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Saturday, May 8, 2010

How I prep for my Elphaba shows

Using basic reasoning and even the most rudimentary aesthetic sense, the answer to this past Tuesday's trivia question was letter D: Conan O'Brien should shave his beard.  Which would hopefully leave one to deduce that letter C was false.  Which would leave one to further deduce that on Tuesday I went on as Elphaba!  Hooray!

Also, anyone who disagrees with letter D should look at this:

To elaborate on letter C, I will now post a time-stamped account of how I prep for an Elphaba performance. My goal is to indulge in the inconsequential nitty-gritty details, everything from when I warm up to how long it takes me to get my makeup on to when and how often I go to the bathroom. Well, maybe not that last part. But maybe. (There could be, like, an optional "For Unsqueamish Eyes Only" post addendum, kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure novel when you can either enter the castle unscathed, but without the princess, or wade into the swamp, embracing a life of infamy and destitution, in order to find true love.) (Except that this is not at all what it will be like.)

Presenting, the premiere installment of: SURPRISE! YOU'RE ON AS ELPHABA! (May 4, 2010)

1:06PM Wake up. No idea where I am. Find I am lying in a bale of hay, surrounded by what look like empty egg crates. There is a pickle on a string that has been doused in lighter fluid. Reach in my purse for my cell phone-- it's been stolen! In its place there is a note, scrawled in red ink: "If you want your phone back, call this number." Clever girl.

Alright, let me start again, furreal.

9:45AM Wake up, think something along the lines of, "I WANT PANCAKES.  Oh, and, huh, it's been over two weeks since I've been on as Elphaba! I hope I still know my lines."

10:15AM Ask my boyfriend if we can run lines together. "Only if you pay me in movie tickets," he says.   Just kidding, he doesn't say that-- he yells it. Just kidding, he agrees, happily, saying, "What could be better than playing Madame Morrible-- again. I will switch up the accents and make her German." He also doesn't say that.  But he does agree and is probably medium to very happy about it.

12:15PM Pack up a pair of totes and towels before we head to Yerba Buena park, where we will lay out and recite WICKED in its near-entirety.  Before walking out the door, I hear my phone beep. Behold! A text from Eden Espinosa! "It's all you tonight, girl. Have fun!"


For the record, Eden is super cool and elects to text me herself, but not all principals are expected to do this for their standbys. The more standard protocol is for an actor to notify stage management if s/he is out, and the SM will then call the standby and/or understudy. But hearing from Eden herself gives me more time to prep. Plus it's sweet to get a text from Eden Espinosa because she's, um, Eden Espinosa.

Anyway, back to 12:15PM. Although at this point it's probably more like 12:16PM.  So, I'm excited -- way excited -- and think to myself, good thing I had planned to run my lines today! Nervous laughter, nervous laughter.

2:32PM Finish running lines, forget a few "ohs" and "wells" but overall okay (yes, my lines have to be word-perfect)! I guess I do remember everything. Phew. Review stage management blocking and acting notes from my last Elphaba performance. Since I haven't had a chance to rehearse in between shows, each new performance functions more or less like a rehearsal, in the sense that you have to take all your notes and try to apply them, live, in front of an audience.  Double gulp.

4:02PM Take a shower, warm up in said shower.  Make the water extremely hot so it steams my face off.  Not literally.  But it does open up my sinuses.  I usually warm up for about fifteen minutes, ending with my favorite belter warm up, where you sing "hand me my hat!" on ascending arpeggios.  The trick is to keep going as high as possible, or until your neighbor yells "I DON'T HAVE YOUR HAT," whichever comes first.

4:20PM Obviously I do not dry or style my hair, as I will be getting into pin curls and a wig in the not-so-distant future. 

5:05PM Dinner! On this particular day I eat spaghetti and chips (CARB FEST, USA).  I take care to eat rather early so that nothing heavy is sitting in my stomach during the show.  So even if, as in this case, I have a massive Italian-Mexican sampler, as long as its early enough things should be a-okay by the time the curtain rises.

5:30PM Head to the Orpheum Theater, wearing a bad-hair-disguising hat, to enter the WICKED lottery on behalf of my boyfriend, who can't go himself because he is at work.  That's right-- I played the lottery for my own show.  (Without getting into too much detail, it's more cost effective for me to do this (we do have a staff discount rate, but it varies depending on the show, and the seat location is often not as good as the lottery seats).)

5:43PM Enter Orpheum through the stage door, drop off my stuff in the Elphaba dressing room.  As the Elphie Standby, I have my own dressing room downstairs that I share with the Glinda Standby, Libby Servais, but on the nights when we're on, we use the principals' upstairs dressing rooms.  All our costumes and other accouterments are swapped in by our dressers.

5:47PM I paint my nails green using the 50-seconds-til-dry nail polish we keep stashed in the Elphie dressing room.

5:59PM Lottery time! Run into a handful of delightful WICKED fans, including the inimitable Joe Weinberg, who runs my fan page and is an all-around cool dude, and Bettie, theater aficionado.  During this exchange, I am drinking from a massive 1.5 liter water bottle, the goal being to finish it before 7:30PM.  I realize that it is completely uncouth, but hydration trumps decorum.  Oh, and I end up winning the lottery! Very fun and silly. 

6:21PM Back in the ol' dressing room.  I am rather early for the 7:30PM call, so I chill out on the couch and have a delightful chat with Kathleen, the Elphaba dresser (blog article on her coming up soon, by the by).  Libby arrives a few minutes later-- it turns out she's on as Glinda!  AAAAH STANDBY CRAZINESS AAAAAH!

At precisely 7:00PM I eat a banana.  This is very important, as it is the last thing I will eat before the show begins. Here is something you should know about me: I love bananas.  I ate a banana one hour before my WICKED audition and before my callback.  Now, I'm not making any crazy claims-- all I'm saying is, I got the job, and I think it was because of the banana.

7:05PM I pee.

7:08PM More water, lots and lots of water.

7:20PM I take the last ten minutes before the official Elphaba prep starts to do some warm-downs ("I'm Not That Girl" gets rather low (E below middle C!)).  I also change out of my real-person undergarments and put on my costume undergarments, which include a green leotard and a black bra that holds my two...microphones.  (YES-- I wear two microphones. And YES-- I wear a bra.)

7:30PM Our awesome makeup designer comes into my dressing room and begins the greenification

7:45PM Mark, our wig supervisor, comes in and does my wig prep.

7:57PM I suck on a Ricola.  TMI? Nah.

8:00PM At the places call, I'm just about ready.  One more trip to the bathroom (the Elphaba leotard unsnaps on the bottom, so I can still do this, ya know. TMI! I know, I know.  I promised you could choose your own adventure, but I definitely lied about that). 

8:05PM Show begins.  I usually sing along to the opening number from my dressing room, alternating between my old ensemble vocal part and Glinda's high soprano solo.

8:12PM Right around the time when everyone sings "GREEN!" in unison, I make my way backstage and enter upstage of the clock drop from stage right, retrieving my suitcase, which has been preset just in-stage of the wing.

8:15PM And then... GO!

Okay, well.  I hope this post was at least moderately enjoyable.  I'm sorry it was so indulgent, but then again I am not sorry, because the indulgent part of me is just like, "I indulged, that's what I did."

Indulgently yours,


  1. this is awesome Felicia! looking forward to May 22 show :)

  2. Oh my, Felicia! All I can think of between chuckles! I heard Libby went on that night too! :) So cool for you guys! :)

    By the way too much info in spots, but cute blog entry! ;)

    I saw your SF friends (Vicki & Natalie) in Durham that night. :) They blew everyone away! At 8:15 your time I was already done with my experience!

    If I see them in Charlotte I will pass your message along to them, for you. :) Your letter missed me by 24 hours! :) Thanks for the picture, by the way!

  3. To the Wickedly Honorable Felicia,

    Haha! Just Love reading your blog! Such great Elphie info written with spectacular wit!
    Thanks so much for sharing.


  4. So fun! I'm sitting here cracking up.

  5. most awesome blog yet, yes.
    especially the "7:05PM I pee." part.
    and im actually very glad you told us about
    the leo that unbuttons "down-there" (trying to make that sound less creepy then it actually is....)

  6. I absolutely loved reading this. ;) Not TMI at all! In fact, if you feel like answering a TMI question: what happens if you need to go to the bathroom during the show? Surely with all that hydration a bathroom trip is necessary -- is the only opportunity between acts? - Ali

  7. Your engaging prose lifts us out of our greenless lives and catapults us with you as you magically metamorphose from the inimitable Felicia into the equally inimitable Elphaba.
    I am jubilantly counting the clock-ticks until May 22!!!

  8. 1. Conan definitely needs to shave.
    2. Madame Morrible would be awesome in German
    3. You won the lottery for the show in which you were starring that night. God bless $25 tickets.
    4. Bettie. (love you, BS!)
    5. That you thought sharing with us that you suck on a Ricola was TMI is priceless (unless "Ricola" is some new euphemism I'm not familiar with).
    6. Thanks for sharing. What delightfully fascinating insight!

    But mostly this: "There is a pickle on a string that has been doused in lighter fluid." Win.

  9. I love it. If i got to choose my own adventure, i'd choose this one. Again and again!

  10. Great entry! I always thought the standbys still used their own dressing room when they were on. And that's really cool that Eden texts you herself!

  11. I love your blogs, they sound so exciting! I don't think any of that was TMI, I'm sure people wonder! I never win the lottery and I've done it 3 times already, boo. Maybe I should try eating a banana before the names are called! My husband has an obsession with banana's.

    Annnnd.... I'm super SUPER excited to see you as Elphaba on the 23rd! Yay :)

  12. This was so GREAT! I love hearing about what it's REALLY like. What happens if you feel the need to crap in the middle of the show!? ;)

  13. Please write a novel at some point in your life. Pick a topic, any topic. Your writing style is captivating.

    Oh, yeah, and good job with being green

  14. Thanks so much Felicia this is really great. I hope in a future blog, you will block out an entire performance and whats going on for you between scenes, etc.

    Look forward to seeing you live again soon!


  15. Awesome, Felicia! The first thought that came to mind while reading your preparation is that it is kinda like what an athlete does before a game (considering how physically demanding the role of Elphaba is). Thanks for sharing! I can't wait to see you on the 22nd!

  16. Another stupendous entry Felicia!
    I can't believe they don't comp you guys tickets! It's kinda crazy. (this blog and your tweets caused me to see the show at least 2 add'l times, so that's 4 tix) My buddy who is in a band always has a guest list. (I'll hold a rally for you if you want, lol)
    btw- I agree that Conan's beard is rather odd looking. I actually saw him 3 times on the very same stage where you perform when he was in San Francisco about 3 years ago.

  17. This made me laugh,

    and it's great to get such an insight into the behind the scenes stuff!

    I found a video of you singing defying gravity on youtube (I know illegal) but since I live in Australia there is little chance for me to come and see you. However I thought you were brilliant and if I do end up in the states for whatever reason, I hope I get to see a show with you in it!!

    I love your blog!

  18. Wow. That much water and I'd be floating on stage, and, knowing the size of MY bladder, I'd be half-way into "What Is This Feeling?" and be praying for "Dancing Through Life."

    LOVE your blog to death! And what someone else said, I'd also love to read about the blocking, etc. Details, girl. We LOVE the details.

  19. THNX for spelling my name properly...THNX for the lottery luck and you forgot to mention that M and I had the BEST seats in the house to see you rock TWAI. When you raced on stage, he lit up with a smile that equaled the spotlight shining down on your face. It was fun to sit with someonw who also knows every line of dialogue in the show.
    Anonymous! who is Anonymous? I'd like to thank them for their declaration of love (see May 8, (9:00)

  20. OK. So you use the word "prep", as in vocal prep, and all we get is a bunch of SAT type test prep course ads. (Although I was surprised there was none for Preperation H, I don't think that's what you wee going for.)(Except THAT was one right there, wasn't it.)(Nevermind)

  21. AMAZING. lucky girl. also, you're very talented. :)

  22. LOVE this run-down on the prep! So cool! I just saw your SF buddies Vicki and Natalie perform in Charlotte...both amazing!!

    Driving the long 2.5 hours back to Asheville, my friend Amy and I were (of course) talking giddily about the show. Clearly, there's no other way to discuss Wicked. But we had question about the Wicked Witch of the East song, which is not on the CD. It's Nessa's big moment, so it's really a shame!

    Any ideas, thoughts, or pithy insights into a) why The Powers That Be have not released this song or b) how a devoted Wicked fan might procure some sort of nifty recording of said song?

    Thanks again for sharing your adventures...break a leg this weekend!

    PS--The rumor mill has mention of a certain Marcie Dodd venturing your way in July...any hints of an unofficial sort?

  23. OMG! you were absolutely amazing! caught your
    wicked performance last sunday - thank you for your wonderful talent!
    and you're so funny, too! love your blog!

  24. "4:02PM Take a shower, warm up in said shower. Make the water extremely hot so it steams my face off. Not literally. But it does open up my sinuses. I usually warm up for about fifteen minutes, ending with my favorite belter warm up, where you sing "hand me my hat!" on ascending arpeggios. The trick is to keep going as high as possible, or until your neighbor yells "I DON'T HAVE YOUR HAT," whichever comes first."
    Hahaha! And thanks for the tip! ;)

    And are your mics really housed in your bra? I think I may have read/heard somewhere about a mic in the witch hat (as well as an un-mic-ed hat) and/or a mic in the wig coming to Elphaba's forhead, but that might be just in NYC or incorrect...