SMASH Fact or Fiction Season 2, Episode 3 "The Dramaturg"

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%% SMASH is renewed for a second season, Fact or Fiction?  That’s a fact, Jack.  Actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  Based on the shaky ratings this season, we’d better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  Did you miss last week?  Go here to do your catch up reading.  I’ve added a new mid-week spin off blog called SMASH Ask and Answer where I answer reader questions, so go read that and then write in.  Everyone, get your buzzers out.  This season we have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your hiatus studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

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, tough guy, and maybe you should go here 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 one and is probably a  case of Brooklyn beer.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.  If you want to trash talk there are exactly 5,872,017 Broadway message boards where you can do that.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

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) Using a dramaturg is common practice.  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  A dramaturg is a real job (pronounce it with a hard “g”),  but I am going to call out SMASH on their use of the word dramaturg, and say instead they have brought in a “show doctor”.  Interestingly dramaturg is also the title of the episode, so they clearly choose the exact word they wanted, but let’s talk about the difference (and yes, we are splitting hairs a bit here, but there is a difference) between a show doctor and a dramaturg.

The truth is ask 5 people to define a dramaturg and you will get 5 different answers, but let’s face it, in the real world no one cares.  In this blog, we do, because we are educating the masses one gameshow at a time.

A dramaturg is more closely associated with plays and is used during the initial writing of the play and in rehearsals.  Most are well educated (I read an article that says they are often thought of as “book worms” and “critical thinkers”) and well researched.  Many resident theaters have dramaturgs on staff and they are invaluable to the playwright.  There is a Huffington Post article that explains it, and I like this description, “A dramaturg is an in-house critic that is friendly to the production.”

On Broadway, and especially in a big new musical like Bombshell, this kind of dramaturgy is a whole new animal and they are generally called “Show doctors” or “Script doctors”.  Very often they are famous and almost all of the time they are well-paid and uncredited.  For more of a backstory of show doctors (they call Jerry Zaks “Doc”) read this article from The New York Times in its entirety.  I pulled out this quote for you:

“Using the classic Broadway vernacular that is associated with script doctors, the “Catch Me” producers, Margo Lion and Hal Luftig, said in a statement: “Brian Yorkey is a friend of our production and was valuable to its developmental process.” Under Mr. Yorkey’s contract, his work on the show is uncredited, and no one involved in the production is allowed to acknowledge his specific contributions publicly.”

Does a show doctor means a show is in trouble?  Yes.  Can they save it?  Have you seen the grosses for Spiderman: Turn of the Dark?  (The answer is yes).  On the flip side, have you seen the grosses for Wonderland ?   What’s Wonderland you ask?  Exactly.  And that show had a surgical team.

Famous show doctors include George Abbott, Douglas Carter Beane, Jerry Zaks, Richard Maltby, Rupert Holmes and Jerome Robbins.  It might seem strange that someone else would be called in so late in the game to work creatively on a project, but as Eileen reminded us in this episode, she has a ton of money in this and she wants it right.

2)  In theater there are no agents and lawyers.  Everyone just talks directly to each other.  Fact or fiction? 

Fiction.  And with the exception of the lovely Brynn O’Malley who portrayed Derek’s agent last week, agents have been largely ignored in SMASH.  Why, you might wonder (as I do, as all my friends do) and I will tell you plain and simply that it is 100% because they need the drama of those conversations happening between the characters without a middle man (or woman).  But I would be a bad blogger if I did not point out at least some of the moments that an agent or lawyer would have saved the day.

1)  Let’s take last week’s episode.  Remember how they were all gathered in a larger (and by “large” I mean “expensive” studio so that Eileen could announce that Bombshell was coming to Broadway (in an as-of-yet-undetermined-theater).  Reality?  That announcement would have happened in Boston while they were all under contract there, or else the calls would have gone out to agents and each actors agents would have delivered the news.

2)  In this week’s episode we see Ivy ask a very friendly Bernie Telsey to audition for a different part in a show.  Can that happen…..yes……(although I can not imagine him being so friendly about it) but the most realistic thing would be for her to have her agent make that call.  Right, I know, that isn’t good TV, I’m just telling you the way it would really go down.

3)  All the meetings with the writers in Eileen’s office, the introduction of the show doctor, all of that.  It would all have to be run through agents and lawyers.  AGAIN, this is better TV, but really, at this level there is an entire step being skipped.  Julia wouldn’t just barge into a dinner and yank that guy out on the street (yes, because her agent would do it, but also because she would never humiliate herself and possibly damage the show with such a public outburst.  But would she, and should she be furious?  Uh, yes.)

3)  Actresses (and actors) have as much power as Jennifer Hudson does in SMASH to get directors selected and have creative say.  Fact or fiction.

Fact.  If you are a Broadway heavyweight like Audra or Kristin and you have people developing projects for you specifically, then yes.  You have this much power.  Would a newcomer like Karen?  No.

Thanks for playing!  To read the next post in this series, go here.

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P.S.  I have an opening for one advertiser in March.  If you are interested, please check out the advertiser page for rates and specific incentives.


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Smash Fact or Fiction Plays "Ask and Answer" (Round One)

Just when we were really rolling with our first SMASH Fact or Fiction of the new season, things came to a crashing halt due to a week hiatus.  NEVER FEAR!  Because you, dear readers, are so thirsty for knowledge, we’ve had some excellent questions sent in and therefore I am starting our first-ever SMASH Fact or Fiction Ask and Answer.

Wait.  What?  You didn’t read the first post of the season?  Then you must, go here immediately and then come back.  My name is Sharon and I am your host.  I am frequently bossy (but always fun).

The first series of questions come to us from Rick:

ASK:  Eileen has the St. James (because it’s BIG!) or does she?  Don’t some producers want smaller theaters because the rent will be less and the demand unknown? Or are all the “on” Broadway houses roughly the same size? (I know “off-Broadway” doesn’t really mean “off”, it means “smaller” and “off-off” means “a lot smaller”, right?)

ANSWER:  I had another producer bring this point up exactly, so good question.  Here’s what that producer said about the St. James.  “Contrary to popular belief, not everyone wants the St. James because its minimums are very high for both IATSE Local 1, and for AFM Local 802. It is an extremely expensive theater to run your show in, so your show really better have great ‘legs!'”

As you remember from the episode, the creative team wants the St. James because it has good “juju” due to the fact that so many long running shows have played there, most recently being (as they mentioned) The Producers. For extra credit and the AP course about The St. James,go here .

To answer the next part of the question I take you directly to the Broadway League site and the Actors Equity Handbook.

Broadway houses vary in number of seats.  With some exceptions (I’m looking at you, Vivian Beaumont) Broadway has to do with size (because size does matter) and geography (location, location, location).  They have more than 499 seats, and are located between 41st and 54th streets, from 6th to 8th Avenues.  Currently, there are about 40 Broadway theaters and they range in size from 597 seats (The Helen Hayes, which currently houses Rock of Ages) to 1933 seats (The Gershwin, which currently houses Wicked).  For the complete list, go here.

Off Broadway has less that 499 seats and more than 99.  Off Off Broadway has less than 99 seats (and the paycheck to match).

Rick, who clearly was a straight A student and sat in the front of the class, has another question:

Ask: And how long would a cast wait around between a Boston tryout and the Broadway opening before finding other work? They can’t all be on the payroll while they sit around, can they? So how long is the prep, rewrite, tech, etc. supposed to take upon entering a new theater?

Answer:  Did you catch that Karen is back at her waitressing job?  For real accuracy they should’ve shown all the actors coming home from the airport and immediately signing up for unemployment.  So the answer is no. They are not all on payroll.  Whether or not someone is slipped an incentive here and there I don’t know, but the general rule is no.  You are only paid when you are rehearsing or performing.  Make no mistake, those SMASH kids were all out at auditions (like Ivy) as soon as they got back.  No theater set for the incoming show?  They are all on the horn with their agents asap saying, “Nobody knows what is happening.  Get me another show!”

The prep to go into a theater depends totally on the state of the show.  Some shows need a lot of work, some don’t.  Case by case.

And because Rick is out to take over this blog someday, he has still one more question.

Ask: We come to NY once a year and see a half dozen shows in a week (exhausting, but fun.) But we also see lots of traveling shows, which usually open Thursday and run through Sunday. Can they really pack everything up, load it into I don’t know how many semis and buses, and get to the next town and set up to be ready to go again by the next Thursday? Does the cast even get to see the new setup before they go on?

Answer: First off, thank you for supporting live theater.  Seriously.  None of us could do what we do without you.  Only 6 shows in a week?????  you could probably squeeze in at least 8……you should see all of us TONY voters in TONY season.  I’ve done 9 in a week, and I agree, it is fun but exhausting.

Regarding traveling shows, most shows do the load out on Sunday night and load into the next city for a Tuesday night show!  Sometimes there are two sets and one travels to the next city to load in (this was true on the first national your of Phantom) but these days I’m guessing most shows fit in 12-15 trucks and they do it in 48 hours.  To answer the other part of the question, the cast generally familiarizes themselves with the set during sound check but you’d be surprised at how it looks exactly the same from city to city.

This question came in from several people.

Ask:  Is it all reasonable that Karen would be considered “a big deal” after just two weeks in a preview performance?

Answer:  Um, no, is my off the cuff answer, but as someone wisely pointed out, it does happen but not to this extreme.  Take, for example, Jeremy Jordan (a new cast member on SMASH, by the way).  When he was in Newsies at Papermill Playhouse (a prestigious regional theater in New Jersey) it became obvious very quickly that the show would be seriously lacking without him.  What happened is Papermill’s production closed and they lost Jeremy to Bonnie and Clyde.  But then, in a twist of fate ( a bad one if you are Frank Wildhorn or anyone else besides Jordan working on the show) Bonnie and Clyde closed quickly and Jordan became available to do Newsies.  Now the thing to know about this is that Jordan was already hot.  Unlike Karen he had two other Broadway shows under his belt prior to any of this (Rock of Ages and West Side Story).

Two of my favorite questions came from Iris:

Ask: Does anyone besides tourists ever really sit at these chairs in the middle of Times Square? Except maybe if you’re doing a show at the Marquis? 

Answer:  I’m going to say yes.  Actors sit out there, but generally we all try to avoid the center of Times Square if at all possible.  That said, sitting outside in midtown is at a premium and if it is a nice day and you have a minute or get a phone call it is a-ok to sit there, but I will give you a tip.  99% of all actors who choose to sit outside on a nice day hang out at Worldwide Plaza.

Ask:  Can you just interrupt an American Theater Wing Gala with an impromtu performance if you’re not even invited to be there in the first place?

Answer:  No.  There were 5,000 ridiculous things about that scene, but on a positive note, didn’t Megan Hilty just kill it with that song?  That girl has pipes.

Donna wondered:

Ask:  Is is true that the cast are like family and know everyone else’s business?

Answer:  Wait.  Isn’t every work place like that?  To answer for real, if you suddenly join a show expect the following things.

1) To be hugged by everyone.

2)  To have someone say I love you within the first 5 minutes.

3)  To exchange cell phone numbers and be friended on Facebook.

4)  Fast forward 2 years when you run into that person on the street and recognize the face but are grasping for their name.

And to answer the most asked question of all…..Could Karen really get Ivy fired?

MAYBE.  If we buy into the conceit of the show that she is the up and coming, soon to be TONY winning star-on-the-rise, yes, MAYBE.  But it would be tricky and they would have to buy her out of her contract and…I’m not totally sure about this….and  if anyone has a better answer to this, please write in.

And finally, we have some corrections and clarifications.

JPR writes: Margot Martindale played the fictitious head of the American Theatre Wing, Miriam Abramson, which was modeled after the late President of the Wing, Isabel Stevenson.

Myra writes about another guest appearance:  Annaleigh Ashford, who originated the role of Margot in “Legally Blonde” on Broadway (played the stationary selling former actress). She also appears in the “Smash” pilot in the audition montage, as the girl who showed up in full Marilyn getup.

And from TLT: And Brenda Braxton playing J Huds mom in her show! Love that Braxton : )

And from Michael Riedel’s **mother: FACT Michael Riedel is not a New York Post reporter. He is a gossip columnist, not a journalist or critic. Snark away at his supposed power to bring down shows, but if you do remember to praise him for his power to hold them up…I’d argue he does more for musical theatre than any other writer in nyc.

**not really, and p.s. I do praise him for his ability to bring a show up.  Exactly my point.  SMASH is smart to bring him on and get in his good graces.

 We’ll resume with another SMASH Fact or Fiction next week!  Thanks for playing!


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SMASH Fact or Fiction? Season Two (Episodes One and Two "On Broadway" and "The Fallout")

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%%SMASH is renewed for a second season, Fact or Fiction?  That’s a fact, Jack.  Actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  Everyone, get your buzzers out.  This season we have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your hiatus studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

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, tough guy, and maybe you should go here 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 one and is probably a signed copy of J-Huds Weight Watchers book.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.  If you want to trash talk there are exactly 5,872,017 Broadway message boards where you can do that.

We start the season with a double header and will cover the episodes “On Broadway” and “The Fallout” so grab a snack, but please open all cough drops and candy wrappers quietly in this live theater environment.  Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

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) Before the opening credits are done rolling we see three people get out of black town cars so we know important people on Broadway get the perk of a car service.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact.  Not always, not everyone, but yes, one of the big perks of Broadway is a car service, and yes, the cars always seem to be black although more frequent is a black Suburban.  So who got in a town car?

1)  Karen: who would have one because she plays the lead role.  But this is not always a done deal, so push your agent if you book a lead on Broadway.  And as a side bonus occasionally, very occasionally the understudy of the lead role gets to use the star’s car when the understudy goes on.

2)  Eileen: who would have one because she’s Anjelica Huston.  Oh, I mean the producer.

3)  Derek: who would have one because he’s a famous director (not all directors are going to get a car service).

Who’s seen hailing a low-brow yellow cab?  Ivy the Understudy.  Who, in truth, should be shlepping her bag down the steps to the subway because cabs are pricey for the unemployed.

Let’s talk a bit about a producer getting a show booked in a Broadway theater quickly.  To get this just right I had to make a call on the sly to a producer who shall remain nameless but had big opinions about the character of Eileen.

2)  It is possible to get a big theater like the St. James in a week.  Fact or fiction?


Wait.  What?  I was totally yelling at the TV saying no way NO WAY could you book the St. James in a week.  Totally fiction.  But then, just because I would never want to mislead you fine readers, I used my phone a friend option and dialed directly to a big Broadway producer who agreed to talk as long as he’s Deep Throat.

DEEP THROAT:  Look, New York City is a real estate game, we all know that, and the theater owners make all the money.  They survive by playing a constant game of Who Can Make Me The Most Money?  If a show seems to have **legs (**fancy producer show speak for “it will run for a long time”) and ** capitalize (**earn back its initial investment) and will then run and make a lot of money, a show can absolutely find a theater in a week.  Okay, that said, it isn’t going to happen for a new producer.  You have to have earned your stripes and they have to trust you.  Truth:  Eileen is based on the real life Broadway producer Fran Weissler, and while she and Barry (Weissler) aren’t divorced, that is absolutely who Eileen is modeled after.  Frannie Weissler is part of a power couple.  If she wanted the St. James in a week, she’s get the St. James in a week.  And everyone wants the St. James because it’s big.

3)  When a show is coming to Broadway they have a big party to announce it with all the press there and they perform songs from the show and maybe Jennifer Hudson who is appearing in another show that is unrelated to the show would perform too, (and, and, and…I could go on but I won’t.) Fact or Fiction?

Fiction.  Every morsel of it.  They save that kind of event for late in the rehearsal process and then they do a press “Meet and Greet” where everyone is interviewed and they perform from the show and Jennifer Hudson is not there (even though this blog writer is thrilled to hear her singing on SMASH).  As Deep Throat said, “No producer would risk a press event like that because if the songs are bad you are dead in the water.”

The following text came in later from Deep Throat:  “The producer could set a ‘press performance.’ Dangerous, but could do it.

4)  Michael Riedel.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact.  And, by the way, making him a character on the show–where he plays himself–is a really great way to get some good press from a snarky New York Post reporter known for taking shows down.

5)  All Broadway capitalizations come from reputable and reliable investors.  Fact or Fiction?  

In a move commonly referred to as being “Sprecherized”, not all investments are sound.  (I am providing some info from Wikipedia if you do not know about the Rebecca Scandal I capitalize both because the scandal was as big as the show.  Actually bigger.  If you know about it, scroll on down to the ***.)

From the “you can’t make this shit up” category:

In 2012, Sprecher was involved in a scandal surrounding an attempt at mounting the musical Rebecca on Broadway. As the project’s lead producer, Sprecher was forced to delay the musical on September 8, 2012, two days before rehearsals were slated to begin, when he announced that a major investor had died. According to Sprecher, this investor had committed $4.5 million, more than a third of the show’s $12 million capitalization.[2]

The “deceased investor” was later identified as Paul Abrams, a South African businessman who had allegedly fallen ill after contracting malaria. Sprecher asserted that he had never met Abrams nor had a single conversation with him, despite Abram’s investment in the musical.[3] Some members of the Broadway community raised suspicion, including Robert E. Wankel, president of The Shubert Organization and a six-figure investor in Rebecca as well as the owner of its intended theater, the Broadhurst.[4]

On September 26, Sprecher announced to the cast that due to new financial commitments, rehearsals for the musical would now commence on October 1.[5]The day before these rehearsals were about to start, Sprecher announced that he had failed to raise enough funds for the musical. He claimed that a new investor had been lined up and ready to commit, but backed out following an anonymous email advising the individual to distance themselves from the project.[6]

Mark Hotton of West Islip, New York, was revealed as the middleman between Ben Sprecher and Paul Abrams on October 3. A 2011 civil fraud lawsuit against Hotton claimed he had a “long history of criminal misconduct and fraud”.[7] Sprecher’s lawyer Ronald Russo later announced that Paul Abrams did not exist, and asserted that Sprecher had been tricked by Hotton into believing the validity of Abrams.[8] The case is currently the subject of a criminal investigation by the FBI, though no charges have yet been made.


Now let’s play a fun game of Who’s Who, which has been happening in my Facebook Newsfeed all night and at one point I was so wrong that I almost had to give my Equity card back.  Let me try to redeem myself here.

6) Famous people playing themselves:  

1)  Jordan Roth:  President and partial owner of Jujamcyn Theaters.  They own and operate five Broadway theaters, including the much mentioned St. James.

2)  Harvey Fierstein:  Actor, writer and all around theater royalty.  Best known for penning La Cage, Newsies, and Torch Song Trilogy and originating Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.  

3)  Michael Riedel:  Snarky and scoopy New York Post reporter.

6) Famous people playing other people: 

1)  Jennifer Hudson playing Veronica Moore who is really Audra McDonald. Right?  Broadway sweetheart with numerous TONY awards?  Could also be Sutton Foster or Angela Lansbury, but my money is on it being modeled after McDonald and her four TONYS.  Or is it five now?  I’ve lost count.  But hey, J Hud, welcome to SMASH and you sound great.

2)  Jeremy Jordan playing Jimmy the angry hipster composer from Greenpoint.  Jeremy is best known for originating the lead role in Newsies (cross reference with Harvey Fierstein) and being the object of  all 14-year-old girl’s affections, including my daughter who only left her Skype chats long enough to come in the room when he was on the screen.

3) Brynn O’Malley as Derek’s agent and table dancer.  Brynn O’Malley is a Broadway actress from numerous shows and is currently in Annie as Grace Farrell.  She happens to be one of my besties so she gets a special shout out.  She is also a regular contributor to this blog and if I can talk her into it, maybe we will do a little vlog interview later this week about her experience filming SMASH.  She tells a good story, so check back for that.

4)  Krysta Rodriguez as Ana, Karen’s floozy new roommate.  Broadway fans will best remember her as Wednesday in The Addams Family.

5) Margo Martindale as mystery woman named Miriam that had something to do with the American Theater Wing.  Maybe she was the President?  Margo Martindale has a long and varied resume, and I am ashamed to say that she was the actress I didn’t recognize (but I now idolize).

6) Shout outs:  Mary Testa, Jackie Hoffman and Cheyenne Jackson, all of who were in Xanadu on Broadway (and many other things, but I love that they were all in the same sentence and the same show).

7)  Hipster parties in Greenpoint, Brooklyn are regularly interrupted by a musical theater serenade.  Fact or fiction?

Fiction.  We all just wish musical theater was that cool.

8)  Everyone puts their address on their headshot and resume.  Fact or fiction?

Well that’s a fact if you want to get stalked, but let’s call it fiction if you want to have any chance of survival.  In reality, you only list your agency information and if you do not have an agent you put your cell phone and/or an email address.  This was much debated on my Facebook page because some people felt it was Krysta who hand wrote the address on Karen’s resume, but they never say that or show it, so I feel it is my duty to make sure you all heed the warning.  No addresses on resumes.  Okay?  Okay.

Starting next week I will answer one question from a reader, so please write in.  I will not do it this week because we are already running long.

If you want to play SMASH Fact or Fiction every week, be sure to “like” my Facebook page or follow me on twitter @sswheatley.

Recent Press:

February 6, 2013.  Thanks to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for writing about SMASH Fact or Fiction.

April 2012:  Thanks to New York Magazine for naming SMASH Fact or fiction to its Approval Matrix.

May 2012:  Thanks to for citing SMASH Fact or fiction in an interview with Megan Hilty.

Thanks for playing!

Interested in a follow up to this post?  Go to our first-ever Smash Fact or fiction spin off, Ask and Answer where I address reader questions.  Go here.


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The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed (Blogisode Ten)

Happy Monday and welcome to the final blogisode of this series, and the final cliff hanging series for quite a while.  As I’ve said, I am going to concentrate on SMASH only for while it is on the air, but you know how I like to break rules so expect some ” What I Liked About” posts, some “Dear Sharon (and Rob)” posts and some vlogs on Fridays or in weeks that SMASH has a rerun.  I will take one question per week about SMASH or show biz in general for the Fact or Fiction blog, so if you have please write in or write in your Dear Sharon questions.

Oh, and hey!  Do me a favor and check out my fantastic advertisers.  I’ll tell you more about all of them soon enough, but first up, look up, and you’ll see John Wescott, real estate agent to the stars who is making a season two appearance here.  You might remember him from our fun and informative New York City real estate vlogs .  Please go up and click on his link to see just how much cheaper your mortgage is than what us crazy people pay….or….if you need a New York City realtor, he’s your guy.  In the sidebar we have Stagecoach which is a theater school on the Upper East Side for kids.  If you can believe it, they are doing mega-musicals this term (Cats, Les Miserables and Phantom) so I am going to stop by and talk to the kids because  I, uh, know a lot about those shows.  Beatrix is going to join in the fun, too.  We’ll meet the owner Natalie soon, but for now go look at the work they do (so cute).  Finally, welcome to Leon Le on the lower sidebar ad.  People always ask me who did my headshots, and it was Leon!  He’s great.  Need head shots?  Go check out his gallery.  I like him very much.

Speaking of what I liked about something, I went to see Barry Manilow on Broadway on Friday night with my new friend Ann Kelly and let me tell you two things that I liked about it.

1)  He sounds great and he’ll be 70 in June.  What I mean by “he sounds great” is that he can still sing his songs in the original key as he proved by singing “Mandy” along with a video of himself from 1975.  I have to tell you, he still sounds like his young self.  It was impressive.

2)  He is a music director through and through.  Every move he made on stage was a cue to his band.  If he wanted them to%%wppa%% %%photo=15%% %%size=0.3%% %%align=right%% swell, he raised his arm.  He dictated every cut off.  Considering that my favorite version of Manilow is not as a performer but instead as Bette Midler’s pianist, arranger and music director, I loved it.

Are you ready?  I’m going to finish this series today right now, and in all truth it will not take me that long because (let’s face it) anything after “And then I shot in a prison” is a let down.

The final day of shooting was crazy for two reasons.

1)  My van call was 5:30am.

2)  My family and I were leaving for the entire summer directly from the shoot location.

%%wppa%% %%photo=16%% %%size=0.4%% %%align=left%%Remember how I begged them to move the shoot days so I wouldn’t have to miss our week of family vacation at Quisisana?  Quisisana runs from Saturday-Saturday and we were shooting on a Saturday, so Rob (the saint) agreed to make the final preparations for the sub-lettors (i.e. clean and empty out the apartment) as well as load the car and then spend the day somewhere in Jersey because we were shooting in Jersey City.  We agreed that I would text him as I saw things winding down and he would come get me with a very full car and two super excited kids.  To give you an idea of what it was like to pack, we had to have things ready for a week of vacation, things shipped to Weston, Vermont which is where we were then working all summer, and have Charlotte packed to go to Italy for two weeks with her grandparents.

And I had to go and shoot a TV show in the blistering heat, but that was the least of it.  On that day, Rob had the lion’s share of the work.

So my first question was, if you are meeting a van at the crack of dawn and before the sun rises, do you pack breakfast?  Do you bring your own coffee?  What will be on set?  Lunch?  Again, I packed a bag of food, grabbed a coffee and headed to set.

Answer:  Breakfast is provided.  Of course it is.  I’m always thinking Broadway (no food) instead of TV (food).  There was %%wppa%% %%photo=17%% %%size=0.4%% %%align=right%%food everywhere.  By the time I was in hair and makeup I was so coffeed up I had no chance of sleeping for days (despite being bone-tired).  TV=fancy.

On this day we were shooting in a school.  It involved a lot of waiting around (hours and hours, in fact, I did not shoot anything until after lunch) and absolutely no air conditioning.  Boiling hot.  110 in the shade, hot.

Highlights of the day include:

1)  I was supposed to be teaching a special education class and instead of hiring extras to be my students, they used crew members.  Their entire goal was to crack me up at every moment.  My entire goal was exactly what it was for every other shoot day: not to sweat.

2)  In another scene they needed adults to line up to sign a petition and they did not have enough extras so they used all the hair and makeup people.

3)  For the very end of the day they allowed Charlotte to come in and watch and Rob and Beatrix ate crappy food off the catering table.  All people were happy.

%%wppa%% %%photo=18%% %%size=0.4%% %%align=left%%So after 3 hot days and hours of shooting it was a wrap!  I said goodbye to everyone and jumped in the car faster than you could say VACATION and beat it out of town.  Overall it was a fantastic experience and while I am not a regular watcher of shows like this, I was glad to learn so much so fast and get a paycheck at the end.

As a quick addendum I will tell you that days after I returned from the summer I booked a principal role in a feature film and had two days of shooting.  It was (as you can imagine) a much, much fancier experience and I would like to quickly highlight the differences for you.  They were gigantic mostly because there were really fancy people in the movie I was shooting, which was called Gods Behaving Badly.  Like….as an example….Christopher Walken (I didn’t meet him) and Alecia Silverstone (I spent two days with her and she’s very nice.)  It was directed and produced by the guys who did Little Miss Sunshine and other fancy movies.  Fancy people on set means one thing.  Lots of people taking care of the fancy people on set.  Because I had a few lines (as opposed to no lines) I was considered a principal (fancy person) and not an extra (very un-fancy).  This gave me many perks (like hanging around Alecia Silverstone).


1)  A guy named Tru whose sole responsibility was to “keep eyes on me”.  This (naturally) made me want to play hide and seek, but I will tell you the one time he couldn’t find me (during lunch) he was breathless and said into his walkie talkie, “I’ve got her.  I found her” and seemed so upset that I didn’t make a move without him knowing.  I really liked him and spent a lot of time hearing about all the shoes he was planning to buy.  Which, and I’m not kidding, delighted me.

Tru would also get me anything I wanted to the point of it making me uncomfortable, to which he replied, “yeah, everyone says that they’ll get their own coffee at first, but then you get real used to the idea that it’s my job to go get it so just tell me how you like it.”  Honestly?  By the time I was done with the two days of shooting I was begging Rob to get me things because I missed Tru so much.  Rob would never, ever, ever be as good at Tru’s job (but he wasn’t really trying).  I actually realized that Beatrix treats me like I am Tru….so that is a problem.

2)  One word:  Golf carts (That’s actually two words, but you get the point).  I never had to walk anywhere.  Ever.  Never.  Tru drove me everywhere.  If I had to go to the bathroom?  Tru drove me.  If I needed a granola bar?  Tru drove me.  I’m considering purchasing a Barbie Jeep for Beatrix so she can drive me around.  It would work, don’t judge.

3) One word: Trailer.  As in, I had my own.  Okay, it wasn’t really my own, it was attached to the “honey”**

%%wppa%% %%photo=19%% %%size=0.4%% %%align=left%%**The honey is one big trailer which houses many small rooms and bathrooms which are designated “Lucy” and “Desi”.  It was a giant improvement from my Lifetime dressing room which was…..none.  Oh wait.  I did have a prison cell one day.

4)  Here was the best thing.  In the scene it rains.  There were people everywhere with towels and I had one woman whose job it was to “dry me”.  I got like, a drop of water on me, but she still dried me.  It was both embarrassing and great and made me deeply aware of the fact that movie stars are coddled in a way that make newborn babies look deprived.

I think the movie is set to come out in the summer of 2013, but I’ll keep you posted.

So we’re wrapping up!  Again I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who’ve read this along the way and know that I really appreciate it.  Tomorrow is the day when all the people start coming to read SMASH and while I am grateful for the exposure, please know that it is you guys that I think of when it comes to writing this blog.  We’ll be back together again after the dust settles and the crowd has loaded up and left.  Just you and me and a bunch of empty party cups and fallen streamers telling stories.

Until then, we’ll smash it.







Posted in The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed. | 6 Comments

An After Theater Vlog with Sharon and Jaaaake

Happy Wednesday and Happy Birthday Beatrix!!!  Jacob and I went to see CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and ended up late-night vlogging in Angus McIndoe.  Grab a snack because we run about 15 minutes in this one, which is about 2, 543 minutes shorter than the first act of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.  Enjoy!

Posted in Vlog (Video Blog) | 2 Comments

Dear Sharon (and Rob)…

With the passing of a journalistic female icon this week, Ms. Pauline Phillips who created and wrote her “Dear Abby” column until it was taken over my her daughter, I’ve decided to start a new series.  Yes, you guessed it, Dear Sharon.  I get questions all the time.  Sometimes in Facebook messages, more frequently in responses to this blog, and even in person.  I’m never going to claim to have all the answers but if I don’t know I’ll find someone who does know.  Or I’ll make up something really creative.  In all honesty, I love to answer questions so this suits me well.  Let’s try it!

In all honesty the idea was not mine.  I heard from a reader named Rick on my Contact Me page and he gave me the idea.  So Rick, here is your letter reprinted and answered in the best way I can.  Rob will weigh in, too.

Dear Sharon,

I’ve enjoyed the blog, blogisodes, and “what I liked about” posts for over a year now. And I missed reading during the summer slowdown, BTW, but I guess everyone is entitled to a vacation now and then, just don’t make a habit of it.

Sharon: I did take a long break.  And then some more breaks.  I’m sorry about that, but I’ll tell you what I learned in my first year of blogging….it’s all about blog burnout prevention and it is a very real thing. In my first year I wrote 182 posts and averaged 1,500 words per post.  This adds up to 273,000 words in a year. To give you a picture of this, the final (and longest) of the Harry Potter books (Deathly Hallows) has 198,227 words so I out-wrote Ms. Rowlings by about 75,000 words (and that book took 2 movies!).  I needed a break and I needed to slow down or I was going to burn out quickly.

For future moments when you have, er, a moment:

1) You go to tons of shows. You take your kids to tons of shows. Do you get special prices on tickets, or even freebies because you are in the business? Do you want to adopt a son? I’m only 66.

I get to go to a lot of shows because I am a voter for the TONY awards and I get two free tickets to every show that opens on Broadway.  I could never, ever attend all the theater I attend without these free tickets and to say that I am grateful for the honor is a gigantic understatement.  It’s funny, when I was growing up I had a swimming pool because my Dad owned a swimming pool company.  I always hoped people would want to be my friend because I had a pool, and I feel the same way about these tickets.  I try to take as many different people as I can but certainly my husband and my kids are the biggest beneficiaries.  Free tickets to shows are hard to come by, but there are services like TDF and other online companies who provide discounted tickets for a small joining fee.  Most people I know who do this are very happy with the results.  Additionally, in slow times (like September and January-March shows will “paper” their audiences and pass out free tickets.  Sometimes they go to local theater schools, sometimes other shows on their days off, but overall free tickets to Broadway shows are pretty rare. 
2) Why would Disney decide to risk a Broadway musical on source material like Newsies that was a big flop? (We enjoyed the show, never saw the film.) Who can explain what gets produced and what doesn’t?

This answer comes from across the couch, Rob Meffe, who piped up and said, “I actually know the answer to that.”

According to Rob (but I am still typing because it was long and I am paraphrasing), Newsies was a very touchy project from the beginning.  It is an obvious musical–but because it was a tough fight to get the movie made and then the movie flopped, no one wanted to touch the material.  Legend has it that everyone at Disney who worked on the film version of Newsies was fired. 

Fast forward many years and cut to Alan Menken’s two daughters who are die hard fans of the movie and constantly badgered him to turn it into a musical.  Apparently Menken ran into Harvey Fierstein one day and Fierstein says, “Why don’t you turn Newsies into a musical?” Fierstein says he’ll write the book, gets Disney to agree to greenlight the project, but only on a small-ish scale, not to Broadway, but to a regional theater, The Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey.  The rest is history.  It opened to standing ovations, huge crowds and great reviews.  But even then, they moved the show to a small theater on Broadway with a limited run (it is now an open run). 

Everything gets produced for different reasons, but as with all business, follow the money.

3) Since you do ‘swing’, how would that work for a show like “Once”, where performers have to sing – and dance – and play their own instruments? They can’t really have a whole backup cast standing around, but they can’t just pull from the usual swing players either, can they? (Maybe this is a question for Rob?)

Not to brag (I can’t be bragging, I don’t have a job right now), but swings are some of the most talented people on Broadway.  They do it all.  Including at Once. And no, there is not a one understudy per playing actor quota, there is usually two, but most of the time one or both of the understudies are also in the show in smaller roles.  There are also off stage understudies (swings) who can go on for one of several people and when they go on part of the deal is that they do the whole show, so at Once you are looking at a group of swings and understudies who play a plethora of instruments, and they sing and dance.  Crazy, right?

4) We bought the DVD of “Memphis”, which is a professionally videographed performance of the Broadway show. a) why did they do that rather than a movie, and b) why don’t other shows which have little chance of becoming a movie do that too? (I’ve seen a bootleg of a show from a handheld camera by some guy in the balcony (at “Drowsy Chaperone”) – and it’s gross – but I would happily pay for a real video of many of the shows that I have seen. Wouldn’t you?)

Money, money, money.  It’s all about money.  Memphis ran for four days in limited release in movie theaters and then was released on DVD.  Occasionally shows are recorded for PBS, but filming for DVD is rare.  Whether or not it becomes more common place depends on sales, but I’m sure their ears pricked up when you said you’d be happy to pay for it. [Rob chiming in here]: The company that produced Memphis is called “Direct From Broadway” and they distribute several other filmed stage musicals, including Jekyll & Hyde starring David Hasselhoff, Smokey Joe’s Cafe and Putting It Together.  Sharon is right that it has to do with money. Owners of the rights to musicals are not always convinced that distributing filmed versions of their product does not cut into the ticket sales of live performances of their product.

5) If the original Les Mis was produced with almost all the parts being ‘chorus’, how does that work? Who decides what’s chorus and what’s featured? And what are the minimum salaries for each?

Les Miserables being mostly chorus contracts is a bit of an anomaly and one that Actors’ Equity Association would probably like to forget.  To answer specifically, Actors’ Equity Association is the ruling party on what kind of contract an actor will be placed on (although the producer can–and will–campaign for a certain kind of contract).  The reason the Les Mis actors were put on chorus contracts has to do with how they start the show.  If you start the show as your principal character you are just that–a principal contract.  This is usually not a problem because why would a person appear as anything BUT their character?  In a show as big as Les Miz they wanted as many actors onstage as they could get from the beginning of the show.  Only Jean Val Jean, Javert and Fantine (and the kids) start as their named characters.  Cosette, Marius, the Thenardiers, Enjolras and Eponine all appear as unnamed ensemble members in the group scenes until they “breakaway” at various points in the show to get ready for their principal roles.  Because they START the show as ensemble, they are placed on ensemble contracts. 

Funnily enough, because of the way the riders work on the contracts (you get more money to understudy a role) the understudies for these roles often make more money than the people playing them.  What is the minimum pay?  That used to be an easy answer but now there are “tiered” payments to tours so most of the tours make different salaries.  The minimum chorus contract on Broadway is $1,754.

6) How about a once a week column – we ask questions, you give answers? A Dear Abby kind of thing? I’ve already started. Now your turn.

I did it!  Now you guys have to keep it going.  You don’t have to ask as many questions as Rick did (he got us off to a nice start) because I can always combine questions in a post.  Let’s see what kind of questions I get and then we’ll see how often we can run this!  Place questions in the comments section, or email them to me at

Thanks for playing.


More of the LIFETIME series later this week!


Posted in Dear Sharon (and Rob)...., First Blogisode of this Story | 3 Comments

The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed (Blogisode Nine)

Happy Friday!

Let’s talk upcoming programming here on My Own Space.

As most of you know, and maybe some of you care, SMASH starts season two on February 4th, and the plan, Stan, is to reprise my SMASH FACT OR FICTION blog. I’ve learned a few things since season one, and here’s how I’m running the show.

1) This Lifetime blog will conclude prior to the start of SMASH.

2) I will not start another blog series while SMASH is on the air. Why, you ask? Because the way my blog is laid out it is difficult for people to find a previous blog once I’ve published something new. I don’t know about you but there is nothing I loathe more than trying to find something and having to search for it. I am grateful that things like SMASH F OR F and even the LES MISERABLES post are well liked and shared on chat boards, and as a result the traffic comes in for days as it goes a little viral. Therefore, it’s SMASH only. The exception will be if the show takes a break and in that case I’ll write some “Let Me Tell You What I Liked About…” posts about shows I’ve seen recently (we’re coming up on Tony season–and hey–if you want to see a show–I’m pitching WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF and THE HEIRESS. Both are excellent, excellent with some totally kick-ass acting. Good stuff.

3) Rather than writing for a Broadway website, I’m keeping SMASH FACT OR FICTION here on my own site where I can control it. But, as a Mommy and a business woman I am squarely doing this FOR PROFIT so I am open for advertising business.

3) Questions about advertising? I have answers. Check out the menu at the top and you’ll see a new page “Information for Advertisers” and there you will find advertising rates and all specifics. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that I will continue to advertise what I think I can best sell. I’m not looking for hair replacement ads, I’m looking for things my readers would be interested in. Do you run a summer theater camp? Are you a producer with a limited budget but an amazing show? A voice teacher looking to expand your studio? This is the place. I’ll give your company a unique and specialized pitch specific to my readers. And my readers are looking for interesting things, right readers?

Speaking of interesting advertisers, check out our first advertiser of the season, my dear friend and AVENUE Q alum, Angela Ai who has been deeply training for four years in Core Energetics Therapy.  This work has honed her ability to help people move past their stuck energy and find their true and happy life.  I’ve done this work with Angela for years (we work over Skype) and I believe with all my heart that if it were not for Angela this blog would not exist.  I was caught up in publishing my next book and what people wanted me to write rather than just finding my own path.  My own space.  I highly recommend her weekend workshop as a trial (there is one on Sunday, January 27th, book now for the reduced rate!) and if you love her as I do, you can continue with her via Skype.  She is seriously gifted and you will be the beneficiary.  You can see her ad in the upper right hand corner of this page and if you mention this blog she will keep the $100 fee all the way up to the 27th.  It’s like Macy’s Bonus Days!

Now back to our Lifetime blog!  Quick story: Last night I was plagued by insomnia (again–this is haunting me–I swear it’s my antibiotic but I can tell Rob doesn’t believe me) and I was perusing my late night Facebook news feed. I guess there was a marathon on Lifetime of the My Life Is A Lifetime Movie series and one of my FB friends posted a status along the lines of this: “I think the actors who do these Lifetime re-enactments must go to a reaaaally special ‘acting’ school.”

Ouch. Right? Hey! Careful when you put snarky things in your Facebook feed because someone like me just might have late-night antibiotic induced insomnia and read it.  I know, I know I should be a little tougher after all these years in a harsh business but I guess I’m not, so I’ll tell you about it and then let it go.  I know it wasn’t Shakespeare.  I’ve always said it’s a better story than a product, which is true, so let’s get back to the story!

We left off here:

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At the Nassau County Corrections Center.  AKA Long Island Prison.  As in orange jump suits.




Imagine me for one minute pulling up to that prison just knowing I was going to tell you this story.  I knew I would have to wait for months.  I knew I could end up IN the Long Island Jail in an orange jumpsuit just for breaking my confidentiality agreement, but I didn’t care.  Worth it.

Let’s get to it.

The first thing we had to do was get a total de-brief on what was acceptable and what wasn’t.  Here is the gist.

1)  Leave a picture ID with the guard and get a pass (see above picture).  Have that pass on you at all times.

2)  Never, ever go anywhere alone.  (uh, duh).

3)  Stay in the designated holding areas only because while this is a working prison we were entering a non-occupied area and that is the only part of the prison where we were allowed.

4)  And most important, lunch would be served outside the prison. (Always talking about food).

We walk in, escorted by numerous non-talking guards and I want to tell you what.  It was very prison-y.  Just think “prison” and you’ll get it.  No windows. Think walls and lots of locked doors.  It was awesome.

Eventually we all made our way to the prison chapel which was to be our “holding area”, thank you, Jesus.  Meanwhile, the wardrobe and makeup crews were madly setting everything up and the camera and lighting guys were trying to find all their shots.  We waited in the (amazingly stuffy) chapel and eventually we were escorted up to the actual prison area where we were going to be held for a very long time.  I’d like to take this moment to point out that if you think of show biz as glamorous, this might be a moment that you re-consider that thought.

Let me break it down.

This was a non-working part of the prison and I’m going to just go out on a limb and say (and hope) that it hadn’t been used in a very long time, so this is what it meant.

No where to sit.

No air conditioning.

No windows that opened with the exception of one that we found that opened a sliver….BUT….from the little sliver we could see the prisoners in their orange jumpsuits playing basketball outside, and I’ll tell you what, I could tell from that limited view from that sliver of window, those guys were young.

It was filthy.  Like….layers of grime filthy.  Like “prison” filthy.

So picture about 50 people including principals and extras all standing around in the dirt and heat trying to act cool in a hot prison.  Meanwhile, wardrobe and makeup and trying to get people fitted and ready to start filming.  Let me tell you something.  They had entire lawn sized garbage bags of JUST pregnancy bellies.  This was specific to the prison shoots–yes–several story lines involved pregnant women in jail.  I caught on fairly quickly that my scene wasn’t being shot in the prison–as in the cells–(alas, no prison birthing scene for me.  Sigh.) but would instead be shot in an office on the other side.  Because the priority was to shoot everything in the cells first, our scene moved to the back of the line.  So I did what I do best.  I blogged and waited for lunch/dinner to be served.  Perhaps you remember this picture from last June?  I was blogging and said “I can’t tell you where I am blogging right now, but trust me it’s great.  I can tell you now.  I was blogging from prison.

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Seriously, prison.

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And Natalie (the girl playing my daughter) and I maybe took some pictures while we waited around forever.  Because you have an iPhone and you are in a prison.  It’s mandatory.

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And then we were hustled outside chain-gang style to have a late lunch.

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And then I was taken to my dressing room (finally!) to get dressed to shoot my scene.  Let me show you what my dressing room looked like.

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I’m not kidding.  I’m not.  My dressing room was a cell, and no that toilet didn’t work.  And I am so sorry because my BIGGEST REGRET is that I did not take a picture of the actual hash marks on the wall (seriously) and the “I love Jesus” etchings.

I know.  I’m disappointed, too.  Let’s all just take a minute and collect ourselves.

But.  BUT.  I did manage to stage this picture, and it is my pride and joy of the day.  These are ACTUAL prison guards.  Naturally they were easy to find because they were always by the catering tables.  It took me all day and night to work up the nerve to ask for this picture.  For you, dear readers, for you.

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And a quick one of me and my show-daughter (who, yes, is wearing a pregnancy pad.  Because she was 14.  And pregnant.) with my favorite guard.  Can you see how gigantic he is?  Do you know how much these guys loved having their pictures taken (and all the free food)?

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So the day ended around midnight after the final girl had given birth and our scene had been shot.  It was–for those of you who’ve watched it–the scene where I go see the DA and we are in his office.  You’d never know it was all done at a prison.  Unless you had me here to tell you.

The final day of shooting is coming up!  And then some bonus material!  Stay tuned and thanks for reading!







Posted in The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed. | 1 Comment

The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed (Blogisode 8)

It’s the first post of the New Year!  Welcome back, readers!

I’m sorry for the delay, I was struck down by a massive head congestion thingy** (official medical term) which them lovingly moved its way down and became a massive lung congestion thingy** (Again, official), and I am exactly the person you don’t want to be sitting next to on the subway** (substitute church or movie theater or airplane for our non-New Yorkers) because you fear catching the crud.

And because I’ve shared too much already (although not my germs), I will also report that taking Augmentin (an antibiotic) on an empty-ish stomach (Popchips and a Diet Coke) is a very bad idea.  If I thought I felt bad with the congestion crud, nothing compares to antibiotic stomach crud.

Anybody want to come over and give me a kiss?  I’m making myself sound so appealing in this blog post.

I’ll fill you in on how my parents are doing and how life is back in NYC in the next post, but for now, just because my stamina is limited I’m going to move things along and get to the meat and potatoes of this post and by that I mean back to my Lifetime story.  Because, as you know, we’d completed the first day of shooting and had moved on to day #2.  Which was–without a doubt–the best day.

Here’s what I was told.

1)  Meet the van at 35th and 2nd Avenue to go to an undisclosed location.

2)  Bring a photo ID.

Remember because there was no script I had no idea what was coming.  Remember that because there were 6 episodes shooting at once we could end up anywhere and no one in the van had a clue either.

So on this day I climbed into the van with a bunch of women who looked like they could take me down in a single punch.  The van was loud and mouthy and I soon figured out that I was in a van with mostly extras (this had nothing to do with the loud and mouthy part except that they talked a lot about who they were)  and they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing either.  In truth they didn’t care where they were going but they did care a lot about what kind of food was going to be on set.

Are you catching a theme here?  People in film and TV talk about catering a lot.  Let me tell you what.  At most theater jobs you feel like you’re really living if there is a coffee pot with a “contribution jar”.  Free cough drops is luxury.  A water cooler?  Come on now.  That’s for the super fancy.  But on film and TV?  Free food is expected and they were already complaining that it wouldn’t be good because it wasn’t a major network.  And apparently (I learned later) extras are often served different food “Honey, at HBO we got a box lunch.  A BOX LUNCH.  And we had to sit there and watch all those people with 2 speaking lines eat steak.” In addition, extras are often served last.  Look it’s a way to make a quick $100 in a day, but you aren’t always treated well.  Just ask the ladies in my van who will give you a loud earful all the way from 35th and 2nd Avenue to Long Island.

Correct.  We were shooting in Long Island.

What’s so exciting about Long Island you challenge?

Game on.  Let’s do this.

We pulled up in what would be the first of two shoot locations.  I will show you exactly what I saw when I pulled in.

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Correct.  Location #1 was a hookah lounge.  I want to lie to you and say, oh no big deal it’s just a Hookah Lounge, but I have to tell you that I kind of panicked.  Don’t judge me, but when I saw “Hookah Lounge” I thought HOOKER as in a prostitute, and then–I don’t know–my brain started reeling because I was trying to figure out if prostitution was legal in Long Island and was I going into a brothel, but then I figured if it was a brothel I hoped it would be like Miss Mona’s from THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS because that would be kind of fun and then I started humming “It’s just a little bitty pissant country place…” which is the first few words of one of the songs in the show to soothe myself.

Now I know that this point even my Aunt Barbara is probably laughing at me because how could I now know that a hookah lounge is some kind of smoking bar (or something like that) and probably very trendy people do it–but hey–I was in a van full of giant women at a strip mall in Long Island and all I had on me was a picture ID.  I was a little freaked out.

After I texted Rob that I was at a hooker bar and then subsequently texted him the very picture I just posted, he (even very straight Rob Meffe) corrected me that it wasn’t HOOKER but was HOOKAH.

By this point everyone was eating sandwiches outside of the Hookah Lounge and I’d been told to “just hang out” because I wasn’t shooting at that location (whew) so naturally I did what I always do and took that time to write a blog and I ate at Subway because it was:

1)  The only restroom on set and they’d had so many people use it they finally hung up an “out of order” sign, which you could bypass if you were eating food from their store

2) Easily trackable on my Weight Watchers diet.

3) Away from the very loud extras who were complaining that the Diet Cokes didn’t have ice and there wasn’t a comfortable chair to sit on and there was no bathroom (three problems I solved very quickly, but then again I am not a lured by free food).

So after a 6″ sub and a couple of hours we are loaded back into the van except this time I end up next to a guy who looks like he should be playing either the Emcee from CABARET or Johnny Depp’s gay pirate brother and what I mean by that is that he was very thin and pale and kind of creepy looking and had on a lot of running black eyeliner.  I struck up a conversation with him because, honestly, who wouldn’t?  Mostly I wanted (needed) to know what had been shot in the Hooker/Hookah lounge and I won’t lie here, the guy looked like he was about to cry.

Turns out he had to simulate beating some girls while they were wearing bunny suits (did anyone see this episode?  I didn’t) and he said it was awful and he was worried he was offending the girls the whole time.  He’s like this normal father of 2 dressed up to look like a pimp or something and this day of shooting was his own personal hell.  After about 5 seconds he totally shut down, looked out the window and I didn’t see him for the rest of the day.

But I’ll tell you what I did see out our window and I snapped a picture of it because I couldn’t believe all my most excellent dreams were about to come true and it was the very second I decided this blog had to be written.  Because you can’t get any more Lifetime then this.  Just guess where we were.  Just guess.  I’ll post a picture.

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Here’s another hint:


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Here you go.

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Correct.  That says Nassau County Corrections Center and before you think I was somewhere in Long Island that was doing grammatical corrections for this blog (where I should most certainly be sentenced) I will tell you instead that I was about to spend the next 8 hours of my life inside a working prison.

Isn’t this FANTASTIC?

I immediately started humming, “He Had it Coming” from CHICAGO and pulled out my picture ID to get inside.

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






Posted in The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed. | 4 Comments

Let Me (Us) Tell You What I (We) Liked About Les Miserables The Movie

Hello everyone and Happy New Year! I’m writing with my co-pilot Rob Meffe as we drive back to New York. We saw Les Mis six days ago but have been writing this blog verbally since, so let’s hop to it.

A few gentle reminders, Dear Readers.
1) This is not a review. If you’ve read my “Let Me Tell You What I Liked” series in the past you know that I feel there are plenty of negative reviewers out there in the world, and instead I focus on things I liked or things that interested me. In this post Rob and I will do a little comparison of the screen and stage versions, so we might digress a bit into the “What we wished they’d done” but generally speaking, this is not our rant on why we hated the movie. If that is what you are looking for, go elsewhere.

2) This post will be chock full of spoilers. Seriously, there is no way to write this without ruining the whole thing if you haven’t seen it, so go see it and come back. If you are still reading, you’ve been warned. And yes, although you might think you know the show backwards and forwards, there are some surprises in the movie. Not like aliens punching their way out of Sigourney Weaver’s stomach surprises, but some surprises none-the-less.

Rob was just telling me about all the blogs out there about the movie and the ones he liked the best, and I wonder if we should just publish one of those instead, but he says no. We have 8 hours left on this drive and are bored out of our minds, so this is our driving entertainment. He’s driving and has little concern for whether or not I will get car sick as I type, so let’s get to it.

It seems that it might be best to start with why we are interested in writing this blog in the first place, so I’m going to give you a short run down of our history with the show. I could write a book about this (hey! I already did!) but I will keep it short and sweet. I was cast in the 3rd National touring company of Les Mis in 1992 (fondly referred to as “The Marius Company”–sidebar–most big National tours of Broadway shows are named in an attempt to keep the tours straight for bookkeeping. Example, Rob and I toured with the “Raoul Company” and I later toured with the “Music Box Company” of PHANTOM. It’s an actual LLC and is what is listed on your paychecks for those of you who like geek theater trivia. I’m assuming there is an “Elphaba” and a “Glinda”company of WICKED, you get the idea).
ANYWAY, sorry I just digressed into accounting, after a year and a half with the tour, which Rob eventually joined as a keyboard player (he subbed in whenever he came to visit me), I left the tour and then was offered the Broadway Company (Broadway companies are called, well just that. The Broadway Company and your paycheck is just the name of the show. As in “Les Miserables LLC”). I was with the Broadway Company off and on for about a year and a half, and then, went back out and re-joined the Marius Company understudying the roles of Eponine and Cosette. So–if you are making a graph–please note that I played every female role in the show with the exception of Fantine, Madame Thenardier (which I was offered but did not take) and Little Cosette (which our daughter Charlotte played at the Weston Playhouse in 2008.)

Rob’s history: He was a keyboard sub on the Marius Company from 1993-1994, became the Associate Conductor of the Marius Company in 1996, and became the Associate Conductor on Broadway in 1997, a job he kept until the show closed at the Imperial Theater in 2003. In 2008 he music directed a production at the Weston Playhouse.

For your graph: That clocks in at a sum total of 11+ years with the show, and a myriad of casts. We traveled to Singapore and Hawaii with the show, and honestly–in many ways–the show is the soundtrack of our early adult lives.
So, you know, we were pretty excited to see the movie, but naturally not *quite* as excited as we would’ve been if we’d been in or worked on the movie, but I suppose most alums of the show feel that way. But we’ll get to alums who ARE in the film in a just minute.

If you are a regular reader of this series you know that Rob is presently the Director of Music of the Musical Theater Program at Pace University and he teaches a class called, “Musical Theater History and Repertoire”. He usually gives us a little history of the show we’re talking about. He’s driving, so I will type as he dictates. For all of Rob’s students reading this, you’ll recognize this from his “British Mega-Musicals” lecture, and please picture him driving, unshaven, somewhere in Western PA as he does this with no notes or Google. Let’s see what he knows off the cuff. Ready? Here’s Rob:

Les Miserables would not have happened without Cameron Mackintosh. He saw a concert production of the score by two French song writers Claude-Michele Schoenberg and Alain Boublil. He opened the show with The Royal Shakespeare Company directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird to fair reviews but sold out houses. One interesting element that was added for the London production was the 17 minute prologue which explained the back story of Jean Valjean to British audiences who were not as familiar with the tale. In 1987 LES MISERABLES opened on Broadway and ran until 2003. Les Mis won the Tony Award as best musical. There was a short lived revival a few years ago. Fun facts: Patti LuPone was the original Fantine in London, but did not do the Broadway production (allegedly) because she did not want to play a bullet boy on the barricade after she died. Randy Graff assumed the role and did, in fact (as all Fantines do) appear as a bullet boy. In fact (now this is Sharon co-opting Rob’s history lesson) the only characters that only play ONE character in the show are: Jean Valjean, Javert and the child actors. Everyone else in the cast appears as a chorus member in various parts of the show. In addition, only three adult actors are on a principal actor contract, Jean Valjean, Javert and Fantine. Everyone else (Marius, Eponine, the Thenardiers et al) are on Chorus contracts. Can you believe that??

Enough chit chat. Let’s get to it.

What We Liked (In no particular order)

1) Well come on, let’s face it, we like that the movie got MADE. Right? We’re never going to turn down a chance for ANYONE to profit from a musical, and this movie in particular has been rumored to be going into production for years, even as far back as when I first started in the show. Let’s talk dollars and cents for a moment. This movie made more money in its opening weekend than it cost to mount the original Broadway production. And money begets money and that equals jobs. A few days ago Cameron announced that LES MISERABLES would be returning to Broadway in the 2013-2014 season, as he is bringing the critically acclaimed current National Tour back to the New York stage. So the good news for those of you that had a problem with the movie? You can go see a great production the show in the coming months.

2) The trailers. Don’t you think the build up to the film release was great? Starting back as early as last summer the trailers stirred excitement around the world. Who didn’t tear up when they first saw Anne Hathaway singing “I Dreamed a Dream?” I was like–oh my God–they did it. They actually turned the show into a movie and it’s an actress singing the score I love and it’s not Uma Thurman and I’m so excited. And to release it on Christmas Day? I mean….you know….that’s the Big Time.

3) Speaking of Anne Hathaway singing “I Dreamed A Dream,” of course (you expected this) she has to be at the top of the list of things we liked about the film. We knew everyone loved her, we had heard the hype and boy, I’m thrilled to report that she lived up to it. From frame one Hathaway was completely committed and this musical is full of people who are on the edge of the abyss. She allowed herself to go there and we bought it hook line and sinker. Perhaps the coffin was a bit much–perhaps just singing the lyric “Don’t they know they’re making love to one already dead” gets the point across–but we’ll give it a pass. Who thought Hathaway was going to pass out at one point during the song? I did. I got nervous for her and was telling her to BREATHE in my head and caught myself holding MY breath. Overall, we think her performance was the most successful.

Rumor has it that the haircut was actually her hair being cut and I’ll say two things about that.
1) How nervous was the camera man to not screw it up because you have to get that in one take?
2) How nervous was the actress who had to actually cut her hair?
Super. Nervous.

There are some plot additions and changes that we thought were kinda brilliant.
1) Jean Valjean hoisting that giant flag out of the water (yes-we were a bit blinded by the Jesus reference BUT-) here’s why we loved it. The entire storyline that Javert recognizes JVJ (Jean Valjean shortcut) because of his brute strength is an important one and kind of comes out of left field in the show, when JVJ lifts up a cart. Okay, in the movie, they establish up front that JVJ is basically Hercules when he lifts up that giant flagpole, so when he lifts up the cart a while later, you’re like oh no! Don’t do it! Javert will know it’s you! A small but powerful plot development. A- Director Hooper (point reduction for blatant Jesus imagery).

2) Speaking of that giant cart, who didn’t LOVE that it was the guy who got squished and saved under the cart who showed up in the convent? Did you catch that? Fauchelevant is totally the guy who saves JVJ and Cosette. Nice. Loved it.

3) Moving “I Dreamed A Dream” to after “Lovely Ladies.” Yes. Yes. Makes such better sense. Why wasn’t it always there? My best guess? Costume changes were needed and putting the song their allowed everyone to strip down to their whore and slather some makeup on.

4) Here’s one we didn’t understand; Why change the story and have Gavroche deliver the letter from Marius to Cosette (and intercepted by JVJ)? We prefer the story as it is in the show where Eponine delivers it, because it motivates her climbing over the barricade to get to Marius…and she gets shot…blah, blah, blah. Why Gavroche?
5) There are some things that are in the book and not in the show, but found their way into the movie and we liked them. Here’s what we can remember.
**They pull Fantine’s teeth and sell them. It’s a brutal scene in the book and it made the film and it was awful and great.
**You can see that the factory workers are making rosaries. We can’t remember if it is from the book or if that is a director Hopper thing, but either way at least there was some detail about what was being made in the factory.
**They really show and explain that JVJ and Cosette hide out in the convent. In my foggy memory of the book it’s only Cosette that hides there and JVJ is somewhere else, but I don’t know that I’m right. It’s a long book and I read it in 1993, but regardless, in the book there is a ton of Cosette (and only a few pages about Eponine–a very minor player) and one of the big plot points is about her being raised by the nuns. It is not developed in the show at all and I loved the nod in the movie.
**Hey don’t blink, that’s Marius’s Grandfather! He’s a big character in the book, it is established that Marius comes from money and a higher class than the rest of the students and they give this plot line some development in the movie.
**They built Gavoroche’s Elephant! This is straight from the book, he and his band of ruffians live in there, and it was a real landmark in France.
**Who is General Lamarque? Okay, it’s still pretty vague in the movie, but better than in the show. He is the leader of the movement whose murder kicks off the revolution and I think he gets two mentions in the movie instead of the one mention in the play.
**That said, I do think the movie follows the book point that this is a very small revolution and not the famous revolution we learn about in history class. The movie does a great job depicting the struggle of the working class people and whether or not to sacrifice their lives for a small group of student’s ideals. This is well set up in the book and well shown in the movie (remember how the towns people shut their windows and refuse to help?). Much more clear than the show.
**We like that they kept a little of the song “Turning” and show the women mopping up the blood in the street. They talk a lot about the blood running in the street in the book.
**From Charlotte: She loved how brutal Javert’s death was–that you could actually see his body break, which is directly from the book. She thought the build up to the death was very accurate and you could understand Javert’s reason for jumping.

Okay, now let’s talk a little about casting and let’s start with former cast members.
1) HOW MUCH DID WE LOVE COLM WILKINSON AS THE BISHOP??? SO MUCH. You guys all know he was the original JVJ in London and on Broadway, right? And then he showed up as the Bishop in the film. Brilliant. Only thing better? When he showed up with Fantine as one of JVJ’s escorts to heaven. In the show it is Fantine and Eponine, which is bizarre because why is Eponine there? She didn’t have any impact on JVJ’s life. According to Rob it was originally the Bishop in the show and I don’t know why it was changed to Eponine. If you know, please write in. I have guesses but I am not typing them.

2) Somewhere in that whore scene is Frances Ruffelle, the original Eponine. Fun.

3) How about that Loud Hailer? Who is that? He’s never named, but in the movie he shows up on a horse in the opposition army and sings, “You on barricade listen to this. No one is coming to help you to fight.” (etc). In the show this is done as a voice over by one of the guys who just run off and sing it in an off stage microphone, and then he runs back on and they all get shot. In the film the sequence is a little slower and the Loud Hailer is shown (and is a British actor named Hadley Fraser) and you could see real remorse on his face. He wants them to surrender, he doesn’t want to go in and kill all those kids. It was a small but terrific moment.

4) A lot of people don’t know that Hugh Jackman is a Broadway musical theater veteran and has starred in three major musicals, OKLAHOMA (on the West End), THE BOY FROM OZ, and his own show, HUGH JACKMAN, BACK ON BROADWAY. Also not well known, Russell Crowe has his own band.

Look, overall, would we have liked slightly better and more rhythmic singing?  Sure.  Absolutely.  But I hope you can see that we not only were delighted the film was (finally) made, but we really enjoyed it.

Don’t forget, coming in February SMASH Fact or Fiction.  If you are interested in advertising on this blog during that high traffic time, contact me at

Later this week we’ll be back to my Lifetime TV blog, The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed (Or, My Life While Shooting A Lifetime Movie).  What??  You haven’t read it yet? Catch up NOW.  It’s dishy and fun and a perfect way to spend New Year’s Day.  Grab a snack and catch up HERE.

Happy New Year!

P.S. Lots of good discussion, corrections and questions in the comments below if you want to read even more (this is becoming as long as Hugo’s book).

Posted in Let Me Tell You What I Like About It | 28 Comments

The Untitled and Confidential Post: Exposed (Blogisode Seven)

I am sitting in a waiting room at University Hospital where my father is having an angioplasty surgery to relive congested arteries in his lower legs.  He should be done very soon, which will be a great relief to my mother.  She’s with me although she just ran back to her desk (she works here) and my brother is here, too, although he’s off eating lunch.  So ostensibly I am alone.  So, I am blogging.

Now my mother is back.  That was quick, right?  I’ll report in about my mother, she just had Chipotle, so clearly she is feeling better.  I think the worry about my Dad is wreaking a bit of havoc on her along with the digestive issues that already exist from her surgery.  It’s the perfect storm of stress and bad health and I hate it and I am worried about them.  But, I am still coming back to New York on January 1st because–and I have to remind myself of this fairly regularly–I don’t really live with my parents in Cincinnati.

Who thinks I’m going to be a wreck when I leave?

You would be correct.

Shall we get back to our regularly scheduled programing?

I left off with CUT!  CUT!  She missed her mark!

Here’s what happened.  I missed my mark.

Let’s go back.  I need to talk about what a “mark” is for those of you less familiar with the show biz speak.  A “mark” is simply the spot on the floor where you are supposed to stand.  This isn’t brain surgery, right?  (It’s funny to write that considering that I am sitting in a hospital right now.  Update: I am now sitting in recovery with my Dad and he is watching CNN and talking about how gun control has to be passed on those horrible assault weapons.  Good conservative guy supporting gun control.  I love it.  He’s doing great, by the way and eagerly waiting for his B-L-T and fries.  Yes, that is what he is eating after just getting his arteries cleaned out.  You can lead a horse to water….)

I derailed myself.  But I am a little scattered so bear with me.  I wonder if anyone else is writing a blog back here in recovery?  I’m thinking I’m the only one.


Now I am writing as I wait for Beatrix’s Christmas concert, and just to give to a proper picture of it, I am typing in the pew of Immaculate Heart Of Mary Church. Like, in the church. Again–and I am just going out on a limb here–I’ll bet I am the only person blogging as they wait. I am in a sea of preppy white people. I’m a long way from home.

Back to what we were talking about before, hitting a  mark. Not like a Mark (now I’m thinking New Testament Mark, but Jesus is staring at me), but like a mark on the floor. Right? Right. In theater a mark is usually a number that is glow taped in the front of the stage. It works like this. The center of stage is 0 and then it goes out by feet, with the even numbers marked. So, 2 feet to the right is “2” two feet beyond that is “4” and so on up to….oh I don’t know…maybe 16 if it is a huge stage? And then it is the same thing on the left. So a normal stage direction would be, “Sharon you move to right 8” OR “Sharon be about 7ish on the left”.
“Ish” is a big direction in theater. Unless you are a Rockette, I suppose and then you’d better hit that mark exactly so you don’t mess up the line, but overall it’s pretty “ish”y.

So when Auggie the assistant director said to hit my mark and showed me, I was like, oh okay, I can hit a mark, I’ve done theater forever. He wanted me to stand ion the doorway. Got it. I can do that.
Apparently I can’t do that.
Because I didn’t do it.
They had to cut because I didn’t hit my frigging mark.
So they are yelling CUT and I’m thinking, what do you mean I didn’t hit my mark? I’m in the doorway. I’m here. It’s fine.
Not fine.
Here’s why.
In theater if you hit your mark in an “ish” kind of way it doesn’t matter because for the most park you can be seen. I mean, okay, maybe you will be out of your light, but still, people can see you.
In film, they focus the cameras within a millimeter of that mark and if you don’t hit it EXACTLY then you will be blurry or not in the shot and they have to yell cut and it’s embarrassing and AGAIN a clear sign that you are a newbie on set.
Damn it.
So lesson #4 (or whatever number we’re on)
Lesson #4: Memorize where your mark is and hit it.
I’ll tell you how to do it because Auggie The AD taught me in an impromtu TV set lesson.  Get out your notebook and pens.  Ready?  Okay.  On the floor there was (I wish I could draw this) a few strips of tape shaped like a horse shoe with a line through the middle.  Auggie explained that my feet had to actually fit into those two alleys.  Which weren’t big, by the way.  I asked him how to manage to find my way to the mark without looking down and he said that on some sets they actually put sandbags down so you run into them in order to stop.  This wasn’t such a fancy shoot, so his words of advice are now yours.


Duh.  I took a minute and walked it several times, counting the number of steps I needed to take in order to hit the mark and the exact angle I needed and we did it again.  And it worked. And I wasn’t fired. Amen.


This is the last time jump.  Now I am back at my parents’ house looking at my snoozing father comfortable in his chair, procedure over, Mom and Beatrix in bed, me just hanging out with you guys until I give him his insulin at midnight.  What a day.

Finishing up the first day of shooting, I’ll tell you that nothing was quite as eventful but I was on my toes for sure.  It was a riot to watch them shoot several episodes at once because they would set up shots in a room–let’s use the bedroom as an example because (let’s face it) it’s Lifetime TV and scenes in the bedroom are obligatory.  They would shoot a scene for one episode, clear out the actors, change the sheets and some of the art work in the room, and shoot a scene for a different episode.

OH–and this part is GREAT.  Several of the scenes were shot in the same big bed and the big bed was…

….wait for it….

a waterbed.

A king sized waterbed.

But they didn’t want it to look like a waterbed so all the scenes shot on the waterbed–you know, people in the throws of illicit Lifetime TV passion–those poor actors had to make it look like they weren’t rolling around on tsunami size waves.

I’m wrapping this post up because I’m so tired and it is almost time to give my Dad a shot, but I will quickly tell you a couple of other funny things.

They did have to cut because of me one other time but it wasn’t really my fault.  I think I told you that it was hot.  Remember I said “kiln hot”.  And I was in jeans and a wool sweater.  It seemed like any variation of clothing involved a sweater–oh and I was OF COURSE wearing Spanx, so that was another layer.  So at one point my TV daughter and I had to hold an embrace (actually we had to do this twice) and we were both in sweaters and it was a bajillion degrees and they would shoot from different angles (I’ll cover that in the next post) so each scene would take a very long time.  And we would have to hold the hug.  Like, for a really long time.  One of the best was the time they said, “Okay please hold the hug and we’re going to go again in slow motion.”  This immediately made my brain race as I tried to figure out–wait–do I hug in slow motion or is the camera slow motion?

The camera is slow motion.

But they had to cut for me because I was sweating and it sounded like this, “Cut!  She’s sweating.  She’s SWEATING.  MAKEUP TO SET!”

Sweating in TV is verboten and embarrassing.  And hey–it’s hard to stop sweating when everyone is waiting for you to stop sweating.  I would know.

So with all of this eventually we wrapped for the day, took a van back to Manhattan and crawled home to rest up for the next day.

Oh no–and I totally forgot to tell you this so now I am just tossing it in at the end–Rob was in Massachusetts and we had a new babysitter who’d just arrived from Ohio and was set to spend the summer with us in Vermont.  It was her first day in New York City and her first day as our babysitter and you’ll never guess what happened.  Just try to guess.  Just guess.

Beatrix spiked a fever.

Because of course she did.

So I spent the whole day texting back and forth trying to talk her through medicine, etc, and keep her IN New York City and not on the next bus back to Ohio.

So now Beatrix is sick and I have another day of shooting.

And the second day of shooting was my favorite day of all.  It was AMAZING and so very Lifetime TV and they said “be sure to bring a picture ID with you to the van” and  was like, well why do I need that?

Oh and it was good.

I’ll tell you in the next post.

I’ll figure out how to put the pictures in by then because we will need them to tell this part of the story.

Thanks for keeping me company today.


To read the next post in this series, go here.




Posted in I Wish I could Go Back To College, The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed. | 4 Comments