SMASH Fact or ficton? Episode 9 "Hell on Earth"

Happy Tuesday and welcome to the ninth episode of SMASH Fact or fiction?  Welcome to all you new readers, please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.  Thanks to New York Magazine for naming this blog as “highbrow” and “brilliant” in their approval matrix this week.  I’m thrilled to achieve such a high honor with my pooping rhino video link still intact.

Welcome back to America’s favorite TV trivia game show. If you’ve missed the previous posts, check out Why Smash Matters and our first eight game shows, for the pilot episode  episode two episode three episode four, episode five, episode six, episode seven, and episode eight.  If you are new to My Own Space the blog, my name is Sharon and I’ve been in pretty many Broadway shows.  I am also friends with Theresa Rebeck, the creator, writer, and all around guru of the show–so I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact,  a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary.  Right?  Right.  Good.  Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______.  We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world.  Based on the success of A Chorus Line  and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway.  Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog.  Right?  Right.  If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place and should maybe try this instead.

Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number five and may or may not be a pair of angel wings and a halo suitable for outdoor wear.

Here we go.  Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”.  You play along.  Get your buzzers ready.

1) Broadway actors would never look as “over it” onstage as Ivy does in Heaven on Earth.  Fact or fiction?

Fiction.  Commonly referred to as “phoning it in”, this is more prevalent than we would want to admit.  Yes.  People roll their eyes, talk about where to go for dinner, goof off and generally hide in the back and just try to make it through a show.  This is not always true, so don’t yell at me.  But yes, it happens.  I was watching Ivy and thinking that I know a dozen people who have done that, including me on a bad day.

Where is the line?  If you come to work drunk or high and it is detected, you’re fired.  End of story.  Okay, maybe if you are really well loved they might let you go to rehab, but overall, shows are dangerous and that kind of behavior is not tolerated.

2)  Producers sit and around and make lists of the stars who could be in their show, no matter how far fetched it might be.  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  I can’t go into a lot of detail here or I could get in trouble, but recently I heard a list of names for a show that wasn’t even on Broadway, and the list included Oscar winning actors.  This had to be considered a viable list until all the agents had returned with a “no”, and only then could the casting director move on to more attainable names.

Are recognizable names critical to the success of a show?  Everyone has an opinion about that, but I will tell you that if you look around at the landscape of Broadway in these economic times, everyone seems to be banking on a star.  Or several stars.  And then they replace a big star with another big star–no “B” list actors to be seen (Example:  Theresa Rebeck’s play, Seminar just brought in Jeff Goldblum to replace the departing Alan Rickman.)

3)  If you have a pair of sunglasses that belong to an actor in a Broadway show, it is a-ok to walk through the stage door, find your way backstage and then stand in the wings and watch the show.  Fact or fiction.

Um.  Fiction.  Have you ever tried to get past a doorman at a Broadway theater?  Good luck with that.  If the doorman doesn’t throw you out, trust me that the on deck stage manager will have you thrown out within seconds.  Okay, now just because it is fun to contradict myself, I have to tell you that several times during the run of Cats, people (and by “people” I mean men) managed to slip past the doorman through a side door and then run up to the dressing rooms.  They were always after the same cat, the Siamese cat, Cassandra, who is usually played by a Rockette (or a Rockette look alike) and she slinks around the stage all night driving guys wild.  So I guess if you have Cassandra’s sunglasses, you might be able to get in.

4)  If you’re having a bad day, sometimes you can just leave the show and go home in your costume.  Fact or fiction?

Fiction.  As my friend said in her status update while watching the show:  “and every wardrobe supervisor in the city just screamed in horror.”

Let’s go back to the lines of defense that wouldn’t let a stranger INTO the theater.  Strike that and reverse it:  they also won’t let the costumes get OUT.  Here’s how serious that is.  After Cats closed we were given our costumes as a gift.  A very generous (and unprecedented) gift.  NOT the norm to get your costumes when you leave a show.  Anyhoo, I was playing Jennyanydots, the tap cat, and I left the theater with my costume, including a giant overcoat and tap boots.  I will not lie to you–I absolutely had thoughts about “Ebay” and “My child’s college tuition” because these costumes were so valuable.  I was GIVEN the costume, so I took it out in a bag (we all did) along with my wig and my basic costume, etc.  I was not even in the door in my apartment (which was 10 blocks away) when I had a call DEMANDING I return the overcoat immediately.  I jumped in a cab, delivered the coat, apologized profusely for the misunderstanding, and watched as they sold it the next day in an auction for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids (a great organization) for thousands of dollars.

Alas.  My daughter will have to get a scholarship to college.

The point is, if you leave a theater in a costume, you’d better be on a stretcher.

P.S. I can’t even start about the sing off– in costume and drunk–in Times Square, although it did remind me of a time when a bunch of people got nailed for walking around drunk in Memphis in their show jackets.  The producer thought it was a classless misrepresentation of the show.  And that was just show jackets–not a whole costume.

But it’s a TV show and they have to squeeze in a musical number, so there you go.

Two quick fun facts:  That interior shot of the casting office where Ivy and Karen mixed up their sunglasses while auditioning for the commercial was the actual casting office of Bernie Telsey casting, the casting office of SMASH and numerous Broadway shows, TV shows, movies and commercials.  If you are an actor in New York, you’ve probably spent a lot of time there being nervous.

This episode had two industry people playing themselves; the excellent director Doug Hughes, and the “weasel” Michael Riedel, infamous columnist for the New York Post.  They will both cash hefty residual checks for playing themselves.

Thanks for playing!

(For the next post in the SMASH series, go here)



About Sharon Wheatley

I'm a mother, an actress and a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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13 Responses to SMASH Fact or ficton? Episode 9 "Hell on Earth"

  1. David Cleveland says:

    High brow, yet brilliant at the same time…..whenever I roll my eyes in a Broadway show, it's not because I'm bored, it's just that no one is paying attention to ME, to ME, TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

  2. Babs says:

    Have I missed any reference to it, or are we to assume Karen has representation? Ivy is ticked off by her ability, as a newcomer, to waltz in and book work. Isn't it pretty much unheard of to get into a commercial audition without an agent? And, what about callbacks for commercials? Would a commercial be cast without a callback process? That's what appeared to happen in this episode. Congrats on your blog's success! For me, knowing there will be some discussion regarding the episode, enhances the show's appeal, and I look forward to your witty commentary after each and every one.

    • sswheatley says:

      I haven't seen any reference to Karen having representation. Yes, I think it would be very hard to get a commercial audition if you don't have an agent BUT, it is possible. Here's how. If a large casting house like Telsey + Company knows your work….for example…let's say they found Karen from an open call…and they loved her, they could absolutely continue to see her for other projects that they cast and this could all happen without an agent. When I saw the orange juice commercial and it was in Telsey's office, it made sense to me because Telsey frequently casts commercials. Therefore: if we assume that Telsey found Karen through an open call, it is absolutely plausible that she could get an appointment and book a national commercial from the same casting house without an agent. Viola!
      Is it rare?
      But possible.

      • JEFF S says:

        Definitely would've been callbacks. At least a few. The reps for the product and the agency would've needed to approve or at least see the final talent. Violin! :)

    • toscaskiss32 says:

      It was established in the pilot that Karen has an agent (though there hasn't been much mention of it since, and they've emphasized aspects of her career that might give the impression that she doesn't have one–but, yes she has an agent).

  3. Lee Ann Cain says:

    As a former wardrobe person on the road, I found it a major stretch to see Karen walk into live show so easily! And when Ivy was wandering the streets of NYC in full costume, I was howling! But it does make for good TV!!!

  4. Guest says:

    Let's go back an episode. Fact or fiction? The director goes behind the backs of the authors and brings in a different composer, then rehearses a workshop cast member in the new song, and invites the producer and the authors to see it. The authors don't call their agent, they don't level charges with the Dramatists Guild, and they don't insist that the director be fired instantly? Yes, I realize that this is fiction and you are Ms. Rebeck's friend, but is there ever going to be an episode that even skirts logic and the real world of theatre? Are characters going to continue performing musical numbers in bowling alleys and the middle of Times Square? Are the songwriters ever going to come up with a score for Marilyn that sounds like it might be written for the same show in the same style? Are any of the creatives ever going to be blessed with an agent?

  5. Guest/continued says:

    I can suspend belief in Peter Pan and accept that people can fly and that there is a Neverland, but once you set a television show smack in the middle of the real theatre world in a realistic New York City, I expect some semblance of realistic drama. And I expect the characters to behave like sophisticated adults in an adult business, not like overaged, overhormoned teens going wild. I expect the stories to be character driven and not obviously being manipulated by the author into making senseless decisions (somehow this feels committee written). There is no overall tone to Smash, it feels like many hands are manipulating it in many directions, all in different styles. I keep expecting someone to shake all of these characters silly and tell them, "Wake up and smell the Nederlanders!"

    • JEFF S says:

      There's a great documentary on the making of Avenue Q, and other shows from that TONY season. Also, another one about the making of IN THE HEIGHTS. Oh, and EVERY LITTLE STEP is another REALITY based showbiz flick. You should check those out. SMASH is primetime drama…period. It's not going to be vintage or sophisticated, unless it goes off to HBO, where it can thrive in a unique and cliche-less way. I am taking it all with a grain of shimmering salt.

  6. JEFF S says:

    Sharon…what ever happened to the show jacket craze of the 90's!? You never see them these days…when I was seeing shows as a tween, I would be in awe as swarms of actors would walk by me in their show jacket. It was like a badge of distinction…like 'look at me! I am on broadway'. I always wanted to have a jacket of my own. But, when I was finally a professional, forget it!…there were no more jackets! :) [BTW-did producers pay for the jackets for the company, or did the individual order and purchase them on their own?]

    Is there a show jacket equivalent today? What was it about broadway in 1993 that people wore those collectible varsity jackets?

  7. Christy says:

    I did wonder how Ivy was supposed to have gotten out in that costume…it looked funny her wandering about like that, but it also looked unlikely.

    A few years ago I tried to get my hands on a prop from a (supposedly closing) West End show, on loan for a charity concert I was doing in which I sang songs from that show. Everyone was very nice about it, and for a minute it looked as though I might get it on loan as the show was closing, but the end result was – nope, far too valuable, can't let them out of our sight. To be honest I wasn't surprised, as it was all more of a 'worth a try' effort than anything else, and I was happy to get a polite, serious response rather than 'go away, silly woman'. I came up with a suitable imitation and did my show anyway…but remembering that I can't imagine costumes being any less valued.

  8. Jenny says:

    Just one extra word about the sunglasses. She was actually instructed to give them to the stage manager. Really!?!? Yeah – no. Stage managers do not take responsibility for sunglasses left at auditions.

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