Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jester Memories

When you are doing five to eight shows a day at a theme park personality traits are exaggerated. What might be tolerable in a normal business situation becomes unbearable when five performers are sharing a dressing room that should be for only one.
His name was Bobby a singer dancer in the show. He had some habits that began to drive us crazy back in those college days. He would smoke in the dressing room, which had no ventilation and was no bigger than a walk in closet. And he seemed to have no respect for the property of others. We all carved out a small bit of counter space to place a hair brush and basic makeup items. He never had any stuff, but kept mooching ours. He would pick up anyone's hair brush and use it and then toss it and leave it where ever it landed. He was forever asking for some blush that I had to cover the occasional zit. He wore it as rouge on his cheeks and would ask me, "Do you think this is enough for stage?" I started telling him that he needed more... no matter how much he took from my stash. There were times he went on stage looking like a bad Raggedy Ann doll. He kept wanting to use my stuff and asking if he needed more, so I kept letting him resemble a bad drag queen on stage.
But it was the smoking that bothered us the most, although I think I was one of the only ones in the cast who didn't smoke at the time. We banned anyone from smoking in the confines of the dressing room, but Bobby would light up anyway when no one was around to stop him. He would even light up when we were all in the room and claim he forgot.
One of he scenes in the show involved an old style camera as a prop. It was the old box kind that used "flash Powder" in a tray for the light. The prop guys actually used the old powder to flash and smoke like the real thing for the scene. WELL... this powder was quite volatile and was usually back stage. We got some one day and set off a very small amount. It was amazing. Big flash... lot of smoke from a tiny bit of powder. It prompted an idea. What if... we wondered... would happen if a small amount of this powder happened to end up in the ash tray and someone put out a cigarette.... well it might teach whomever is smoking in the dressing room to think twice next time. So a plan was made.
Now I forgot to mention that Bobby was rather flamboyant and was taken to squealing like ZaZa in "La Cage aux Follies" at the slightest startle. We knew that the least little flash would scare him immediately. We all saw it as a negative reinforcement.
After several more requests and demands that he not smoke in our dressing room were ignored, we all decided to put the plan in action. The only problem in our plan was the knowledge of the proper proportion of flash powder to put in an ashtray to cause a little behavior correcting flash. We got what we thought was just the right amount of powder and placed it in an ash tray with some other ash as disguise.
A few days went by and the ashtray sat there but Bobby never would light up. Someone even asked if he was quitting and he implied that he had. I guess we had been on him so much that he was taking his breaks somewhere more smoker friendly.
When you are doing five shows a day back to back you count your time in shows, so I am not sure how many days went by but it was a dozen or so performances. Smoking in the dressing room was now not as much of an issue as Bobby using our stuff.
It was a routine show in the middle of the day. The dressing rooms are just off stage in the wings. Girls stage right and boys stage left. If you kept the door open the light would spill onto the stage, they were that close. In the middle of a musical number we hear a loud bang followed by ZaZa squealing... and the sound of panicked running as a harsh light flooded the stage off left. It was only then that we realized Bobby was never in this number. He had a few minutes rest backstage when all of the other guys were working. The audience took note of the pig squeal followed by a cloud of white smoke that wafted across the stage.
Perhaps it was a little too much powder in the ashtray, but who knew that he was going to lite up *during* the show? Our self administered smoking punishment was noted by management. Astroworld Security tried to figure out what had happened and who was responsible. We were all questioned by he summer security guards no older than us, who unofficially thought it was very funny when they found out what really happened. Management thought someone was trying to blow up the theatre. No one became a stool pigeon. Besides it was a mob decision and we were all guilty. Bobby was sufficiently reinforced with a negative reaction to smoking in the dressing room and we never had the problem again. They did however start keeping the flash powder under lock and key back stage and make us do a couple of fire drills.
College days.... performing at theme parks....it is a wonder there aren't more casualties.
As you were,

No comments: