Tangent much, Felicia? Right. Okay. So.
First day as a standby. I'm psyched because, by all viable accounts, being a standby means taking up French, or taking up knitting, or taking up French knitting (like making berets and such) to pass the time in between performance gigs -- which, after three months of crazy rehearsal and cross-continental travel while working for WICKED, is, in my opinion, truly exciting. (There it is again: dramatic irony!)
Presenting: Part 2! Which begins around...
Tuesday, March 30, 8:25PM
I'm sitting in the audience near the front of the house watching Act 1 alongside the delightful Libby Servais, our Glinda standby. If you're a cast member taking the night off to watch, you get to wear an extremely stylish "All Access Pass" lanyard around your neck, which, like all officiated displays of toolishness, is both fun and embarrassing. We're getting a kick out of the whole affair, taking great joy in seeing our friends perform their talented little butts off.
The rule about being a standby is you always have to be accessible to the stage manager, in case there's a glitch or you're needed backstage. This means either being in your dressing room (where you can hear the intercom pager) or having your cellphone handy. While sitting in the audience, I am equipped with the latter.
Eden Espinosa (our dazzling Elphaba) sings "Wizard and I." She is, as per usual, amazing, but I notice that she doesn't hold out the final note the usual duration. No biggie, she'll power through. "Loathing" happens, and is swell. The classroom scene, and "Something Bad," all great to watch. Dum dee dum, WICKED is such a great show! I think. La dee da, I'm in the audience, la dee da, this is a breeze! Then, right before "Dancing Through Life," when Eden has the chance to be offstage for a bit, I get a text. It's from my stage manager.
"Come backstage, please."
Eden is sick and doesn't think she can finish the show. The plan? Replace Eden as Elphaba mid-way through "One Short Day" (or, the Emerald City song). There is an ever-so-brief moment after the train station when Elphaba and Glinda run off up right and do a quick change to emerge in new costumes in time for the Wizard's Chamber and, eventually, "Defying Gravity." Eden will run off, and I will be poised to run on, as if nothing has ever happened... Such is the plan.
But first, the greenification! Getting green takes somewhere between 15 to 20 minutes, so, as soon as we get word that Eden is going to call out for the remainder of the show, the makeup, wig, and costume team, which comprises three or more people, sets to work on me immediately.
The atmosphere in the Elphaba dressing room was surprisingly bustling, bordering on frenetic. As I wrote in an earlier post, "it takes a village to raise an Elphaba" -- and (as I've seen, now that I've done the role five times total (yep, that's right, more on that soon!)) so much of my pre-stage-time prep relies on the finely tuned craft and coordination of the "Elphaba team," as it were.
The good news? All the dressing room activity on the night of March 30 didn't afford me a single moment to freak out. Rather, it forced me to carve out my own space for focus while still maintaining the ability to talk, interact, even joke around with everybody in the room. All in all, I think this was advantageous, because it primed me to be active, and in the moment, and just to take the plunge; I didn't psyche myself simply because I couldn't -- I had no time to dwell on the situation or get hyper analytical about the challenge that awaited me.
And, yes, indeed, it was a challenge, and there was much doubt. Particularly menacing, I thought as they speckled my face and neck with green, was the fact that I had to make my entrance only moments before the most vocally challenging song in the show ("Defying Gravity"), which is, on its own, difficult to sing, but even trickier if you have to do it while standing on the levitator (the contraption that makes Elphaba fly), a feat which I had done only once before at my put-in. Anyway, I was nervous, to say the least.
But, yep. I went on! And I did it. I did it! At this point, a straight-up linear narrative won't be the best way to capture it... so let me instead write down little bits from here and there...
Presenting: Glitches, Challenges, Discoveries, Tidbits, Revelations from My Elphaba Debut!
- Breathe. Just breathe. Seriously, Felicia. Breathe.
- Whoa, the lights onstage are bright. This is good... I almost don't see the audience! I almost forget they are there!
- Almost. There are hundreds of people watching. Thousands?
- I have never rehearsed with Kendra Kassebaum, our Glinda (had rehearsed only with Libby and Alexa Green, the Glinda understudy). This is exciting and forces me to stay in the moment. Kendra is fantastic to watch, and it's even more fantastic to perform with her. I step outside myself momentarily to admire her talent... then remember to get back into character, foo.
- In order to set the green makeup, our makeup artist has to use a ton of white dusty powder; as such, it's important not to breathe in as he applies, in case this should accumulate in your throat and dry you out before singing! Retouching happens frequently in the wings, particularly after rigorous songs like "No Good Deed," or ones where you have to rub faces, like "As Long As You're Mine."
- On a related note, Nic Dromard, our Fiyero, has to endure my nerve-induced sweatiness, and, moreover, its collateral green-makeup rub-offage. (Sorry, Nic!)
- Backing up to "Defying Gravity".... Getting into the levitator before I fly has always been really tricky for me. It's something that comes only with practice and repetition. Why is it so hard? Well, it's a multi-step process, that involves 1) moving your wig hair to the right to make sure it doesn't get caught as you 2) unhook your napsack on your right side, stage right of the levitator, 3) move center to step onto a tiny platform that's about as large as a laptop, all the while 4) sweeping your cape over the whole contraption with your left hand and holding the broom in your right and then 5) using your lower back to push a switch back to close a pair of metal clasps in front of your abdomen. This all happens in a matter of seconds.
- I am extremely nervous moments before this occurs. My mind is racing through steps 1-5 and, as I walk upstage to execute, I forget a crucial preparatory measure, which is to hold my broom vertically as I move in order to clear the narrow width created onstage between two "towers," or shelving unit set pieces. The cost of this minor oversight? I BROKE THE BROOM. It got caught horizontally between the set pieces, and I, determined not to miss my cue, just kept walking upstage toward the levitator unit. And then... craaaaaack. Broken broom.
- I performed "Defying Gravity," and it was pretty alright! Intimidation factor of high belting was offset by my desperate attempt to hide the fact that I was holding a measly broom tip that closely resembled a dustpan sweeper. Not exactly Act 1 Finale material. But I made due!
- My costume includes a green leotard that colors my arms and shoulders green during Ozdust and Popular. The material is HOT. And makes me sweat. A lot.
- Jumping to "No Good Deed," the dark horse, and therefore most sinister, song Elphabas everywhere must endure. It has a million high notes, comes late in Act II, after you've already been singing millions of songs, AND, in the case of sit-down productions like San Francisco or Broadway (as opposed to the national tours), requires that you exit stage R and then literally sprint backstage, down the stairs, under the stage to the orchestra pit, where a caged elevator awaits you to bring you up through the trap door in time to belt out a high, atonally pitched belty scream. You have to do all this while wearing a thirty pound dress, and you must simultaneously undo your hair in the back by removing a small bobby pin.
- After doing it myself, I totally take Eden Espinosa's advice to heart, which is to practice singing "No Good Deed" after running up and down stairs. Hot damn. It is hard. This will be one of my main goals as standby, to keep up with this vocal beast even if I'm not performing the role nightly.
In the meantime, please feel free to comment below or email my webmaster at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, all, for your support and enthusiasm! I so appreciate the wonderfully encouraging responses I've gotten so far. Again, forgive me for my sporadic blogging, but know that I will continue to try to keep you all abreast of my various Elphaba-related whereabouts.
As always, thanks for reading, and until next time, I remain, humbly,