Another Cat's Diary : Chapter Three : Some Things To Think About Along The Way
If you care to read or listen from the beginning click here.
This chapter includes adult language.
Welcome back, dear reader. Or… welcome if you’re just joining in. Now that I’ve got two chunks of this material out in the public and I’m about to cough up my third, I thought it would be a good idea to say what I think this material is and what it isn’t.
The point of this diary is not really that you’re in the room but that you’re in my brain, which is in the room, and out the door, and up the road, and at Starbucks, and down a rabbit hole, and back into the room, and so on. So, there’s that.
And—as long as I’m being prescriptive about how you should be reading this account—I think it’s important to remember that what I say about how I experienced these two months says a lot more about me and my peculiarities than it says about anyone else mentioned here. Remember: I’m just meeting these people. Some I’ll get to know much better over the course of the show’s run, some I won’t know any better on the last day than I did on the first. I’ll project a lot onto all of them. I’ll misread them and—therefore—misrepresent them. Can’t be helped. I try to be accurate but… memory? It’s a slippery thing.
Also, I’m not a reporter. I’m an actor. That means I could be prone to drama, hyperbole, romanticization, vilification, hypersensitivity, delusion… and any number of other departures from the cold, hard facts.
Just wanted to put that out there.
Oh, and then there’s ego: that insistent mass of dark matter whose gravitational pull cannot be escaped. At least not by me.
Now, this chapter picks up in the second week of rehearsal. Lot’s of things happened in that first week that are in my journal but that are not included here. Here’s a partial list:
- A nearly complete oral history of Cats in the form of two multi-hour lectures by Trevor Nunn. (Spoiler: one of the special chairs was his, the other was Chrissie Cartwright’s.)
- A day of cat improv with Trevor. What the original production did in days or weeks, we did in a day.
- Each cat receives Three Secret Words from Trevor
- Trevor gives the car keys to Andy and leaves us. “See you in tech!”
- Andy really knows the score. And he’s changing it. (Some of it.)
- “The love child of Brian d’Arcy James and Seth Rudetsky.”
- Bustopher Jones on the chopping block (I may have to come back and tell that story…)
- Clancy, Andy’s secret weapon in the music department, and—while we’re at it—the brain trust that is the music department.
- Fucking Peter (as in “if it weren't for having the role of fucking Peter added to my contract, I wouldn’t have to dance in the opening number.”
- Me and the fear of dancing — or — What I was running away from in Tuck Everlasting awaits me in the first ten minutes of Cats. Great.
This will all be included in more detail at some future point in some future form.
There you are. You’re caught up. Kind of. You’re warned. Gently.
And with all that in mind…
…here we go.
This chapter contains adult language.
Cats : Week Two, Day Six of Rehearsal
Monday, June 6, 2016
54 Days To Opening
Unitards and Dance Belts and Egos. Oh, my.
Daily Rehearsal Call :
10:00 am - 11:00 am : Gurr to John Kristiansen for fittings
Excerpt : Fairy Tales Can Come True
First thing today was a fitting at John Kristiansen’s shop on West 38th Street, hidden on an upper floor of the Cinderella Building (don’t you just love that?) between 5th and 6th Avenues in the Garment District. The entrance is not as glamorous as the building’s name might suggest if the name Cinderella suggests glamour to you. The entrance is entirely appropriate if you’re thinking of the pre-magic Cinderella. Come to think of it, I always feel very much a pre-magic Cinderella headed to a first fitting for a show. For one thing, it’s the first time you really get to meet and talk with your Fairy Godmother.
On Cats, I have a trio of Fairy Godmothers (which makes it a bit more like Sleeping Beauty than Cinderella, doesn’t it?). Representing the Cats home team and leader of the pack is Tracy Stiles. Her official title is UK Associate Costume Designer and she’s just the sort you’d want to have a pint with. On the away team there’s Lisa Zinni, US Associate Costume Designer, and Abby Hahn, US Assistant Costume Designer. I’m thinking Cosmos or dirty martinis for the two of them.
They—these three women—are a hoot. I love them immediately. Yes, I've got a soft spot for the costume, hair, and wardrobe departments of nearly every show I’ve ever worked on. So, sue me. I get along with them. I respect what they do, I get what they’re up against, I understand just enough about how they do what they do to know how freaking hard it is, and… I love playing dress-up. It’s all the fun! And they make it wonderful! I'm mean, come on! What’s not to love?
Also in the fitting room is, occasionally, a gentle giant—John Kristiansen himself—and a rotating cast of various cutters, drapers, and other the magical creatures.
John Napier designed Cats, both scenery, and costumes, for the original production in 1981 in the West End. He did the same for the 1982 Broadway company and he and his minions have kept the world of Cats looking pretty much the same all this time all over the world. It is on a plain wood replica of John’s set that we are rehearsing at New 42. It is yet another iteration of his junkyard design that is currently being loaded into the Neil Simon. John’s original costume designs are what we will all be wearing when we move into the theater in July. In the world of costumes, it is Tracy, Lisa, and Abby who have the job of transferring, translating, and transitioning what has been to what will be.
I don’t know about you but when I think of Cats I’m thinking unitards and yak hair. This would be the unitard portion of the program.
The team assembled disassembled to leave me alone with the Peter unitard (fucking Peter) and a dance belt.
A dance belt.
I have not worn a dance belt since college. Why would I?
I’M NOT A DANCER!!!
Nevertheless, here I am with a dance belt. And a dream. A dream of getting away with wearing a unitard on stage alongside a bunch of twenty-something actual Broadway dancers... and getting away with it. I have a dream.
Dance belt on.
Yep. There’s that reality. Moving on.
And there, puddled on the worn fitting room sofa, is the unitard.
But, Michael Park was right, they are patterned. (The opportunity to have a conversation with Michael Park about the unitards in Cats is one of many, many joys that accompanied the stresses of my Tuck Everlasting adventure.)
I’ll give this to Fucking Peter, he has the sense to be a darkish cat with even darker crosshatching in very strategic places. It is—for head-to-toe lycra—very forgiving and almost flattering, though I can tell—looking in the mirror—that I’d rather hit the solid 145-pound goal (I’m at 147.3 now, thanks for asking) and—more importantly—get from my current 13.2% body fat down to 10% or…. dare I imagine… 8%?
I can just pull the sides of that dance belt up over the tiny tire that still lurks no matter how skinny I get. There’s a vanity-to-pain ratio there that will be a negotiation from now until closing.
Bullet Points :
- Gus: when he wears what and the new Rumpus Cat idea
- Bustopher: still trying to make that amazing rendering a reality, all these years later
- Things you never mind hearing in a fitting: “Mmm. That’s a nice one.”
- No one gets out of the fitting room without a spot of gossip
11:00 am - 1:30 pm : Studio 7B, Gurr join FULL CAST (sans Lewis), Music
Excerpt : Talking To Myself
Post-fitting I headed back to New 42. Whatever it is that the group at large is working on in Studio B, I’m not in, so I hang about a bit in the hall. Either someone feels sorry for me or someone wants to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth out of me because it’s not long before here comes Jen to tell me that I’m to meet with Brian in Studio C (the smallest of the spaces) for some music work on my own.
Brian is Brian Taylor, our Assistant Conductor. I think he’ll also be one of the keyboard players in the band. Lovely man. Cats tour veteran. I believe all of the music team are Cats veterans (not counting secret weapon Clancy).
Brian and I went through all my solo music, lightly touched on the current edit of Bustopher. Brian saying he wished there were more left and me saying, “Yeah, it would be fun to sing, but it makes no fucking sense.”
I think that’s me working my way around to not minding the big cuts in the number. The nice thing about being a director for so many years is that when my actor-self gets pissy about something my director-self can take my actor-self for a walk and talk reason into him. It’s a useful thing. Also? I’m not sure I’m supposed to say “fucking” in front of Brian. I think he winced when I did. I’ll be more careful next time.
Bullet Points :
- Need to take my time on the Gus music, but don’t really know what that time is until we block and rehearse the scene
- Brian is a Kristen acolyte, which is a great thing. Their notes are in concert. True also of William. I respect a team that’s on the same page. Deeply.
- “I’d a voice that would soften the hardest of hearts…” Musically manifesting Gus’ “three secret words” in one lyric.
- Still not quite sure what’s happening with Rumpus Cat. No one is.
1:00 - 2:30 pm : LUNCH
2:30 - 6:00 pm : Studio 7A, FULL COMPANY (sans Lewis), Continue “Opening”
A Very Lengthy Bullet Point :
- While I’m gamely warming up for the afternoon choreography session (like, dancer warming up)—while I was trying to get into the right frame of mind about having to attempt the double pirouette—while I’m trying to open my mind and shed my fears and my ego—my ego is listening to the music staff in the corner screwing around with Bustopher. Again. Will he live to see opening night? Maybe. Maybe not.
Excerpt : Banished Fears (For Now)
It is the first ten-minute break of the afternoon and I am pleased to report that I have been relieved of the double in the opening. I, along with a few others, are no longer, as Andy would say, “on the step”.
I’m glad I never went to Kim and/or Ellenor about my general fear. I had worked on it in the shower just this morning. What I was going to say. It went a little something like this:
“Kim and/or Ellenor, I am going to throw myself at anything Andy wants me to do. I really am. But, I am nearly fifty, I am not trained as a dancer, and I have very little experience dancing, so—I don’t have the tools to take care of myself in this situation. I’m asking that you take care of me.”
Which is close as I’ve ever gotten to articulating what I want to say about being thrown into choreography as an actor. Every. Single. Time.
Before what I really wanted to say was: “I am not a dancer. PLEASE don’t make me do this.” So I guess I’m improving. At least in the clarity of my position.
Anyway, I didn’t have to ask. Andy is going to take care of us. He’s going to take care of the show. And, he’s going to take care of me.
6:00 pm : END OF DAY
Bullet Points :
- I volunteered for AEA Deputy duty. Seems a safe bet with Ira as PSM
- Tonight I’m seeing Shrew in the Park. I hope it’s relatively short. I’m beat.
(To be continued…)
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