Friday, October 15, 2010
I keep getting these wonderful emails that say things like, "trees, please make sure you wear pants you don't mind getting dirty, since you'll have to put berries in your pockets".
If you follow this link, and go to "see", and watch the second video, you will get the gist of what I'll be doing in this production.
Our costumes and choreography are based on a different version of the staging. Our heads are not QUITE as ghoulish as those, and also we have wings, so we have complicated little slow-motion curlie-cue-type routes to walk in. I haven't found a good video of that online yet, but I'd love to see what it's supposed to look like from the front. We enter one at a time and begin our intricate little paths, and as more and more chefs come onto stage our paths loop and swirl around each other, and I bet it looks really neat.
The entire sequence is meant to be in a sort of dreamy un-reality, so all of our movements have to be natural but in slow-motion. This is harder than it sounds. One tends to walk like a robot, or do strange things with one's arms (either leave them limp or stiffen them too much). It's fun to play up slow motion and be melodramatic about it, but here our body language has to be dignified and proud of this feast we have prepared for the starving children. Slow motion subtly. In a fat suit.
Then there's these wings. They attach via harness and are made of a metal armature that is then covered in polystyrene. So it's stiff enough not to break when we bump them into things, which is good because there is a lot of scraping and sliding along the table, along the false walls that indicate our entrance and exit points, and of course on each other. They stick out about three feet behind. I am the second chef to enter and I get to enter wings-first. I bet it looks great but it was really tricky to get the hang of as it's a pretty tight fit. Once I had that entrance worked out though I hardly scraped my wings on anything at all.
We all have different props for the table setting. I am "candelabra #4". There's the table cloth first, then there's a music cue that I haven't quite figured out that signals us to raise the candelabras, slowly, and then place them on the table. We exit as soon as things are set on the table, and I have to be offstage as quickly as one can do in slow motion, because I am then the FIRST one back onto stage with my food-tray.*
What this means is that I am the one who really has to get the pace down, since I lead everyone out to the table. We are all struggling to walk slowly enough. There was a wonderful session right at the beginning (before we got the wings on) where we all just wandered around the room, practicing slow motion natural movement. It was a fantastic spectacle. It is so much easier when you can look around and pace yourself with someone else. It's a whole different ballgame when it's just you ahead of everyone, and all you can do is hope people are following you. This is not unlike carrying the cross at mass, and I am thanking my lucky stars I was an alter server for so many years before all this. It takes away the potential for it to be a nervous thing for me, and lets me just focus on the pace.
*We ordered it by height, and guess who's the shortest one? It was me. It's always me. It's been me ever since preschool when I took dance classes. Evidently shortness is a boon for the stage because whenever I've been in shows I've always had some sort of special treatment. In Christmas pageants I got to stand on the same step as the holy family so that I could see over the other animals' heads. For ballet dance recitals I was always the last one offstage, and I was always instructed to give a cutesy little wave to the audience just before the curtain (in retrospect it's really cute, but at the time I remember feeling a little conflicted about it. I wanted the audience to know that I was SUPPOSED to do that, I wasn't just adding the flourish on my own. I was disciplined. I was controlled. I was five.) And in Hansel and Gretel, although you will not be able to see my face, you will know it's me because I'll be the first chef leading our solemn chef procession out to the table's edge. It's what shortness gets you.