE!"

(His Mom starts cracking up)

Rachel: "And how was the Space Noodle?"

Kid: "It was AWESOME!!!!"

Constance: "The wrap party for FACE was really fun. I played you in the scenes!"

Rachel: "What did you have to do? Wander around making inappropriately timed non sequetors with a tape measure around your neck?"

Constance: "I had to look great first of all. I had to be a little cranky on the day I didn't have my coffee first. I had to primp everyone, it was so fun."

Scooter: "Oh no, don’t avoid Costco. Costco is good. Costco is addictive. Costco is where you sell your immortal soul to Mephistopholes for a 24-pack of Twinkies, four tires, a new laptop, 50 rolls of kitchen towels, a case of top-class wine, 10 lbs of Rib Eyes and the aforementioned car. None of which you needed. All before noon. And then you top it up with a $1.50 hot dog/diet coke combo. Costco is heaven. Try it out now." (From LittleRedBoat)

Abby: "What is with all this sun? I want it to be rainy again for another month!"

Me: "You see, this proves you aren't a true Seattle-ite."

Amelia: "But WHY didn't they make Anne faint into Gilbert Blythe's arms? It would have been sooooo much more romantic!" (Another promising feminist bites the dust.)

Teri: (referencing her recent cold)...And as soon as they heard me do announcements, the whole congregation went, "Oh my god, she's going to serve communion."

(At the homeless shelter)
Woman: I don't get Seattle's coffee thing. Why do people stand in line to buy a four dollar cup of coffee. Where I'm from we just drink Jo.

Me: Is this your first Seattle Winter?

Woman: Yes.

Me: Wait until February.