Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fresnels, Festivals, and Floorspace

Among the myriad subjects to be honored with a coffee-table book (e.g./ "Movie Stars on Vacation" or "Extreme Bonsai") I would like to add my own original idea for a new topic: "Dressing Rooms of Off-Off-Broadway". Imagine how exciting it would be to leaf through the colorful pages of the bazaar crevasses and nooks that make up the wacky spaces where so many actors prepare their craft.

If the actual theatres of O-O-B'way are out-of-the-way and often carved out of most remote parts of the concrete jungle, then you can only guess what the inner sanctums of these spaces must look like. I have done plays where the dressing room was also the lighting storage closet; we had to change from our street clothes into our costume changes all the while avoiding the long cords and sharp edges of fresnels. There have been dressing rooms located behind (or even under) the audience, meaning that once the house was open – you had to be backstage and the dressing room was 2+ hours away. If you forgot something, if you needed a mirror to check your costume, or if you could simply overhear the audience above you commenting on the play you're in…too bad!

Recently, I finished doing a one-act festival where there were 7 of us (men and women) in one dressing room, along with a clothes rack, three chairs, and two toilette stalls. Moving in and out of each others' way came easily; pretending not to hear when someone was peeing was natural…but what was unexpected was the amount of fun we all had being stuffed into such a space. As I looked around me I realized that, while it may not be like the movie-version I had imagined in my childhood, I am indeed living the life of a New York actor. Plus, I have acquired the skill of changing clothes in front of many people while standing in a 2foot x 2foot square. Ahhh, theatre!

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Desmond Dutcher
NY IT Awards