Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Dance Party: Dressing Room Demeanor

Actors with whom I share dressing rooms often are surprised that I become so subdued backstage, once rehearsals are over and performances begin. My natural ebullience (shut up) which is always on display during the rehearsal process seems to vanish once we move into the dressing room. This has always been the case with me; my body takes over, and though I don't do it consciously, my energy level plummets, and, in the dressing room, I appear to become depressed, quiet, and downright gloomy. This is my body saving adrenalin, I think; it has happened for years and years, and almost always garners comment from my fellow actors. Even back in grad school, this behaviour was commented upon by a director who was also appearing with me in a play: he became concerned that I was actually upset about something. Nope, it was just my body shutting down for a little while, in preparation for a resurgence of energy as soon as the curtain went up.

So, I am usually very quiet and isolated in the dressing room, much to the consternation of my roommates. I'm used to it by now, god knows. In about 100 shows over the years, I have had my own dressing room exactly three times. In grad school, I appeared in a one-man play called The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, so naturally, I was alone in the dressing room (which, as I recall, really wasn't a dressing room. We did the show in the school's lab theatre, and the dressing room doubled as the paint closet). The second and third times I had my own private dressing room coincided with the two productions of Vigil I performed about a decade ago. The show has only two performers, and as they are opposite sexes, we each had our own room.

Those were the only times when my quiet, reflective demeanor in the dressing room has not been commented upon by other actors. This is surely because most other actors are exactly the opposite in the dressing room. There is always loud, boisterous chatter among the actors, and sometimes much more. This week's Dance Party proves the point. It is a little different from other clips in this series, as I lifted it from somebody's facebook page, rather than from a film or TV show. It includes, coincidentally, an appearance by Bill Diggle, who directed the show which I will be closing tomorrow night, The Nerd at Wayside Theatre. Bill is an actor as well as director, and he works pretty steadily in the DC area. Here, he and his dressing roommates are having some fun making an exercise video with a twist. (Bill is the guy eating a hotdog.) The show for which these energetic guys are preparing is Sunset Blvd, which ran in DC over the holidays. I saw the show, among a host of others during the hols, and wrote about it here. I had no idea this kind of hijinks was going on backstage (I would never suggest it may explain the under-energized performance of the show I caught).

Honestly, I wish I could be one of these actors, who can have such goofy fun in the dressing room, then step out on stage and perform at their best. These guys certainly have more fun in the dressing room than I. And they look good doing it! So, with my apologies to the owner of the facebook page from which I lifted this clip (I don't remember who), please enjoy a Dressing Room Dance Party:

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