The Tale of Taylor – Imaginary Stagehand

Perhaps the only thing i miss about my involvement with the local community theater is the people.  Being more specific, probably just a couple of them… One of them is my friend, DK.  When our troupe initiated the “Edge” series of shows a few years ago, she decided that for each of these more adult-themed productions we should create an imaginary stagehand for the program.

Thus was born Taylor Montgomery.  Our mission?  Maintain complete gender confusion for each bio in every program.  Here’s the life of Taylor to date…

Bat Boy

Taylor Montgomery (Stage Crew)

This is Taylor’s first experience with our theater, but this talented member of the “Dark Side” crew is hardly a rookie when it comes to adventurous theater!  After graduating from high school, Taylor went to the Mime Academy in Las Vegas and joined the cast of “Cirque du Soleil” before being sidelined by a nearly crippling sinus cavity injury. While driving across country following rehab, Taylor’s 78 Pinto abruptly gave up the ghost on the outskirts of town.  With only 3 miles worth of free towing, Taylor decided to take up residence here, accepting a job as a body double for local television productions.  Through a lucky twist of fate, Taylor stumbled upon Bat Boy, and is delighted to have had an opportunity to support this production. Taylor wishes to thank Jordan for the undying love and support, making it all possible. 

The Full Monty

Taylor Montgomery (Stage Crew)

Taylor returns backstage to Edge Productions, after literally saving the day during Bat Boy, The Musical, with a daring diving catch of not one, but TWO dangling cast members during the opening “rappelling” scene.  Taylor brings a diverse set of skills to the crew having won accolades for creating and performing in the unique Dog/Mime Act, known as “Bobo And…”.   If it hadn’t been for an unlucky uvula injury, Taylor could have continued as San Francisco’s premiere Fisherman’s Wharf street performer.  But one sword swallower’s bad luck certainly brought good fortune to us, where we are thrilled to have Taylor on the “Dark Side”.  Taylor sends special thanks to Chris – “who is my soul mate, personal muse and quite the culinary contortionist”.

The Rocky Horror Show

Taylor Montgomery (Stage Crew)

Taylor is no novice at saving the day backstage. After a daring diving catch during the opening scene of Bat Boy, Taylor is wondering what catastrophe will be averted in a show filled with transsexuals in stilettos and lingerie. We are pleased that Taylor was able to return after spending the summer serving as an adventure guide on the Colorado River and having a brief audition for America’s Got Talent (who knew playing doctor wasn’t considered a talent?). Safely home again, Taylor thanks Casey – “my love, my passion, my inspiration” – for always being there.

Assassins

Taylor Montgomery (Stage Crew)

Taylor is proud to be working on this fourth Edge Production.  Attracted to the excitement of shows at the Edge, Taylor nonetheless plans to keep the backstage area safe from any firearms-related mishaps. This time. Taylor also patiently awaits the award of a US Patent for perfecting bacon-flavored dental floss.  At the close of this season, Taylor has a brief vacation planned to Ballard, Washington with aspirations of setting a world record for slacking before returning to assist with Trailer Park this fall.  “My love to Casey  – my heart, soul and future home health care provider.”

Great American Trailer Park Musical

Taylor Montgomery (Stage Crew)

After an exhausting 18 hour drive from Florida, Taylor squealed the tires of that award-winning 1976 TransCamero into the theater parking lot, popped open a cold one and announced “Edge Productions, here I come”. After a summer strumming a honky tonk guitar and performing “The Interpretive Dance of the Dying Butterfly” on the beaches of Florida, Taylor is back stage taking care of the Edge cast and crew. Talented Taylor declines onstage opportunities after that unfortunate crane accident during Bat Boy (we promised to not mention it). Trained in culinary mechanics, Taylor was also a finalist in the “Extreme Sushi Automotive” event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (entering the Sashimi Screamer). Taylor sends love to Dakota – “With you, I see dead people”.

Tommy

Taylor Montgomery (Stage Crew)

It isn’t an Edge Production unless Taylor is backstage, saving the cast and crew from self-destruction and too many num-nums in the green room.  For the past six months, Taylor has led a double life, working undercover as a bug detective at the Natural History Museum.  After solving “The Case of the Gray Damsel Bug in Distress”, Taylor was selected for Montessori Pilot Training, which starts in October.  Taylor sends deaf, dumb and blind love to Payton – “You are the keeper of my heart, owner of my soul, and beneficiary of my life insurance policy”.

Post-Game Analysis

Random post-game neural firings after spending eight weeks of my life engaged in an all consuming hobby…

– No regrets: Although it was a monstrous pain in the ass, and it ate my life for two months, i don’t regret it. It was funny. People laughed their asses off. It was the most “stage time” i’ve ever had in a show (we were on stage in all but two songs), and i liked my character. Pushed my limits, as well as my vocal range. Got lots of laughs – both with the scripted lines and the ad libs developed along the way.

– Ego-feeding: Although there are many reasons people get involved in community theater, for me, it’s simply “ego fodder”. Yes. i can sing. i can dance. Oh, and i’m an engineer (“oooooh!”). With a decent rack, too (“schwing”). i like the challenge, but mostly i get off on the laughter and applause. Performing. Being appreciated. Delighting an audience. Got lots of that over the past two weekends… Ego Chow delivered? Check.

– Salvation: Normally, there’s also an aspect of “team” to a show. This time? A “micro-team”. If it hadn’t been for AU, my stage-sis, and my best friend working sound in the tech booth? i’d have been cutting myself at the half-way point. Our Thursday night meanderings to the nearby biker bar for dollar beers and “dancing with pool cues” saved me. Most of the other folks in the show were fine, just kept to themselves…

– Relief: Unlike my last theatrical venture, there is no bittersweet, post-production let down. Only relief. During the show, our phenomenal stage manager would immediately re-set props after they were used on stage. During our final performance on Sunday? He returned them to the props room, or costume room, as they were used. Mid-way through Act I i noticed decreasing items on the tables – and i got excited! i gained energy through the performance, knowing that it was the LAST TIME we’d be doing a song or scene. “ Woo hoo! Never again have to hear that line of dialogue! No more slow motion choreography because She is singing at half tempo! Never again have to dance with a toilet brush and rubber gloves*”

– Divas: i’m one, too. Perhaps a lowercase “d”, but this particular hobby seems to bring out the worst of it in me. Frustrated when She was apparently not putting in effort outside of rehearsal time, frustrated when She’d drop lines, frustrated by the lack of direction**… i was prone to making bets with my partners in crime. “What are the odds she’ll spit that line out right this time?” or “Five bucks says i don’t get a note at all tonight – good or bad. He’ll just ignore my existence” (won that one). Try as i might to maintain a professional demeanor, my attitude leaked out, and didn’t exactly help the cohesion of the troupe…

– Natural Born Critics: Last Saturday night, both of my children and my daughter’s boyfriend, ZZ, attended the show. After hearing me bleat for months about the ugliness along the way, they were looking forward to seeing the resulting train wreck. In the lobby, within earshot of several cast members, The Girl said “It didn’t suck nearly as bad as I thought it would!” The Boy was even more direct: “That woman? Screeching? If I’d had two pencils I’d have shoved them point-first into my ears to stop the noise!” They mentioned highlights, too. A funny line here, or a good bit of delivery. But for The Boy? It was “Ms. GreatAss Can’t-Act For Shit” that stole his heart. “Damn, that was some world-class ass.” i mentioned that she’s kinda bitchy and he pointed out “All the better. I’d feel less guilty for the ‘fuck ‘n chuck’ routine”. Makes me proud, it does…

– Done: i think i’m cured. The compound frustrations encountered during this particular production have cured me of this pesky hobby. This is only one way for me to spend my discretionary time, and i’ve done so at the expense of other interests. Fuck that. Although i can’t say “never”, i can say “chapter closed”. It was exactly 10 years ago The Girl inspired me to audition for a production of “Gypsy”, which landed us both on stage together – her as a Torreadorable and me as Miss Mazeppa, the bugle playing stripper. Since then? i’ve been on (and off) the board of directors 3 times, have been involved with fund raising as well as many other shows and events. Although i’ve made friends for a lifetime, there are a few other encounters that have been less than pleasant. Ten years? That’s enough. Onward…

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* The choreography for one song included the three of us dancing with toilet brushes. Much like a version of the song found here on youtube…. And this was pretty much my favorite dance number! i successfully fought the urge to accidently get my toilet brush tangled in The Diva’s gigantic wig during our final performance…. That would have been mean. Funny, but mean…

** Not a bad director. Just very ‘hands off’. To the point of not actually doing much “directing”. Throughout rehearsals, he only made TWO suggestions on how i delivered specific lines. The rest? Pretty much up to us. After blocking the show, he sat and watched us do it. Occasionally made suggestions, corrections or changes but for the most part just let it all happen. Other than commending The Diva when she finally got something right? Very little positive feedback either…

The Diva Doesn’t Do Dance…

Community theater is just chock full of human drama… who the hell knew?

We’re two weeks into rehearsals for the show.  Done with basic blocking, sing-throughs of almost all songs, and had our second choreography session last night.  My character is one of three trailer park women who serve as narrators throughout the show.  It’s me, The Diva (who got the role i wanted) and AU – a charming, adorable and smart 21 year old math education major at a local university. 

We tell the story through snarky commentary, challenging harmonies and complex rhythms, tossed lightly with some doo-wop girl dance moves!  Big, big fun!

The choreographer is good – creative and uses our bodies to tell the story, without being overly lame and cheesy.  She is also a good teacher, given that the three of us are not trained dancers, that’s pretty important!  On the first song we were learning last night, she had us doing some cool ‘doo wop’ girl stuff, shaking our butts and flapping our hands behind us – what AU called “the fart fan”). 

AU and i were having fun with it, trying to synchronize the hips and hands and see if we could get it working right at tempo.  The Diva?  Wasn’t even trying to get it.  She was just standing there, obviously irritated, the choreographer gave up, taking things down a bit – “forget the hands, let’s just do the hips…” 

After learning the first routine, our Diva bitched all the way through the break.  “This is hard”, “I can’t remember all this!”, “I was misinformed – I didn’t know there’d be this much dancing, i thought it was all music….” on and on and on…  My favorite?  “Why can’t we just stand and sing?”  The choreographer reminded her “that would be boring!”   The Diva said “I wouldn’t be bored!”  A smiling choreographer, holding her ground, said  “What about the audience?”  HA!

We made it through the two new dance routines, and since the one we’d learned last week was pretty complicated, we wanted to run it again.  AU and i were able to muddle through much of it.  We had been doing this crazy thing on our own time.  It’s called “practice”.  We had worked on the rough segments, one particularly vexing series of moves that have to take place really fast.  So we were able to actually DO that part last night! 

The Diva watched this, and became damn near inconsolable  “But I can’t even remember what we did last time!  I can’t practice it if I can’t remember it?”  [AU and daisyfae staring, blinking…]

So we went through the entire song again.  AU and i got most of it down.  The Diva picked up a few things, but got very frustrated and stopped trying.  Just stood there, completely pissed off.  Unable to take it any more, She blurted out “I can’t do these dances!  I wasn’t informed that this show would be so complicated – it was supposed to be just music!” 

AU told me later that little puffs of steam were coming out of my ears, and my jaw was locked and grinding. We then spent about 20 minutes reassuring Her that She could do it, that these were the tough songs, that She’d be fine, that muscle memory is what is required, that it’s only been two rehearsals and we’ve got lots of time to keep working on it and blah, blah, fucking blah, blah…

i felt compelled to say the following – which may have been the best acting performance of my life:  “Diva, i have absolutely no doubt You can do this, and You’re going to be fantastic!  i’ve seen You do amazing things, and there’s nothing here You can’t do!”

No.  i didn’t vomit.  Not even a little bit…

The mollycoddle session ended when The Diva left, nearly in tears.  The Director mentioned that he’s seen Her do this before.  “Everything comes so easily for Her.  EVERYTHING in Her life.  She’s not used to working for it…”.  Yep.  She’s married to a successful attorney, five lovely adult children, a ‘hobby’ job to keep Her busy…

On the way to the parking lot, AU said “wanna drink?”  Ummmm, let me think about that for a nanosecond… i introduced AU to my favorite biker bar, which just happens to be across the street from the theater.   Four cans of $1 beer and 4 cigarettes later?  We felt better.  Spleens vented, serious bonding over life, the universe – and our shared “trailer park” family histories….  

We’re going to have a blast with this show.  i’m working really hard on the choreography. Ain’t no doubt,  i’m kickin’ some freakin’ Diva Ass in the dance department…

when your best isn’t good enough*

Auditioned for my first show in almost two years.  One that i’d love to do… have wanted to do for over a year.

Ouch.  i was nervous as hell.  Didn’t belt the vocal piece the way i’ve practiced it… but it was ok.  Fuck.  Why couldn’t i do my audition in the car?  i sing better when i’m driving.  Friends said i nailed it but i know i had more.  Readings were ok – but then i’ve never been very good with the cold reading shit.  It’s mostly a musical show, and the vocal piece was pretty fucking important.

About 45 minutes into auditions, She showed up.  i’d heard She wasn’t going to do it.  i’ve worked with Her before.  i sort of like Her.  She did it as a toss off.  Breezed in late, didn’t fill out the audition form, clearly wasn’t trying.  Found out later that She’d auditioned for another show She’d prefer to do.  Wasn’t really paying attention and even read the wrong character at one point.  Not. Fucking. Trying.

She was simply better than i was.  Not a god damned thing i can do about that… 

So if there’s a fucking god – doubtful, by the way – then She’ll be cast in her preferred show and i’ll have a shot at being “First Loser” and get the part i want…

i hate theater.  i hate it with all my heart and soul.  Unlike the world of engineering, there is no logic – it’s all about putting it out there, everything resting on a few moments in the spotlight.  Even if i’d nailed the vocals, it wouldn’t have been enough.  It is simply beyond my control.  i am not the best person for the role.  If i were the director, it would be a no brainer. 

All i can do for the next few days is wait.  And hope.  And hope some more.  And pray to a god i don’t believe in that theater karma will put her in the role she desires, and i can have a shot at the one i want.

fuck. fuck. fuck. fuck.

god, i hate theater. 

Moving on already.  Preparing myself for the next audition in October. Preparing myself to work backstage on a show that i love… maybe i’ll be in the band or something.  i’ll get to watch someone better do something that i will convince myself i couldn’t do very well anyway.  Yeah.  i’ve never carried a leading role before.  Probably would have been too much for me anyway…

Being grateful that i have a very nice “day job” that pays the bills and allows me this folly…

UPDATE:  i was offered, and accepted, a role in the show – not the dream role, but something festive and fun.  It’s an ensemble show, so there’s fun to be had – i’ll be on stage a good bit, and get some of the juiciest lines…  Oh, and for more ego-bashing fun?  She was offered the role in the other show, but changed Her mind… was talked into taking the role She didn’t seem to want much…. (sigh)… and this has left the other director scrambling a bit to re-cast his show.  It’ll be a better show with Her in it…  And away we go…

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* This is not a gratuitous plea for encouraging words, folks.  Please.  Not necessary.  It’s just an excerpt from an e-mail i sent around 1 am.  A glimpse into a brain after an audition gone “Meh”…  i’m fine.  Not cutting myself or anything like that… It’s just a peek behind the powder room door, at a tired, half-drunken ego that has just survived a good, healthy bashing.  Humility.  Not always a bad thing…

Elvis is in the building… unfortunately.

One of the coolest things about working with community theater types is that “Can Do” attitude.  You know – “hey, everybody!  let’s turn that old grocery store* into a theater!  we can put on a show!”  OK.  “Can Do” with a super-sized side order of drama, whining and lack of organizational skills…

Such was my Saturday night.

There is a local Elvis tribute artist and bank vice president impersonator who offered to do a benefit event if we’d split the profits.  We did one of these in January, it sold out, and we made a few hundred dollars for running ticket sales, having ushers, doing lights and sound for one evening.

When he asked again?  Our Community Theater Prez said “sure”, and was working logistics.  Seemed to be pretty well taken care of, so none of us were paying much attention.  What we didn’t know?  Theater Prez was going to be out of town for the event.  Oops.  Didn’t find that out til Wednesday, so we had to scramble to get the event covered.

My amazing friend DK – who is the utility infielder, relief pitcher, designated hitter and savior of all things fucked up – pulled a box-office miracle, and re-set seating on the fly while dealing with a nearly sold out show.  i offered to usher.  “Elvis” brought his own sound system and staff, since we apparently screwed it up last time.  Lights?  Hmmm…

Our available light tech has extensive experience running the light board.  She’s 12 years old.  Her Mom asked if i would be able to work with her to identify “fast” or “slow” songs.  She’s bright, for sure, but at the ripe ol’ age of 12, she doesn’t know Elvis’ music and needed to know which light settings to use.

My plan was to usher, do the introduction, and run away**.  But we also needed someone to run spotlight.  So, in classic “Waiting for Guffman”*** style, i served as usher, did the curtain speech/introduction, then raced back to the tech booth to cue the little light goddess while chasing Elvis’ pleather-clad ass all over the stage with a spotlight.

Upon further consideration?  i should have just donated the damn $500 we made from the show…

* That’s exactly what we did.  The facility we are using – shared with the senior citizens center – was once a grocery store.  Our stage sits where the Produce section used to be…  “Lettuce” entertain you?

** Final exam for my professional development course was today – and i had to study all weekend.  Wanted to get home to keep studying, rather than listen to an Elvis.   Oh – I PASSED WITH A 92% !  Hot Fucking Damn!

*** From the people who brought us “Spinal Tap” and “A Mighty Wind”, there is the lesser known “Waiting for Guffman”, which rips small town theater people.  My favorite scene is a shot of the “orchestra pit”, where the drummer is also playing trumpet with one hand…  But there’s also this