Broadway West (Blogisode Eleven)

Maybe next week

Maybe next week

Well hi there.  hey–I’m sorry I said I was going to publish a Daily Dose yesterday and then didn’t.  All I can say is, I wrote it and it was so dumb that I couldn’t let anyone read it.  So, it will sit in the “drafts” portion of my WordPress account until I can fix it, or scrap it for good.

Just to give you a glimpse into my mood yesterday, the title of the post was, “How Do I Quit Broadway?”  With a subtitle of “Or Has Broadway Quit Me.”

Pity Party, party of one, your table is ready.

I think there is actually a good and relevant blog post in there somewhere, but I have to step away from it for a day or two and then re-tackle it as something other people might want to read and relate to, and make sure I’m not just writing a journal entry (as if I have time to write in a journal.  Ha.)  So we’ll just keep that blog post about what is happening on Broadway right now for a time when it is “right” and not just when I feel a need to vent.  Okee dokee?  Okee dokee.

Now.  Back to our puppets-go-wild story.

We left off with a cliff hanger about David Benoit and I and how we thought we were going to get fired.  David called and said he can’t wait to read how this is going to play out.

So let me break it down for you.

We spent a week in puppet camp with Rick Lyon, right?  Okay, so we got ourselves doing pretty good work, all of us puppeteers–and wait–let me count how many of us there were (remember there were two casts, and all of the puppeteers play more than one role, which is why you will see more than one name.)

We had:

2 Princeton/Rods

2 Kate/Lucy’s

2 Nicky/Trekkies

2 2nd Handers (also called “Mrs. T./Yellow Bear”)

2 Male understudies

2 Female Understudies

Okay, so that’s a total of 12, but you have to subtract John Tartaglia and Rick Lyon out of the mix, because they

So now that you're taking those training wheels off, why don't you just jump on this motorcycle.  Okay?

So now that you're taking those training wheels off, why don't you just jump on this motorcycle. Okay?

already knew what they were doing.  So that makes 10 puppeteers who were just about totally new to puppeteering.  Then we had something like 20 puppets (I forget the total number–but there are tons of them), and we spent a week working on them:  all types, live hand puppets and rod puppets.  Maybe a week seems like a lot, but once we just about felt like we could do the basics of puppeting and were maybe ready to take the training wheels off the bike, the directors and the creative team rolled in to start rehearsals and basically said “Hey–now that the training wheels are off, we’re going to have you ride motorcycles as fast as you can.  Okay?”  That’s what it felt like to start working on the script with the puppets in our hands.  David and I were linked together with a puppet–something we hadn’t really spent a lot of time on in puppet camp (David, did we work together at all in that first week?  I’m forgetting)–and we started doing the scene work.

Like, with the puppets on.

And how can you hold a script in your hand with a puppet in your hand?

And how do I stay attached to David?

And how do I mime his every move?

Now listen.  They were generous and gave us time to work together and they were patient, and the truth is, it came easier to some people than it did to others.  And David and I instantly bonded in that way you bond with the person sitting next to you on a plane that is about to crash.  We clutched together in sheer panic that we were never going to get it.  Never ever.  Ever.

My Avenue Q bestie, David.  I can finish his sentences.

My Avenue Q bestie, David. I can finish his sentences.

That said, David is now my friend for life, and we eventually created some beautiful characters, and I think I could still second hand him right now and get it all right.  I know when he breathes.  I know the little movement he makes just before he is going to walk.  I know that he always thinks he’s getting sick and my job is to talk him back to health.  I am probably as much as a wife as David will ever have, and I earned that in the many hours in a rehearsal room when he would whisper, “I think I’m going to get fired.  Do you think I’m going to get fired?”  And I would assure him, nooooo.  No way.  But I was thinking,  Well, maybe.  But if you’re canned, I’m canned, too.

But, the truth is,  I also kind of envied the person playing my part in the other cast because Rick knew how the show went and all she had to do was hold on for dear life and match him.  Which at times, seemed nice.  Terrifying in a different way, but nice.

I remember one day in particular–just so I can be specific (which is more fun)–and on this day we were working on “the cafe scene”.  Okay. This scene is very, very hard for the puppeteers because it involves a lot of characters and a lot of lip synching.

Here’s what happens.

In this scene, Kate Monster and Princeton are on a date, and the date is at a Cabaret club where they see a performer called Lucy T. Slut sing a vampy song.  Here’s the thing.  The girl playing Kate Monster ALSO plays Lucy T. Slut, so now we have one person playing two puppets in the scene.  Okay?  You with me?  So–just as Lucy’s song is introduced, the second hander (me) runs on, does a lightening fast exchange where I take Kate Monster from the puppeteer who is playing Kate, I become the puppeteer for Kate and she runs over, slides on the Lucy puppet and sings the number.  I stand there with Kate Monster and am “on the date” with Princeton.  Like a placeholder.  Or a stand in.  Are you with me?  Then, during the applause, she takes Lucy off and slips her through a hidden pass door, runs over and takes Kate back from me and she becomes Kate again.  I exit the stage, pick up the Yellow Bear, and enter the scene with David who just left the other side of the stage, ran like a madman and put on the Blue Bear.  We then enter the scene as the two Bad Idea Bears and we have a scene with Princeton and Kate where we convince them to get wasted.

Okay.  Then, the actress playing Kate goes over to the “bar” to order more drinks, I go with her as the Yellow Bear, but

Three second handers.  Me, Jen the original from the Bway cast) and Rita from the Blue Bear cast.

Three second handers. Me, Jen the original from the Bway cast) and Rita from the Blue Bear cast.

in the hidden pass door, I pass off the Yellow Bear puppet and pick up the Lucy puppet who is now dressed like she is heading home and no longer in her slinky cabaret gear.

This is the hard and fun part.

I now have to move Lucy’s mouth while the actress playing Kate makes her voice.  We can not see each other.  During the scene, the actress crosses back over to the table and voices both puppets while I continue to puppet Lucy, so the actress playing Kate is doing a scene with herself in two totally different voices.  I eventually exit through the passdoor as Lucy, get handed a Yellow Bear and have to tear around to the other side and reenter as the Yellow Bear–a puppet I also “voice”.

Does that make any sense?  Have I lost you all? (Crickets) Right.  Imagine how we felt trying to learn all that crap.

And just to make matters worse, the show has a very specific rhythm, which is basically–go FAST–and there are specific moves the bears have to do together, and they carry around props and it is basically the actors worst nightmare.  And even worse, Rick was amazing at it, and Rita–the other second hander–picked it up really quickly–and David and I were just awful and slow and dropping things, and trying to remember our lines, and you could just SEE everyone thinking, “They aren’t getting it.”  And we weren’t.

But David and I, knowing that plane was about to crash, just FIXED it.  We fixed it.  We went in a room and drilled it, and drilled it, and on our breaks we would drill it, and I would rub his back and tell him he was great, and he would say I was great, and pretty soon we were finding our own things and getting our own laughs and holy crap we were totally relieved.

No thank you, Ghetto Bear.

Please join us, fancy Blue Bear cast.

And just as we were almost getting it mostly right, we found out the other cast (the fancy cast) was in rehearsals for something else.  A mystery project.  And they weren’t flying to Vegas with us, and we didn’t know what was happening, and then we found out….and we realized they were the cool kids (called The Blue Bear Cast) and we were the outcast (The YellowBear) cast.  Also known as the un-Johnny and Rick cast.  Or as we called ourselves, The Ghetto Bear Cast.

The Blue Bear Cast was going to be on “Live With Regis and Kelly”.  A National TV show.  And we (the Ghetto Bear Cast) were flying to Las Vegas to start the technical rehearsals.

And so it began.

And through ALL of this, I was working until two and three in the morning on final edits of my book. But I’ll get to that.

(Blogisode Twelve appears Friday.  Same time, same place.)

[subscribe2]

Advertisements

About Sharon Wheatley

I'm a mother, an actress and a writer. I'm glad you're here.
This entry was posted in Broadway West. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Broadway West (Blogisode Eleven)

  1. Chris says:

    Lovin this story and all the details! :-)

  2. Chrissy says:

    I feel proud that I know EXACTLY what scene you described, and I've only seen the show once, in 2008.

  3. Meg says:

    I know when he breathes. I know the little movement he makes just before he is going to walk.

    That's the connection I've had as a stage manager to some of my light board ops — you have to know EXACTLY when to call a cue based on how long it takes you to say it and them to hear it and do it and the equipment to respond. It's this crazy sync with someone.

Comments are closed.