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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The source of my temporary insanity

I still do not have internet in my apartment (AT&T, YOU ARE BEYOND EVIL) and so am jotting down this entry from that pleasant cafĂ© I mentioned a few posts back.  'Twill be brief, and I will shirk all of my writerly responsibilities to provide context or explanation.  Behold!  Pictures of my rehearsal script, or, The Source of My Temporary Insanity (click to enlarge):

In other news, last night I watched the British film "Children of Men" with Etai (BenShlomo, playing Boq), who is now my next-door neighbor. I am fairly certain I have been scarred for life (not because of Etai, because of the movie).  Note to self: Do not cap off day of intense rehearsal with apocalyptic film.  The real point of this anecdote is that I would like to declare officially that Etai is majorly cool, and we have bonded over our newbie-ness.  I promised I'd give him a shout out, so here it is: holler, Etai! Holler!  (You'd better be reading this, Etai.  I refuse to let precious word count go to waste.)

Okay, must run.  I have begun braving the San Francisco public transportation system.  It is a trip. (<-- Literally! Wacka.)

Stay tuned for my next post: Musings On Rehearsal Wardrobe, or, Why I Have Been Looking So Bad Lately.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The countdown begins

February 5, one week from Friday, will be the date of my put-in rehearsal.  That evening I will join the cast of WICKED.

A put-in rehearsal involves the entire cast but is held for the specific benefit of one or more newbies.  My put-in will be not exclusively for me, but will include Etai BenShlomo (new Boq) and Jody Gelb (new Morrible).  Something which I'm sure is amusing for spectators (of which there will be none, except for select production members) is that the three of us (Etai, Jody, me) will be wearing our WICKED costumes (wigs, microphones, makeup, etc.) but the rest of the cast will be in their street clothes!  That's right: Elphaba won't be green, flying monkeys will be regular dudes, Glinda will be in jeans.  Pretty weird, right?  But kind of funny.  I would pay money to see that.  Except I get to see it anyway.  In any event, all other technical aspects will replicate those of a performance (set, lights, sound), so those of us who are in minor hysterics over the fact that we need to start performing the damn thing furrealz will have the chance to practice it one time, full-out, with everyone present (as opposed to with figments created by one or more swings).  My deeper hope is that my put-in will be a gloriously cleansing apotheosis, whereby my timid, unrehearsed self will undergo an elemental transmutation, from Sings Wicked In The Shower to Certified Wicked Cast Member.  Either that, or it will merely have all the practical benefits of doing the show with the full company.  Most likely the latter.

This Friday, one week before the put-in, we are having an understudy / new cast member "stumble through" on the actual stage stage, where Team Newbie performs all we've learned individually with understudies and/or ensemble members who, combined, comprise the majority of the cast (numbers-wise we will be missing a few parts, but all the moments of essential interaction should be covered).

Pretty out there, right?  I've got to dash tonight, but my next Blog ploy is to publish photos of my script and blocking notes so you guys can have a quick glimpse at the kind of detail one is required to memorize in order to be fully assimilated into the production.  It probably won't make much sense.  At best, I will show you how messy my handwriting is and will feel like someone who is esoterically creative.

Yours in truth,

Monday, January 25, 2010

I sympathize with rockers who trash their hotel rooms

As Monday is the Saturday-equivalent for theater folk, I write now from what I imagine to be a quintessentially Californian coffee shop: warm, inviting, with truly delicious offerings and dulcet pan-ethnic music playing at the most appropriate of volumes.  While there were but two free WiFi coffee shops in a twenty block radius of my former Hell's Kitchen, NYC, apartment, San Francisco is practically littered with them.  It is emblematic of the vibe here: everything and everyone is open and giving.  And I am so un-judged.  I can just, like, drink coffee and use WiFi.  Whatever, no pressure.  Pay for internet? What?  

I have just moved into my new apartment, and am having the most spectacular of Mondays off!  But while I am now aboard the Good Ship Lollipop of San Franciscan Dreams and Ideals, it wasn't until today that I was free to disembark another, much more odious vessel: the rogue pirate ship known to locals as the Whitcomb Hotel (and known to WICKED cast members as "the Sh**comb"). 

Looking back on the past two weeks, I have concluded that the Whitcomb Hotel must be a parallel universe where all logic and practicality ceases to exist (that's right, I mix metaphors, like a literary bartender (<-- and embed bad similes for further confusion)).  While, in a prior post, I referenced the indispensability of the Do Not Disturb sign, it turns out that, at The Whitcomb, you are actually supposed to put it on the door if you want someone to knock at 8AM.  And if you want to chat on the phone?  Well, every place in the hotel has cell reception except the rooms and hallways.  Luckily, to compensate, I had the semblance of company: Room 265 was directly next to the snack, soda, and ice machines, which continuously rumbled such that, if I put my head under my pillow, the noise reminded me of a bustling freeway!  Delightful!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I did not know Al Capone had syphilis

Totally non-WICKED-related news: Today I toured Alcatraz!  It was way cool, and I learned from the audio tour that Al Capone had syphilis.  Behold!  Crappy photos of Alcatraz that I took on my camera phone!

Regarding the specifics of my ensemble track

Good morning, folks! Just jotting a quick reply to a submitted-via-comment question (as denoted by the elegant rendering of several QUESTION MARKS at left, an aesthetic choice I do not think I will make again) asking which vocal track I'll be singing in the ensemble.  This is a good question with a slightly complicated answer.  While I am taking over as Elphaba understudy, I am inheriting a combination of Angel Reda's vocal track and Laura Pugliese's staging track.  So with all group and unison singing, I dance as if I'm Laura and sing as if I am Angel (who is on the alto line).  For solo lines, however, which are assigned according to staging, I sing as if I'm Laura.  (This means I sing the solo: "I hear that she can shed her skin as easily as a snake" in "Thank Goodness.")

Thanks for the question, Anonymous (who may, for all we know, be a super hero).


Friday, January 22, 2010

To my readers: You are so nice!

Dearest Unnaturally Green Readers,

Well, hello!  You DO exist!  I am bowled over by all the super-nice comments I've been getting from what I thought was a purely hypothetical audience (well, excluding my mom).  Thank you all for your positive feedback!  I'm delighted to have the chance to take you along on my WICKEDly wild ride.  I will do my best to answer any questions you may have, which you can submit via the Blog's comments section, or via an email to my site's webmaster:

Onward!  It's been a few days, and there's much to report.  I'm thinking frenetic, nonsensically ordered, bullet-point-y paragraphs will do the trick.  Here I go...

TWO WEEKS UNTIL MY FIRST PERFORMANCE! AAAAAH!  Progress report embedded in subsequent writing...

While in my first week I rehearsed solely with the dance captain and her assistant (and so learned firsthand the feeling of being a free-floating particle in an expansive musical theater vacuum), this second week has given me the chance to interact with some of my fellow cast members-- meaning, namely, 1) I rehearsed some more of my dancerly jumps, this time spending an hour or so with the partners with whom I will actually dance during the show.  Both of the dudes were awesome, and their performance M.O.s were along the lines of, "We will do what it takes to make sure you look good."  Which is outstanding news for me.  But, in truth, lately I've been feeling a million times more confident about my ability to exist onstage without looking like this.  2) Today I had a vocal rehearsal with three other members of the cast (DJ, Alex, and Penelope), and we sang through all of my vocal moments as a quartet in order to best replicate the sound of an entire company.  This rehearsal rocked, as it was exhilarating to sing the score with three other great voices.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sunny California

WICKED rehearsals roll on-- but, more pressingly: I need to buy an umbrella.  This has become one of those wholly un-fun but indisputably necessary errands that I have put off for so long that, by this point, it's almost too late for me ever to accomplish it.  Even though it has been raining nonstop, and is supposed to rain all week, and for the fact that umbrellas can never become obsolete (unless it turns out I am living in a weird doomsday film), I still have not been able to muster up the gumption to seek one out.  Umbrellas are mysterious.  Where does one buy an umbrella?  Walgreens?  Maybe.  But in terms of minimizing energy output, is it worth the risk to go look?  I mean, this is San Francisco!  I thought rain was to Californians what snow is to Texans!

Am I really this lazy, you ask?  Well, yes. I've been feeling totally pooped out from all the WICKED-ing.  But I think I'm over a hump in terms of learning staging, because we've officially completed the first pass through the ballroom dance scene.  And, to brighten things up, as of yesterday there are people here who are even newer than I am! As the stage manager (somewhat facetiously) put it to me: "you're last week's news."

The newbie cast members are Etai BenShlomo, who will be playing the role of Boq, and Jody Gelb, who will be playing the role of Madame Morrible.  Not sure when exactly they're scheduled to start performing, but I'm guessing it's a week or two after I do.

In other exciting news, on my day off I was able to stroll along the streets of what will be my new neighborhood, and I couldn't be more pleased!  I'll post two or three pictures from said stroll at the end of this post.

Well, that's all for now.  Just a brief update from the confines of my hotel room before I venture out into the Great San Francisco Torrent of 2010.  I am more or less a latter-day Shackleton, who also sings and dances.

Until next time,

P.S. Pics below!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Every Monday is a vacation day!

Greetings, Fearless Readers,

Today is Monday, and so is my first official day off!  And not just because it's a holiday!  In the theater world, your work week spans from Tuesday evening to Sunday afternoon.  We at WICKED adhere to the "Broadway schedule," which is eight performances per week (one every night except Sunday and Monday)-- with matinee (afternoon) shows 2PM Wednesday and 2PM Sunday.  So, essentially, we have our weekend va-cay from Sunday around 5PM until our half hour call on Tuesday at 7:30PM.  Weeeee!

How have I spent my day thus far? Well, I woke up feeling rather dehydrated and so sneaked down to the adjoining Starbucks and loaded up on water and tea. I did this all without getting out of my pajamas, but rather sheathed myself in a long wintery coat before wandering down, half asleep.  I then scampered upstairs and back into bed.  Housekeeping be damned!  I live and die by my Do Not Disturb sign.  Ah, hotel living. Then I had a ridiculously long video chat with my illustrious LDBF (long-distance boyfriend).  And now I am still in bed. Writing this post.

Sooner or later I will be productive, and will review the comedically complex dance routine I finished learning yesterday with the assistant dance captain Allison.  She is way cool and talented, and swings into several ensemble parts when they need covering (remember all that understudying terminology we went over?).  Rehearsal with her was grueling, but also reassuring, because we reviewed and clarified all of the super tricky parts.  It felt kind of like going over a baffling calculus equation again and again, except each pass through, I was expected to embody, through dance, the different variables and operations. Luckily, Allison is great at explaining the dances in quasi-literary terms that I find quite helpful, like: "In order to space it out, imagine you are each standing at the tip of a flower petal," or, "in this moment, it is like you are unfurling a flag, except you are the flag." Things like that.

Other cool news is on Saturday I didn't have any formal rehearsal, so was given the chance to watch the show from backstage!  This was REALLY NEAT-O.  Yes: neat-o.  Here are general impressions and a disordered smattering of details...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Glitch: real

The ceiling is leaking. 

Bright side: it is directly over the tub?

Technical glitches, real and metaphorical

This just in: the number of technical glitches that have occurred during this last week of WICKED performances account for almost one third the total sum of glitches for the entirety of this show's West Coast run.   Examples: last night, the levitation lift in "Defying Gravity" (the Act I Finale) didn't work, but this has apparently happened only two other times.  Then, tonight, the computer controlling the set and other related technical cues jumped ahead, so there was scenery traffic and all kinds of weird malfunctions.  Neither, thankfully, was earth-shattering (and I don't know that the audience could even really tell), but nevertheless-- it makes one think:

If this were a science experiment, and WICKED California were a perfectly stabilized liquid compound in a beaker, then this week that compound would have started to bubble, and Mr. Perkins, my sophomore year chemistry teacher, would ask me to identify the catalyst, and I would say, Mr. Perkins, I can't think straight, because our double period is scheduled over lunch, and you don't let us eat in the lab, I'm really hungry, and he'd say, just answer the question, and I'd say, I'm pretty sure the beaker is bubbling because we've added a new element called FELICIA RICCI.

Incidentally, I could be wrong, because I did pass much of my time in chemistry trying to figure out how to spell my name using the Periodic Table (which, by the way, is: Iron, Lithium, Carbon, Iodine, Argon, Iodine, 2Carbon, Iodine.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Unflattering photos and other miscellany!

When one is inserted into a pre-existing company, the first few weeks of rehearsal are, in a word, insane. In, like, a good way, but also in a way that makes me want to hide under a rock.  So this post might be kind of all over the place, and also indulgent, in the sense that its main function will be for me to try to get a handle, through writing, on the stuff I've learned.

Presenting, a random assortment of information from the past two days:

Am understanding gradually the definitions of those theater-y terms of which I had always feigned knowledge.  Like: An understudy is someone in the cast who regularly plays one role (or "track," which often means an assortment of multiple roles) but who "covers" one or two (or more) principle roles. Often in the ensemble, he or she fills in when the person usually playing the corresponding principle role is out sick or on vacation.  I, for example, will perform in an ensemble track (called 3F, if you want to know the sexy insider lingo) and will understudy the principle role of Elphaba. A stand-by is someone who does not perform regularly in the cast but whose only job is to fill-in for the principle role to which they are assigned. For example, both Elphaba and Glinda have a stand-by (respectively), and neither stand-by plays another role in the production. Stand-bys are first in line when the principle is out. The understudy is next in line after that. A swing is someone who understudies a number of ensemble roles-- essentially, an ensemble understudy. Dude, these folks are ridiculously on top of their shiz. One really cool gal named Kristen knows all the vocal parts and dance combos for every single ensemble track (I think there are twelve total)! Then there are these other people called universal swings who rove the globe heroically filling in for WICKED companies if they need a track covered when that show's casting is in flux. Insanity!

Unrelatedly, here is an unflattering photo of me at my wig fitting:

In other news, I found out from Steve the associate conductor that Stephen Schwartz wrote into WICKED's score a bunch of musical allusions, or quotations, from The Wizard of Oz. He revealed to me that the melody during the "unlimited, my future [is unlimited...]" section in "The Wizard and I" is the same tune as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow!" My head nearly exploded!

Since I am a replacement cast member, my staging rehearsal has thus far involved the dance captain playing all other people's roles around me while I try to map out my particular pathways along a sort of Battleship-like grid (there are numbers across the front of the stage to describe stage L versus stage R, and then there are other markings to determine depth of my position).  Without getting too into the nitty-gritty, let me just say that today really made me appreciate just how precise and detail-oriented WICKED is.  There is, of course, room for interpretation -- and, dare I say, acting! -- but everything from a head flick to the angle of one's stance is evaluated for its clarity of expression and cohesiveness with the whole.  Musical theater is a veritable playground for those with OCD-like tendencies!  But that's what you gotta do, cuz that's what, like, makes it good and stuff.

Yes, yes, long-windedness alert, I know.  There is just so much to describe!  A few more bullet points...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Holy Shiz, it's been a long day

So tired...must sleep...sorry not to follow through with promise of updates; will soon...Saw the show tonight, got to wear an All Access pass, which made me feel rather badass...Teal Wicks was phenomenal as Elphaba, I am way impressed (and intimidated!)...Met much of the cast backstage! They are cool and friendly!...Have my first dance/staging rehearsal at noon tomorrow, at a location that is not the theater, which means I will have to suck it up and navigate San Francisco's public transportation system, which people say is easy but which for me is a quagmire of slang and monosyllabic words that sound like punky teenagers.

Goodnight, friends, imaginary and real.


First day of rehearsal

Greetings, faithful readers! Just got back to my hotel after having nearly completed my first day of WICKED rehearsal! I have a one hour break for dinner before I must return to the theater for a wig fitting, followed by my seeing the show with David, the stage manager, from the audience. (I learned today that watching the show will comprise a lot of my rehearsing/studying, and apparently I can do it in different places-- i.e. the orchestra section, the mezzanine, the sound booth, backstage... hm, this sounds like an alternate chorus to that Shaggy song.)

How can I possibly describe my experience today? For starters, it's become more and more clear to me that the whole being cast in WICKED thing, from start until now, cannot be pared down to a single moment in time where BAM!-- it suddenly hits me, or something like this. On the contrary, it has all (thus far) unfolded in a way that is relatively manageable, and each day I must incrementally acclimate myself to new, given circumstances. Even being hired, for instance, was a kind of process, as opposed to a moment: I got a call from my agent the morning after my callback, but she told me that while I was the casting director's first choice, he needed me to go to a costume fitting first to be sure I could fit the costumes! (At which point I deeply regretted the way I spent my Thanksgiving.)

With respect to rehearsal, and orienting me, I've been so pleased with how the company has taken steps to make sure I don't implode from all the overwhelming newness.

--ALERT!-- I feel a bout of long-winded-ness coming on... And, worse, I must now depart for rehearsal, Part Deux. But I will be sure to bullet point some nifty details from today upon my return!

To be continued...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Flying high...

Here I go, writing my first blog post in the thick of the action, aboard Virgin Flight 23, JFK--> SFO. I first want to say that Virgin is tricked out in the style of a very exclusive, very mobile, night club. There is neon purple lighting and the bathrooms play smooth jazz. Although I am not live-blogging right now, the airplane happens to be equipped with free WiFi (no charge for internet but must pay $8 for hummus and carrots). All going well here at 30,000 feet. See you on the ground...

Have arrived at a hotel across the street from WICKED's Orpheum Theater. Tired from travel. Had forgotten what hotels are like. This one is old with nifty navy and gold moldings. Semi tricked-out room for the WICKED company rate. Sweetness.

Ack, a lightbulb blew.

Must nap. First rehearsal begins tomorrow afternoon at 1PM. Determined to dazzle with my hyper-preparedness, though main goal is not to fall on my face, in any sense.

Might see two of my good college friends for dinner. Heard from Lee Wilkof (with whom I had a lovely lunch last week in NYC) that area around theater can be somewhat shady at night, so must figure out viable means of transportation. Or will just make those brosephs come to me. I vote the latter.

And, oh yes! Welcome to my blog, Defying Gravitas: Are You Sure You Wanted to Hire Me? Just kidding, that's not what it's called.

The actual title is: UNNATURALLY GREEN, which is inspired by a Stephen Schwartzian song lyric that describes Elphaba, WICKED's heroine, at birth, and more or less describes me right now, in my first-ever production contract. Green. Unnaturally green. Wacka wacka. Sure, I've done paid theater work before, but never for an extended period, as a job job. WICKED marks my first super-duper professional gig. (Briefly: The second part of the subtitle is not entirely true, as I spent my first year in New York City writing the blog for an electronic medical records company. As you can imagine, the content was significantly different. So allow me to fudge the truth slightly-- UNNATURALLY GREEN is my first personalized, theater-related blog. Because people have multiple blogs these days, apparently.)

Blog goals? Um...hoping to set a tone that is--can ya tell--pretty irreverent, somewhat fragmentary, never long-winded, maybe interesting enough to read! Content will include behind the scenes glimpses at rehearsal and performances, recounting of my San Franciscan adventures, and personal musings about the bizarre and miraculous turn my life has taken, from semi-profesh, wide-eyed dilettante to production-contract-wielding dilettante...

I wonder if anyone will read this. My vote is probably not. (Under content goals, add: embody the tree that falls silently in an unpopulated wood.)

Or maybe you are actually out there?

Either way-- see you soon, hypothetical audience--