Broadway West (Blogisode Five)

2011.

2011. Yet somehow, I still got a crown on my tooth.

Happy Wednesday!  Happily, the new year is bringing me new work.  This is convenient

2012 (This might seem superficial, but after several years of low earnings, I think this is an okay thing for me to focus on.)

2012 (This might seem superficial, but after several years of low earnings, I think this is an okay thing for me to focus on.)

because my New Year’s resolution for 2011 was to floss more, while my New Year’s resolution for 2012 is (wisely) make more money.  Shrewd.  The work is nothing I can officially announce yet, but never-the-less, it is keeping me hopping.  (It is not a new Broadway show, Mom.)  Sorry.  But fun and different.  It will be a challenge to keep all the balls in the air and maintain quality.  So here we go.  Oh, I should also mention that my handsome husband, known on this blog and around the world as Rupert McFee (someday I will explain why), is also busy; and by busy I mean he is working on three shows at once (really).  For one of the shows he cast our super talented and delightful babysitter Ally Bo (Ally Bonino), so on top of pretty much solo parenting duty, I have a new babysitter.  Welcome to the fold, Ms. Kloos.  I am happy to report that the transition is smooth, and Beatrix likes her so much that she pets her.  Like a cat.  My children are a funny crowd to babysit.  (Don’t worry, Ally Bo, there is a 13-year-old ukelele player missing you very much.)

Let’s just jump right in because I am in the mood to hop to it in this story tonight. (What, am I a rabbit with all this hopping and jumping lingo?)

We left off with me leaving New Hampshire to go to New York to try to get a job playing with puppets in Las Vegas.  Are you with me?  Oh, and did you all read the puppet intensive yesterday?  I am going to start tossing around puppet lingo, so be sure you’ve studied up.  Flash cards are suggested.  Design and build your own puppet for extra credit.  Oh, and my dear friend and possible future mayor of Irvington, NY Lisa Zeitz thinks you should all see the documentary BEING ELMO about puppeteer Kevin Clash.  I just “saved” my copy on Netflix and I suggest you do the same (it isn’t out on DVD yet).

Musical theater gossip--rarely reliable--but always entertaining on a long car ride.

Musical theater gossip--rarely reliable--but always entertaining on a long car ride.

So.  I called around and got the 411 about what was going on with the casting of the Vegas company of AVENUE Q (which I will often refer to as “Q”, so make a flash card for that).  There was so much gossip about the casting,  I talked on the phone the entire way from NH to NYC.  The deal from the quasi reliable grapevine was that the show was being cast with two different casts because they wanted to do so many shows in a week.

**To explain–there is a limit on how many shows an actor can do in a week, and then they have to pay a pretty hefty price to get you to do more.  There are–of course–exceptions to that rule–but overall, it is usually an 8 show a week maximum with 10 hours of rehearsal built into the week.  I hope I have this all correct.  Now I won’t get into the finer details of contracts (or this story would be 4,629 posts long) but the gist is that there are different kinds of show contracts.  Think of it like baseball.  There are the big leagues (Broadway) and then the minor leagues (Off Broadway, road shows and in our case, casinos)  college ball (regional theaters) and high school ball (everything else that doesn’t pay very well).  Okay that is SO general that I am certain to get called out on it by union officials and possibly arrested by the actor police, but let’s move on.  Everyone please kick in for bail so these blog posts can keep coming.**

Okay.  They needed two casts to do as many performances as they wanted.  Apparently, there were two casts hired, and then one was told no, they weren’t needed (for a little while they were going to do it with one cast) and then the second cast was re-hired.  Nothing had gone to contract, so I think the fire/rehire was all fair game (lousy) but fair game.  Somehow in the shakeup, one of the women who had been hired to play Kate Monster changed her mind and there was an opening.  They bumped up one of the second handers, and VOILA!  A second hander was needed.  Me.  Or at least I hoped it was me.  The second hander understudies Kate Monster, so the audition material was extensive– you had to learn two roles and be a part of a grand total of (hold on, I have to count this) 8 characters–4 of which you have to do at the audition.  I think it was maybe 6 scenes and 2 songs?  A lot.  With puppets.

Surely they weren’t going to make me do it with a puppet.  I mean, not at the first audition, right?

Evan.

Evan.

Wrong.

I walked in and immediately Evan-the-stagemanager-and-associate-director (whom I knew from my days in Phantom where he was the stage manager on the road.  He would be played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson in the made for TV movie version.  For those musical theater fans and Suddenly Susan fans, the best casting is Malcolm Gets, but that is too obscure for this mainstream blog)  said, “You and I already know each other, so no need to sing your own song.  Let’s get right to the puppets.”  And there they were, all laid out of a folding table.  I think I gasped out loud.  It was how Charlotte reacts to Daniel Radcliffe…I was such a fan of these goofy puppets.  “Why don’t you pick up Kate Monster and we’ll sing through “Fine, Fine Line.”

Well yes, Evan, I think I will.  I mean….who was having a fun day?  I was.

I sang.  I moved Kate’s mouth when I sang.  I tried to get her to look straight out.  She only has one rod (her other arm is pinned up), so she is one of the easiest puppets to work.  It’s like driving a Honda Accord.  Everyone can drive a Honda Accord.  Easy.

I’m sure I was horrible.

TLT and 2 of her kids and 1 of mine.  We used to run and drink.  Now we just have kids and drink.

TLT and 2 of her kids and 1 of mine. We used to run and drink. Now we just have kids and drink.

We did some scenes and talked a bit and then he said he was going to have me come back for “Puppet Camp.”  This is the God’s honest name for it.  Puppet Camp.  It’s educational AND it’s a hazing.  He explained that they usually have two days of puppet camp, but because this was a rush casting job, we would only have one 8 hour day and then go straight to callbacks.  The best thing of all was finding out that my super good friend Traci Lyn would ALSO be at puppet camp.  Traci Lyn Thomas, or TLT as we all call her, and I had met on the Les Miserables tour and gone on that now infamous trip to Singapore together.  Once we’d both stopped doing the show, TLT became my running partner and we logged hundreds of miles around Central Park in our late 20’s, solving the problems of the world.  She’d moved to California and then landed a job in Mamma Mia in Las Vegas, and had flown in to audition for Avenue Q.  You might wonder why they were auditioning in New York for a show that was performing in Vegas–fair question–but I will tell you that most theater casts out of New York.  Even regional theaters like the Cincinnati Playhouse, or Arkansas Rep, or Sacramento Music Circus–where do the actors come from?  New York.  Again–there are exceptions to this rule and the Q cast in Vegas was full of them and we will get to that.  Stop rushing me and quit asking so many questions.  Sheesh.  All in good time!

Where were we?

Oh right!  TLT was coming to New York for puppet camp, which sounded like a lot more fun than

a)  Running in the park (which I’m sure she tried to get me to do).  And

b)  Going to puppet camp alone.

We scheduled for drinks immediately following our 8 hour puppet day. I couldn’t wait.

My sister and I have a running joke that we should “Freaky Friday” a day, and we often try to pick a perfect day to swap.  One that would completely foreign to the other one, but that would capture the spirit of our work lives.

Do you all understand this pop culture reference?  I think I have explained it before, but I will do it one more time.  Freaky Friday is a book and a movie based on the idea that you would swap bodies with someone and have to do the whole day as them.  Right?  Susan (my sister), a lawyer in Cincinnati, likes to think about swapping days when she has a particularly hard case to sift through, or a giant boy’s club luncheon that she has to endure.

I would send my sister to puppet camp.

(To read the next post in this series, go here)

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About Sharon Wheatley

I'm a mother, an actress and a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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4 Responses to Broadway West (Blogisode Five)

  1. Mark Motz says:

    This is getting good. And thank you for the baseball reference so soon. Is it Friday yet?

  2. Jamie Bell says:

    is it weird that I'm now wondering which Kate was originally cast as the second hand?

  3. Anne Marie says:

    I am so glad I saw Avenue Q (Broadway cast just before Ann Harada went out on maternity leave) so that I know exactly what the second-hander had to be able to do.

  4. Karen Waggoner says:

    Heck, I’d go to puppet camp to spend time with Traci Lyn!

Comments are closed.