As another Tuesday arrives, I thought it might be fun to walk you through what happens each week when we arrive in a new city, and how we settle into each new theater! After our travel day on Monday, Tuesday is our first day at the new theater and our opening night! We arrive earlier than usual (2 hours before the show) to have a company meeting, a safety walk/ orientation in the backstage area, and finally, a sound check before we start getting ready at our ‘half hour call.’
In the ‘Company Meeting,’ the cast convenes in the lobby of the theater to receive information from Company Management about the city, living accommodations, any news pertaining to payroll, schedule, upcoming travel, events, and details about the venue such as ticket sales and availability of seats. Then, both Stage Management and our Heads of Wardrobe let us know if there are any changes to the set/ show/ backstage configuration based on the size and shape of the venue. Each theater’s stage and backstage areas are unique, so there is always something to adjust to spacially. For example, the stage width can vary, the width of the ‘apron’ can vary (this is the distance between the stage, or ’deck’ and the orchestra pit which changes the distance the actors are from the audience). Backstage, our dressing rooms are always in different places, our quick change booths are in different configurations, and the amount of space can be drastically different. It can be very disorienting! That’s why it’s important to take a minute to really get oriented in each new theater so you’re able to stay safe and focus on performing the show.
Next, the cast puts our microphones on to do ‘sound check.’ This is done to set the sound levels for the actors and orchestra based on the acoustics and sound equipment configurations in the venue. It also gives the actors a chance to get used to what they'll be hearing onstage so that the volume and mix of what you hear is not a shock when you have to do it in front of an audience for the first time. To do this, we sing, and ‘mark’ through the blocking of songs in the show with the orchestra in our street clothes. We have a set order that we go through the songs every week.
After we finish sound check, we usually have a little break to walk around outside, eat dinner, warm up, etc. No matter where we are, something that doesn’t change about our pre-show routine is that everyone is officially ‘called’ to be at the theater one half hour before the show. Most people choose to arrive earlier, but half hour is the absolute latest you are allowed to arrive.
When half hour is called, we get into makeup, wigs, and costumes. In this show, we all do our own makeup and wig preparations. We always travel with our two Heads of Wardrobe and our Head of Hair and Makeup, but in each new city, we acquire local ‘dressers’ to help us with our costume changes. We also have local hair dressers to put on and take off our wigs after we pin curl our hair, put a wig cap over it, and pin our microphone on. Though they are paid employees of the venue, at the end of the week we always tip our dressers as a thank you for all of the personal help.
While getting ready, we receive time updates from stage management over the intercoms, or 'monitors' backstage. These come at half hour, fifteen minutes, five minutes, and finally, 'places.' When 'places' is called, everyone goes to their spot for the top of the show and we begin! Tonight we open in Columbus, OH - fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly!