richard foreman mini festival 2011 - the rest of the story
Two doors opened off of the theater, one on each side of the back wall. You could say they led to backstage, but what they really led to was the apartment of the people who own Performance Works Northwest. We dressed in their bedroom, watched by two cats, waited in their living room for our turns in the program. The main stage door was in the kitchen.
The apartment / green room was packed: a troupe of guys in striped shirts singing to the tune of a Christmas song, a drag queen in half whiteface clown makeup, a sexy young woman in bodice and tights and high lace-up boots, a group of guys in war paint and scant costumes made of strips of fabric. The show was getting close to starting, and everyone was warming up, running lines and stretching, laughing. One of the guys in war paint needed help adjusting his scant strips of fabric, and a middle aged woman in a black evening gown stepped behind him, got close, and said, "Where do you want it?"
Stephen and I sat in the middle of it all like accountants* at the party, Stephen sitting straight-backed in his jeans and button-down shirt, except, of course, he was also made up with lipstick and false eyelashes. We were on last, and as acts came and went we chatted in whispers but mostly just sat, the two of us, and ran our lines. Having had ten days to put this whole thing together, neither of us felt sure that we wouldn't royally screw up. The program had three parts and two intermissions. During the second part, we went into the bedroom to change. The bedroom opened out into the living room - no door - people everywhere - so I stood in my dress, fanning my skirt out wide as if there were any possible way this might make a good enough screen to keep Stephen hidden as he stripped down. I have to say, as we stepped back out of the bedroom in our full regalia, we were turning heads - well, mostly Stephen was.
We spent all night waiting backstage, watching the acts come and go. The later it got, the quieter it got back there, as more performers finished up and slid out into the audience to watch. One of the guys in war paint, this one in a white tutu, pushed by in his wheelchair and turned to us and said, "Merde."
When it was our turn to go on, the whole backstage / apartment / green room was quiet. We hunched in the kitchen, at the stage door, waiting to be announced.
Sitting in the spotlight for twenty seconds waiting for your musical cue is not the best way to start a performance, but I suspect there must have been some sort of technical difficulty. I hear our technician is a wizard at what he does. Once the music started up, our lines rolled out surprisingly well. We were getting laughs. We started into the first song and sang nicely.
And then other things happened. There was bobbling of dialogue, coincidentally and unfortunately mostly obliterating most of our references to Richard Foreman's notebooks (meaning, the prompts we were to build our piece around). Then Stephen launched beautifully into Shadow Waltz, and our paper cones got a nice laugh, but there was no monitor to adequately hear our background music over our own voices, so when we finally came up for air, we were a couple beats ahead of the music. In that pause, I lifted out of the song and floated over a sudden streaming of music that had no meaning. I didn't know where it or I was. Like sometimes happens when you're water skiing and the boat turns and the line goes slack, that tug picks up again - my ears found the forward thrust of the song again - and my voice kicked in. We sang the big finish, our arms up in a grand pose. The music ended - ta-da and applause - I let my arms drop and glanced over to see Stephen still frozen in his grand pose. I didn't know what to do, so I bowed, by myself, and the lights came down.
Then it was all out and over, and we were walking back through the kitchen, and I was thinking, did we stink?
I was thinking, did we look like the one amateur act in the whole Richard Foreman Festival?
I was thinking, is Stephen sorry we ever took on this crazy experience?
As we got to the back bedroom where our clothes were waiting, Stephen turned, grinned, reached out, and shook my hand.