Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Backstage

I thought I would write a little about the world backstage during the run of a show, seeing as I am also The Actress in The Temp, The Actress and The Writer.

I just thought it could be kind of interesting. Since our Macbeth is performed to highschool students, I often wonder what they think of us. If they think we must be as formal as Shakespeare's text, or as dry (granted I don't find Shakespeare formal or dry at all, and I think the company - Tempest Theatre - does a brilliant job in making Shakespeare fun and exciting, still I imagine the stigma attached with Shakespeare can prejudice an audience member, despite what is going on on stage.)

Because backstage has got to be one of the silliest places anywhere.

You know what it's like. You have to keep quiet for whatever reason, and the second you have to keep quiet you turn into a 5 yearold, whispering and giggling. Well that's what it is like backstage. Now, compound that with certain actors who treat the company more like a hockey team, and you get many a fart joke and actual expulsion of smelly air, silly dances, and oh the fun to be had with kilts.

Sometimes people are simply reading the paper or books. Sometimes they are playing video games on the computer.

But these are all in the calm moments.

Suddenly there is a flurry of activity, lighting quick costume changes, swords need to be picked up, a shield falls noisily to the ground. In other words, chaos.

For example, aside from third witch, I was also playing "Gentlewoman" to Lady Macbeth. I was in many scenes with Lesley (who played Lady M), just standing quietly behind her and then exiting with her. Then the two of us would rush backstage so I could help her change costumes. It really was in a way like I was her gentlewoman.

Then of course there are the few actors who may forget they are in a scene. This time round one actor returned to the backstage area after having just finished a scene and was chatting with us, when an arm from the wings reached out and grabbed him, "You're on right now!" The actor ran for it into the wings, and then casually walked onto the stage as if nothing had happened.

My favourite things that go on, of course, are the things that happen on stage itself. The things that the audience has no idea is happening. In large group scenes, usually someone is trying to make someone else laugh. The banquet scene just before intermission for our Macbeth is pretty silly. Several of the guys on stage are wearing wigs to hide their identity and they just look utterly ridiculous. Doesn't help that they also make faces at each other, and quiet jokes while sitting at the table.

Another example occurs at the end of the scene where everyone discovers the king Duncan has been killed, as I was helping Lady M off stage (she had just "fainted"), Macbeth would whisper something to her than me. Something different each time. Once he asked me for my character's email. (After thinking about it backstage I decided my it would be gentlewoman@inverness.com.)

Personally though, in this past run, the weirdest thing that happened to me was during a rather quiet scene in Act 1. I'd had a cold all week, and was now at the stage where all you can do is cough. So whenever I was on stage and had no lines, I'd be sucking on a Halls just in case.

Well we come to a scene where Macbeth and Lady M are talking with Banquo, and I and Seyton are standing in the background as servants with no lines. The other actors are standing in front of us acting their hearts out, and suddenly I feel a tickle in my throat. I do a quiet clearing of my throat, hoping that that will do the trick. Suddenly I feel the compulsion to cough. One of those horrible and uncontrollable coughs that will probably turn into a bit of a coughing fit. So I think about it for less than a moment. And then, with a slight bow of my head, I calmly turn and walk off stage right in the middle of the scene.

And then run for backstage where I proceed to hack up a lung.

Of course nothing was really ruined by my early exit, though the actors were surprised to notice I was no longer on the stage when they turned to look at me. And in fact the few people we knew in the audience couldn't even remember the moment of my exit.

But that's the world of acting. Constant chaos, and unpredictable crazyness backstage and on, while all the time maintaining an illusion of sanity and grace for the audience.

It's bloody brilliant!



The dressing rooms downstairs.


The boys enjoying their wigs.


Macbeth (Jonathan Llyr) getting his chain mail fixed. And his makeup touched up.


The rest of the cast sitting on the stairs backstage waiting while the show is going on.



The noble rebels who hope to usurp Macbeth.


Macbeth's unfortunate army. No wonder he loses.


Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Don't they just look like figures on top of a wedding cake? Two crazy, power hungry, bloodthirsty figures on top of a wedding cake?

5 comments:

Erin said...

Yay! VERY fun post, Adrienne. (Although I want to see pictures of you....)

Heidi the Hick said...

You had Bill and Ted in your show? Excellent!

by the way, chain mail rocks!

Doug A Scott said...

Neat stories and pictures.

Macbeth's army mostly makes me think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

And that is some excellent looking chain-mail!

devonellington said...

I've spent over 20 years in the theatre, the last 11 on Broadway, and there's nothing like the backstage energy. It's a lot of fun.

Great exit, by the way, saving everyone from the coughing fit. Good thinking on your feet.

Adrienne said...

erin - I knew you'd like it! Whenever I post these kinds of posts, I always think of you!

Heidi - never thought of it as Bill and Ted! So totally is! And yes, chain mail does rock, but is heavy. I only had to wear a little bit of it thank goodness.

doug - totally Monty Python aren't they?!

devon - there really is nothing like it is there? Just love it! And thank you for the compliment on my exit. Seriously, it was the only choice!