Ah, the inner-workings of a mega-hit musical. Yawn. Old news. Getting painted green? Please, they do that in Shrek: The Musical -- PLUS he wears a prosthesis, which is cooler, so whatever, it's over.
Reader, that hurts. I mean, it's been only seven months and already you've moved on to someone else? What did I do? What can I do?
I don't know, you tell me! You write less frequently, you promise articles and then never deliver, and when you do they're short and uninspired. Let's face it: you've changed.
Then I can change, still! What can I say to make us feel young again, like we'd just met, held hands for the first time, skipped through the San Francisco Tenderloin and pretended it was a meadow of sunflowers instead of a strange wasteland of destitution? .... I know! I'll write a post on my personal hero, Kathleen Giordano, Elphaba Dresser Extraordinaire!
(End of weird paragraphs-as-dialogue convention.)
So I've been planning this post on Kathleen for basically months but kept putting it off because I wanted it to be totally rad, like a kind of Vanity-Fair-meets-Rolling-Stone-type investigation -- which is to say, part interview, part cultural essay, part meditation on modern masculinity -- but I, in my crazed craziness, never quite got my act together. (Also I realized that those Vanity Stone articles are annoying, especially when they're celebrity portraits. The details are so random, and somehow everything is supposed to be sexy: She eats the iceberg wedge with her hands but smokes the cigarette in a holder. She blames her parents. "To Mama I was the iceberg, to Papa, the cigarette." I offer her a napkin. She takes a drag. And I thought I had issues.)
Speaking of random details, I'm selling my leather couch on Craigslist for cheap. If you want to buy it, email me.
Enough preamble! Presenting:
KATHLEEN MY DRESSER IS WAY AWESOME AND HERE IS WHAT SHE DOES OKAY THANKS BYE!
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a dresser (as I was when I was first hired by WICKED), their job is to relieve from the actor the stress and chaos incurred by costume changes, upkeep, and other backstage logistics. Whereas, say, in high school and college productions my castmates and I were individually responsible for our own backstage shenanigans (costumes, props, wigs, makeup, etc.), now that I'm in the Big Leagues, as it were, I have a super duper profesh dresser to do all that crazy stuff for me. What kind of stuff? Glad you asked!
1. Costume Upkeep
Kathleen, along with all the other dressers (and there are quite a few -- Glinda, for example, is assigned her own, and the other principals share several among them, as do the ensemble men and women), are in charge of keeping WICKED's ridiculously intricate (*cough cough* expensive) costumes in tip-top shape. This involves, but is not limited to, the following action verbs, here presented as gerunds: ironing, pressing, steaming, hanging, dry cleaning, washing, repairing, sewing, patching, tailoring, adjusting, preening. The list goes on.
This kind of upkeep occurs before and after the shows, usually during the day. And it's a TON of work. Just the other day I told Kathleen that my white jacket (which I wear after "Popular" through "One Short Day") felt like it was, uh, getting a little tight (the fabric shrinks, I swear! It's like a Chinese finger trap!), and within hours she had altered it to fit me.
2. Dressing Room Upkeep / The Elphaba Hand-Off
I share my Elphaba Dressing Room with the lovely and talented Marcie Dodd, which means double the pleasure, double the fun. Or, more accurately, double the confusion, double the headache. But Kathleen handles this dual love affair with grace and ease! Since Marcie and I don't share costumes, in the event that I go on it's up to Kathleen to switch out all of Marcie's stuff for mine.
This "stuff" includes costumes, shoes (three pairs each) and other miscellany, like knee-pads (which, SURPRISE, I wear under my costume!), my Shiz glasses, my special Entertainer's Secret throat-coat spray, my water bottle(s), the soft zipper-backed t-shirt that I wear under my Elphaba Act II dress (without it, the fabric would scratch my fair part-Irish skin!), my "No Good Deed" wings, my pointed hats, etc. etc. etc.
Furthermore, my dressing room belongings extend beyond the realm of onstage paraphernalia. I also have to have my makeup case, my headband (to pull my hair back while I'm getting painted green), my green flip-flops (for when I shower after the show), and my life-sized cutout of Barack Obama (kidding about that last one). Bottom line: there's a lot of s*** to take care of in the dressing room.
3. Physically Putting My Clothes On and Taking Them Off
This is perhaps the single-most indispensable aspect of having a dresser: they physically put your clothes on and take them off you. Out of context, this may make me sound entitled, or kinky, or like a weird incapable gimp. But when the costumes are as complex as those in WICKED, it really helps to have a certified expert straightening your seams and sticking your arm where it belongs. Quick changes? No biggie. Hard-to-reach buttons? Whatever, no problem. Skin-tight nylon made to look like your green skin? So comfortable! (At least, it is when you have a dresser to help you.) Some specific examples of when Kathleen's assistance is truly invaluable are during my two quick changes, one right after "Popular," and right before "One Short Day."
4. Pampering Me Because I Am A Baby
Then there are times when I am so overwhelmed that I literally need Kathleen to baby me.
The most ubiquitous of these moments involve some kind of refueling. Before I run on for the final scene/song in Act I, "Defying Gravity," Kathleen provides me with a water bottle full of room-temperature water, as well as my trusty throat spray (we affectionately refer to it as "crack"). As I'm running down the stairs to get to the trap door elevator before "No Good Deed," Kathleen is always waiting at the bottom of the stairs to hand me my water bottle -- always to my left hand, because I'm carrying the train of my dress in my right. I complete the hand-off as I enter through the orchestra pit doorway and give the water bottle to one of our three stage managers.
Another example? After "No Good Deed" I run off stage right and am greeted by Kathleen and Mark, our wig supervisor. Between the two of them, I am pampered to no end: I sip water, while Mark does my hair and wipes my forehead with a Kleenex, and Kathleen holds a mini-electric fan to my face and sweeps it around to cool me off. It's almost like a day at the spa, except I'm panting, heaving and sweating like an irritated farm animal.
And sometimes, yes, my hands are full because I'm doing a quick change, or sipping from my water bottle, or getting a wig change, and time is so short that I literally need Kathleen to wipe my nose. Yep. You heard me. Obviously not one of our more dignified interactions, and I mention it not to diminish what Kathleen does, but to enumerate further just HOW CRUCIAL she is to the success of my performances.
5. Helping Me Up Ladders and Stairs
Finally, there are the moments when Kathleen follows me up various hazardous pathways and holds my dress to ensure that I don't trip or get stuck, as in right before I enter for "Wonderful" and right before I pop up out of the trap door in Act II. In the case of the latter(/ladder) the conditions under the stage are far more sparse than you'd imagine: I basically climb up a twelve-ish foot ladder and crouch down beneath the trap door waiting for my cue. My long, flowy dress is somewhat cumbersome, so Kathleen climbs up with me and holds my dress until the moment I appear onstage. CRAZY!!!!
And that, my friends, concludes what may be the longest Unnaturally Green post ever. And it was decidedly unlike anything that would appear in Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone -- or any other reputable publication, for that matter.
But I hope it means something to you. Look at me. I said look at me, damnit! Read my writing and tell me it doesn't mean something to you! I'm willing to make it work, if you are. Please? See if we can't give it another try?
You know where to find me,