Mechelle Moe gives an actors POV of what it's like to put together a show like STAGE DOOR
It’s hot. A very, very hot sweaty tech. Twenty-seven actors crammed in a dressing room that is meant for about twelve sitting on top of each other in what seems to be a never-ending game of twister. Arms reaching for costume pieces, legs draped over each other and faces leaning towards the few fans trying to catch a breeze. This is our second day in the space, and I just received a note not to pull my dress up. I don’t even remember pulling my dress up during the run, I think subconsciously I was just trying to let any bit of air in to cool off. There’s even sweat between my fingers and I don’t feel very pretty. That being said, everyone is in really good spirits. We’ve been sardines in a can for the past six weeks and nary a temper has flared. It’s a pretty amazing phenomenon for this many people to be gathered in small quarters. This show is not for the claustrophobic.
Tech. Deep breath. There’s no way around it. No more miming props or pretending to walk up and down stairs that aren’t really there or hitting the wall to simulate the door slam. We finally have all the real things. Trouble is we’ve gotten so used to all our imaginary bits and bobs that the real stuff throws everyone off. It’s that frustrating regression that strikes every show at this point in the process. Trying to find the rhythm, the new rhythm outside the rehearsal room. My shoes are slightly too big, and I stuff kleenex in them to make sure they won’t slip off while running up and down the stairs. My coat weighs a hundred pounds and I remember how much I detest nylons. I have new sight lines to contend with in a space that seems impossible not to upstage your fellow actor. There’s lights now and sound. And a ladder to climb in the dressing room to reach a perch to enter into the space from the bedrooms upstairs. Logistics. All logistics. Where’s the best place for costumes and props and how much time to I have to change between scenes? That’s what occupies my mind. In two weeks, this will all become second nature and we’ll laugh when thinking back to how horrifying it seems in this moment. But right now everyone is scrambling to get it right. Oh, and then there’s actually worrying about the acting part and playing the scenes. Making sure all that work doesn’t go out the window with your sanity.
The first day of rehearsal our director, Robin Witt, called Stage Door a love letter to actors. I underestimated this play at the start and the depth of my character’s journey. It’s not exactly the 1930s romp I anticipated paying homage to all those films I watched growing up. It’s been an extremely challenging process that has struck at my very core. And I am just as stage-struck as the character I play. After 13 years of treading the boards of Chicago theater, I still believe in it and what it has to offer the community. Despite the struggle to pay bills and scramble for work, I wouldn’t trade it in for the life of me. My character states: “The theater beats me and starves me and forsakes me, but I love it. I suppose that’s the kind of girl I am--you know--rather live in a garret with her true love than dwell in a palace with old Money-bags.” Truer words could not be spoken.