Writing live from the bus on our first post-preview travel day to our opening weekend destination, Spokane, Washington! It has been a lovely, scenic drive over gorgeous snow-covered mountains. A treat for our eyes, but a bit too much excitement for my ears/sinuses. Speaking of snow, it has definitely been a star player along this chapter of our journey. Yakima weather consisted of temps ranging from 1 degree to a cozy 25-(30?) degrees and snow, snow, snow, snow, snow (read that again and sing it like the quartet in White Christmas. For me, please? Thanks!)
The number of times I've heard my dad’s voice in my head reminding me to pack, “A good rubber-soled winter boot,” to which I responded, “Hmm, that seems unnecessary. They will just add weight in my suitcase and I will never wear them,” haunts me daily. Now, if there is one thing I should know at this point in my 25 years of being Phil Hart’s daughter, it’s that HE IS NEVER WRONG about the weather and the necessary gear to combat it. So, schlep and slide ‘round the Yak I did—ill-equipped in my inappropriate foot-wear. I am remembering a certain New Year’s Day blizzard in which some of my fellow Pips and I ventured out to the only restaurant open in town, a Chinese spot called, “The Golden Wheel,” and were so frost- bitten/snow-covered/wind- blown/ absolutely tormented by the weather that we couldn’t stop laughing the whole trek back to the Howard Johnson (affectionately known as the Hojo).
Despite the relentlessness of its winter weather and a couple of folks disapproving of our lively conversations in the nearby Olive Garden, I am leaving Yakima with some very warm thoughts and memories. Our preview night audiences were energetic and supportive. I will never forget the first time (SPOILER ALERT): our kabuki curtain dropped in “Magic to Do,” and the audience swelled with cheers and applause as each member of the company was seen for the first time. Regardless of whatever anxiety I was feeling before that first preview, it was replaced by a lump in my throat and a visit from my friend, Ms. Verklempt. Her visits are never ideal for singing, but always welcomed with love and gratitude for the moment. It’s a memory I hope to never forget.
Behind the Tent:
In addition to our team of traveling crew members who at each venue, load, unload, pitch the tent, check audio, lights, etc, and perform all of the technical elements in our show (SHOUT OUT: they are warriors!) there is also a team of 30-50 locals at each venue who assist our incredible team. There were many local angels who made magic of their own happen for us. Between helping us with our lightening-fast costume changes, assisting Brandon with making our wigs look fabulous, catching various props and costume pieces as I threw them into the wings so I could make it to my next change, and teaching us how to properly secure our mic packs in our wigs (new for all of us) with enough hutzpah to withstand some major acrobatic feats and head-ography, they rocked out our backstage show with lots of support and excitement. Thanks Yak crew! ✌
Magic to Tech:
Teching Pip-dog was quite a process. After a day’s worth of travel, we arrived at the beautiful Capitol Theatre in downtown Yakima on 12/30. Unfortunately, our set did not. Even though the truck had left a week before we flew there and the crew had arrived days before we did to unload, the truck experienced some travel complications and was delayed for an un-foreseeable amount of time (re: Yakima weather). The hold-up was anxiety-inducing for all involved, but our team made the most of our time at the theater. Fortunately, there was a beautiful rehearsal space in the theater with giant windows overlooking the mountains which we used to rehearse sans set/props until we could begin teching. I have wonderful memories of those days, diving further into the creative elements of the work before our focus became about lights/sound/spacing. Our show grew even more during the time spent deepening and refining in the studio with Chet (our choreographer), Mia ( our director), Mark (Associate choreographer and asst. director) and Will (Music director).
On 12/31, I turned 25! The day was spent focusing on all of the dancing in the show. Needless to say, I was in my glory. I love performing Chet’s choreography. Really, what’s not to love about steps entitled “Liza with a Z,” the “Oom-Chuck,” “Joodging," these are just a few of many favorites. Everything Chet created is layered with intention, intensity, a sense of humor, subtlety, detail, finesse—I could go on and on. It’s safe to say that I’ve been awestruck since day 1 of Fosse bootcamp and I have learned a ton from applying all of Chet and Mark’s details and feedback.
At the end of our long dance-filled day, we met in the theater for some concluding notes and plans. Mia invited everyone to sing Happy B-day to me and our band played along too. ☺️
We then went out for drinks and dinner and celebrated the new year together. It was then that we received word that our set would be arriving for rehearsals on the 2nd and was un-scathed by said travel complications. Hotcha! Happy 2017!
The arrival of our set was inspiring for all of us. Working under our gorgeous tent and lights for the first time, seeing all of the incredible aerial acrobatics and watching all of the magic that only existed in our imaginations up until that point was so exciting. One of my absolute favorite parts of the process of opening a show is when we begin rehearsing with the orchestra. Our musicians are amazing, and singing/dancing to this score with the addition of their energy elevated all of us. An early tech evening was spent doing a sitzprobe—when the cast sits (sitz?) with the orchestra and sings/plays through the score. Those moments of unity are what I LOVE about live theatre. Of course, I cried as we all gathered ‘round the pit.
One of my favorite past-times is to get to the theater early on the days the orchestra is rehearsing, so I can warm up in the house to their music. I usually like to sneak up there, but they all spotted me doing Pilates in the balcony. 🙃
Making-Up is Hard to Do
I knew the makeup for Pippin would be different than anything I had done before, but I didn’t realize the challenge it would become. We are basing our designs off of previous make-up plots from the broadway and tour productions. However, on stage, the same designs don’t necessarily work for different faces. The goal of the makeup, Chet explained, is for all of our features to look beyond larger than life. We paint our faces white and exaggerate all of our features above their natural shape. What we’ve all learned is that there is a fine line between creating lines and shapes that make the face and features pop vs overpower or cause them to be lost.
Mine wasn't working because I was following the round shape of my eyes instead of creating straighter accented lines above/against their real shape. Following the roundness made them look smaller and how I managed to make my eyes look small was a feat for the ages.
After several days of unsuccessful design attempts, Chet came backstage with us before our first preview and helped design, blend colors and create lines that worked for each of us. What a guy! The next day, he came to the theater with even larger false eyelashes for all of us which he called, “Womper-stompers.” They look exactly like their name.
Here is the finished product minus my wig 💁🏻
It's Opening Day!
My writing for this entry has bled into the next day—our opening night in Spokane! "The Spoke" is proving to be a bit more urban than Yak. I just discovered a wonderful fresh food market across the street and nearly shed a tear upon being reunited with some of my best friends, fruits and vegetables. I’ve been powered by Pita Pit and LaraBars for the past week, and while both were handy and delicious, I think my body is going to be happy for this nutrient-dense salad I just acquired. 😊
I will look forward to popping on here again and sharing about our opening night performance and party. Until then..we’ve got magic to do, Spokane!