Happily ever after

It’s over! Cinderella XX has ended its run. And a good thing, too; I don’t think I would have lasted much longer.
The Friday night performance went okay for me, although I was worried about Jo Brown. She was feeling increasingly ill and got through that show mostly on sheer willpower. Since we didn’t have to arrive at the theatre until noon on Saturday, I had planned to sleep comparatively late that morning, but I woke up at 5:00 a.m. with a sore throat. I was able to clear up the soreness by drinking a couple of glasses of water and went back to bed, but when my alarm went off at 9:00, I was still somewhat hoarse.
When I got to the theatre at noon, there was a mixture of good and bad news. Sandi was back and ready to reclaim the role of Fairy Godmother, but Jo was now too sick to perform. She had gone home to rest, and Becky Johnston would be staying on as Stepmama to the end of the run. The two Saturday shows went surprisingly well, considering that Sandi was stepping back into her role after over a week away from it. But she’s a trouper, and performed as if she had never been away. I, on the other hand, was struggling to keep my voice from cracking. The only place where this really mattered was the very beginning of the play, when the quartet enters and sings to the audience. That song is four-part harmony, with me as the only bass — so if my voice were to give out, there would be no hiding that fact from the audience. I got through it, but my singing sounded ragged in my own ears. (The other members of the quartet swore they couldn’t tell, but perhaps they were just being kind.)
The rest of the show wasn’t as risky, because I only had to sing when the entire ensemble was singing. I cheated a bit and just lip-synched part of the “Sneeze Polka,” one of the song-and-dance numbers in the Ball scene. By the end of the show I had figured out that I could keep my voice more or less under control as long as I was singing fairly loudly. Between that trick and lip-synching, I was able to get through the evening performance. On Sunday I had the same experience; I woke up with a sore throat, banished it with lots of water, and managed to produce enough baritone to sing two more shows.
The final performance began at 5:00 and ended about 6:30, and we had to be out of the Fletcher Opera Theatre by 11:00 p.m. And when I say “we,” I mean the cast, crew, scenery, props, costumes, and all personal items. Everything. So the strike had to proceed rapidly. Normally, I tend to think of a strike as something that begins immediately after the final curtain, but that’s only true of striking the sets. For everything else, the strike begins while the final performance is still under way. For example, we started striking costumes immediately after the first scene. Costume strike instructions were already posted on all the dressing room doors, so we knew what to do. As soon as we were done with a costume, we put the dry-cleanable portions of it back on the hangers and moved them to a wheeled costume rack near the door. Washable costume items like undershirts and tights were tossed into laundry baskets. Accessories like jewelry and shoe trims were placed in ziploc bags and safety-pinned to the costume hangers. Shoes belonging to the the theatre (like the jazz shoes I wore for the Prologue) had to be sprayed with Lysol, rubber-banded together, and placed in the box marked “Shoes” in the costume shop. Hats and wigs went into other boxes.
Up on the stage, the props people were striking props as soon as they were no longer required. After the show ended, we actors took off and struck our final costumes, scrubbed the makeup from our faces, and then packed up our makeup kits and other personal items and loaded them into our cars, leaving the dressing room empty and clean. Then we reported to the stage, where the crew had already finished striking the props and were now working on the sets. By 9:00 all of the sets, props, and costumes were loaded into two rental trucks. One of these, containing mostly costumes, went to RLT to unload those, and Marie and I went along to help. After all the costumes were moved back into RLT, we drove to RLT’s warehouse to help the others unload the sets and store them.
Ruth wasn’t able to participate in the Cinderella strike, because she was on stage in the final performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. But we picked her up afterward, and the three of us went out to IHOP for an impromptu strike dinner.
Thus ended my second year in the Cinderella ensemble (and Ruth’s debut as an actress, but I’ll let her tell you about that in her own blog). Will I do it again next year? I really don’t know. At the moment I don’t even want to think about doing another show — I’m looking forward to having evenings and weekends again, and being able to do things like watch TV, spend time with my family at home instead of at a theatre, or even go to bed early if I feel like it. Ask me in June or July if I want to audition for Cinderella XXI. For now, I plan to put away my dancing shoes and makeup kit, grow my beard back, and return to my normal lifestyle. (If I can remember what it was.)

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