Or, Snot: The Opera.
Or, Tell Me Again Why I Thought I Liked Doing Theater?
Or, My Children Moved Out And All I Got Was The Plague (Twice).
Or, Someone Hates Me And It’s Hurting My Delicate Feelings.
Good morning! Gosh, this is early for me to be blogging. (As in, early in the day. I realize I disappeared for a month, again.) But WHY NOT, I say, because I am 1) awake and 2) far too cranky to do anything else. I’ve already gotten out of bed, made myself some tea, irrigated my nasal passages with saline (sexxxxxy), taken some of the good, meth-making kind of decongestant where you have to go to the pharmacy and hand over your license and a bag of magic beans, and whined to my husband about how much I hate everything. Now I’m here to share it all with the world. LUCKY YOU!
First things first: The children are both away at college and doing well, by which I mean that both of them are still alive. Both of them would like me to leave them alone, except of course for the twenty times each day they contact me to ask such burning questions as “should I take Advil for a stomachache?” (answer: no, do not do that, are you kidding me right now) and “do I own a three-hole punch?” (answer: I don’t think so, but what a great opportunity to talk to some of those other humanoids living in that large building with you as you try to locate one, P.S. it might be time to stop asking me what may or may not be in your room). They came home last weekend to hassle the dogs and complain that there’s no food in the house, and I assume that if I had been home at all to spend any time with them, that would’ve been nice. Maybe next time.
But this brings us to the main thing, which is that this is Tech Week for the show I’m in right now. Those of you in theater know what that means, of course, but if you are not a theater person, allow me to explain: Tech Week is the final week (already a misnomer, as a show generally opens on a Thursday or Friday, so not a full week) leading up to opening, and so—in no particular order—it will involve most or all of the following:
1) Finishing the set in a mad scramble, if the set is not already finished (the set is never finished before Tech Week, don’t be silly).
2) Finalizing costumes and props, if anything is missing (something is always missing before Tech Week). (FUN FACT: In the very first scene of this show, about five minutes in, I emerge from the kitchen with a roller skate, screaming at youngest son about how he obviously must want me dead, leaving such a thing on my kitchen floor. FUN FACT BONUS: We do not have said roller skate yet, so I have been doing this scene for a solid month with a plastic banana. I mean, we’re making it work, but I suspect an actual audience will be pretty confused if I’m still doing that on Friday.)
3) Doing so-called dry run and then wet tech (the dry run is for the lighting and sound people without the actors, and then wet tech is generally incorporating all of that with the actors in a rehearsal that tends to stop and start a billion times while timing gets worked out, and now that I’m writing that NO, I cannot tell you why they’re called that, they just are).
4) Making sure everyone knows their lines. (HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA OH GOD KILL ME.) (Fun fact: Tech Week is when every actor in the world not only forgets lines they’ve known for weeks if not months, but decides that doing this show was a terrible mistake and they should probably just lie down and die.)
5) Making sure the pacing of the show is right; not too fast, not too slow, etc. (HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAA NO THIS SHOW ISN’T THREE HOURS LONG WHY DO YOU ASK WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M SCREAMING NO I’M NOT.)
6) Everyone in the cast coming down with some variant of The Crud. (Otto has been coughing for a solid month, seems like, but save for a couple of days right at the beginning when I didn’t feel so hot, my superior powers of excellent hygiene and mind over matter have completely circumvented any pesky illness issues! Until this week. Now I have a sore throat and a drippy nose and a really bad attitude, because when I start screaming at my stage kid with a fake banana roller skate in my hand, the only thing that could possibly make it better would be a raw, red nose and a river of endless snot.) (And yes, I feel bad complaining when the entire world has the flu, but still. Ugh.)
7) General life implosion. (While everything else is standard, this may vary from person to person.)
I mentioned last time that Licorice’s new nickname is Itchy McScratchy and we’ve been back and forth to the vet a zillion times and she’s eating prescription food and taking stupid meds that only work sometimes, and the vet recommended a doggie dermatologist and I was all HAHAHA THAT CAN’T POSSIBLY BE A THING except, of course, it is. And I was reluctant to pursue it because our regular vet already has a boat he bought with my money, I’m pretty sure, but the dog was still scratching. And yes, I waited too long, and YES, I am a horrible person, because you know what the final straw was? The kids left. The kids left and now BOTH dogs are in our bedroom at night because SO SPOILED and Licorice has been sleeping with a kid for nine years (or however long we’ve had her) and so she believes she’s people and should sleep in a bed, preferably our bed, right between us, stretched out perpendicular to our bodies. (Duncan at least sleeps in his own bed on the floor, rather than following in his sister’s bed-pig ways.) And that, my friends, was the final straw, because as bad as it is to have a small dog taking up a surprising amount of space between you and your spouse all night, it pales in comparison to having said small dog taking up that surprising amount of space and waking up every hour or two to scratch frantically. It shakes the entire bed. So! I made the appointment with the doggie dermatologist. And it fell during Tech Week, because of course it did.
This means that I spent half my day over there yesterday, and while I don’t want to belabor the money thing too much—because WHAT PRICE MY BABY and all of that, sure, okay—I will tell you that the bill I paid for that SINGLE VISIT came to more than I made last month. Granted, January is a slow(ish) freelancing month in general, but still. It was the kind of bill that makes you feel a little woozy. Now that bill included intake and differential diagnosis and a biopsy and a bunch of blood tests and a shot and all new meds and food and topical treatments, BUT STILL. The good news is that the injection they gave her worked and she is already scratching much less, and that injection should last for a month of relief. The bad news is that it was a very expensive way to spend my day while I was already sick and cranky, and we’re doing yet ANOTHER food challenge type thing JUST IN CASE even though the doc said yeah, probably not food, but I want to be certain we can rule it out, so just go ahead and buy this super expensive stuff made from defenseless bunnies, mmmkay? (Is this better or worse than when we fed Duncan kangaroos? I’m not sure. Better, I guess, because she didn’t puke.)
Once we finally got out of there, I took Licorice and her new arsenal of products home, then I had to run right back out for a mammogram! Because Tech Week! Is fun!!
This seems like an awkward place to insert this but it’s going to be awkward anywhere and it’s part of the overall picture, so: last week we lost a good friend (and stellar human) to cancer. It turns out that no matter how much you “know” this is the only possible outcome and even “know” the timeframe, you’re not ready. You’ve just never ready because it’s not fair and it sucks.
So, general timeline: I started getting sick on Thursday; we were at the funeral on Friday when the kids got home; I saw them briefly between the funeral and rehearsal; Saturday I got up and went to go work on the set for hours; Sunday I never made it out of my pajamas and robe but the kids slept late and then went back to school; Monday I spent the bulk of the day wiping my nose, having my dog probed and handing over all my money, and then having my boobs squished, and THEN coming home and cooking show food* before running back out to rehearsal, which lasted a zillion hours.
*There is a dinner scene in this show requiring actual food. The actual food we are supposedly eating is gross (liver) and everything I found about how people generally fake this for stage turned up interesting stories about carving pumpernickel bread into liver shapes. You might remember that I can no longer eat wheat without turning into a ball of eczema and sadness, and one of my castmates cannot eat dairy, so I offered to come up with an allergy-free liver substitute at some point. The good news is that I’M A WIZARD and after some trial and error I did indeed strike upon a recipe and a method for creating (gluten-free, dairy-free) liver-looking pancakes. (Buckwheat, flax, and cocoa powder, in case you care.) The bad news is that the day when I actually had oodles of time once I’d worked it all out I made enough for all seven performances (individually bagged by date and frozen!) but totally forgot to make extra for Tech Week. That meant that yesterday I was cooking pancakes before rehearsal.
Is that ENOUGH? Yes, that is enough. Tech Week is stressful, anyway, but our friend died and my kids are both gone for the first time in ever and they came home and I barely saw them and Otto can’t stop coughing and my nose won’t stop running and my throat hurts and my dog is itchy and I spent all my money on her and so many pancakes and I discovered at around 1:00 this morning when I was finally getting changed for bed that I actually walked around with the little nipple locator stickers from my mammogram on ALL FREAKING DAY because I’m just that awesome. I BELIEVE THAT IS ENOUGH.
Enough or not, that is not all. And here’s the part where I do something ill-advised, which is that I am about to shit-talk someone who theoretically may read this, but probably she never will, because she clearly hates me so why on earth would she? And how could I possibly make her hate me more by telling you about it, right? Right?? Right.
To cap off this terrible, horrible, no good very bad week or run of days or WHATEVER that I’m having when the show is days away from opening, yesterday it became clear that something I thought I was imagining was absolutely not my imagination.
I have been in a lot of shows in my life. Some of them were good shows, some of them were bad shows, but believe me when I tell you I have seen my fair share of prima donna theater folks who are just plain difficult to those who must work with them. Further believe me when I tell you that I possess GREAT CAPACITY for being a pain in the ass—just being honest—but I am absolutely NOT difficult when it comes to being in a show. I show up early and stay late. I do my own hair and makeup. When asked to come help build a set I always come and work on the set. I’m generally good about learning my lines not tripping up others (Sudafed-fueled run-throughs notwithstanding; sorry about last night, guys) and getting along with everyone because I know that if we all pitch in and play nice, everything goes more smoothly. I do things like come up with a hypoallergenic edible liver analog and then make a million of them rather than task someone else with working around my food allergy. I go thrifting to help with props and costumes when needed. I bring in EVERY FUCKING CLOTH NAPKIN IN MY HOUSE to use as props because I am assured that the real required linens “are coming” and okay, we use paper towels at home in the meantime, because I am a team player.
While I understand that I am not always going to be everyone’s preferred cup of tea in all situations, I AM A FUCKING DELIGHT to have as part of your show, is my point. Ask anyone.
So I thought I was imagining it that the woman doing our costuming can’t stand me. Let’s just call her Costume Nazi for ease of reference. “Oh, Costume Nazi’s prickly, that’s just how she is” someone whispered to me, when I asked about her after the first incident. “Costume Nazi’s got her own way but we’ll have everything we need, don’t worry” said another. During our first “here I am with an armload of clothing, come try things on and show me” session, she put me into a dress which was already missing two buttons, with the remainder barely hanging on, plus there were snaps added between the buttons to hold the thing closed which were ALSO falling off. “Will someone be able to fix the buttons before the show?” I asked, because time was already tight and I was, quite literally, popping out of this dress all over. Costume Nazi waved my question away, assuring me it wasn’t a problem. “Do I need a belt with this or no?” I asked, because I’m not great with 1930s fashion and I wasn’t sure. At that point I got A Look, and an icy assurance that she would bring me a belt. Later when I inquired of someone else on our production team if there was a problem, I was told that Costume Nazi is “going through some life stuff” and not to take it personally.
By the time we were doing promotional photos, she’d been back once (maybe twice, now that I think of it), and my dress was still missing the top button and I had no belt. So I came in early, removed one of the lower buttons and sewed it instead in place of the missing top one so at least I’d be decent for photos, and didn’t say anything. The next time I went thrifting (for props, by the way), I found a dress NEARLY IDENTICAL to the one she’d put me in, so I bought it. It was the same color (it’s navy with an ivory floral pattern, though the flowers are larger on the first dress), just about the same style, except the one I found 1) had a belt and 2) not only had all the necessary buttons, it didn’t need umpty-eleven addition snaps because the buttons actually work to hold said dress closed. I brought in said dress thinking I had done something USEFUL and KIND because now Costume Nazi didn’t need to fix the other dress! I let one of our assistant directors know the dress was on the costume rack and rehearsal began and so, mercifully, I didn’t have to deal with this woman that day, because she came and went while we were working. BUT I was informed later that her reaction to the dress I brought in was that it was wholly unacceptable (trying to remember why… something about how the style was a little too 1940s rather than 1930s, maybe, but mostly that she liked HER dress better). “That’s fine,” I said. “I’m happy to wear whatever she wants me in. But it does still need to have the buttons fixed before I can wear it.” I was assured that everything would be taken care of.
Costume Nazi swung by a couple other times, and every time I felt like there was something about ME in particular which she found offensive, and I tried to let it go, because hey, whatever, you don’t have to like me, and if you’re that butthurt over me bringing a different dress to try to help out, I doubt there’s anything I can do to change your mind, so alrighty. I did commit the unholy sin of, you know, audaciously answering her questions as to what other items we were still waiting on, and although the two other costumes I’m supposed to wear have yet to surface, for example, I never made a fuss or anything. As soon as the dress I brought in was rejected, I took it back home, too. I didn’t want her to think I was trying to force the issue. The only other interaction we had wherein I may have been labeled problematic was—and bear in mind Costume Nazi told us the first time she showed up that she hasn’t read the script and will not have time to do so—at some point she told me I would be getting a blouse and cardigan and I asked about the cardigan. “It’ll just look more polished,” she said. I pointed out that it’s late spring or early summer, in the script, and in fact I have an entire scene about how it’s so hot in the kitchen (where I spend all my time), my sister actually has an asthma attack and collapses, so it seems like a sweater could be a problem.
Imagine how someone would’ve reacted if I set her hair on fire. Imagine how someone would’ve reacted if I ran her dog over with my car. Now imagine how Costume Nazi would’ve reacted if I did BOTH of those things, and that’s how she reacted when I said wearing a sweater might not make sense. I hastily added, “But you’re in charge and if you tell me to wear one, I will, that’s fine,” but she was already furious and “OH NEVER MIND, FORGET IT”ing me. It was… bizarre. Again, I tried to say I was just offering context but I was fine either way and she actually TURNED HER BACK ON ME like I was just so horrible, she couldn’t take it anymore.
Okay. Some people are easily offended, and some people are never going to like me, and that’s fine.
But. Last night, we were supposed to get the rest of our costumes and textile props from her. It turned out that she didn’t have everything and I guess she’s coming again Thursday, which, hey, no time like the absolute last minute, but OKAY! And I knew better than to say a word to her about costumes. But I did ask if she’d brought the cloth napkins, and she looked at me like I had twelve heads and said, “You have napkins here already.” I—slowly, carefully, NEUTRALLY—said that they were all my napkins from home, and we didn’t have seven matching ones, and they’re not period, and she’d said she was bringing some…? And she sighed and huffed and stormed away. Okay. We’re done talking, I guess. That’s fine.
One of the assistant directors approached me a few minutes later. “Costume Nazi says you can wear that dress you brought.” I was confused. The one she had rejected before as being all wrong? She shrugged and said she guessed so. It took me a second, but then I realized what was happening. “She doesn’t want to fix the other one for me, right?” Again, a shrug. That’s fine, I said. I’d be happy to bring the other one back in. But, uh, I am still two missing two other costumes, and did you let her know that the apron she has me wearing doesn’t have a big enough pocket? She told me it was all on her list and she’d let Costume Nazi know. Bear in mind that the pocket issue is because of a number of props I’m supposed to be carrying and the apron in question having a pocket the size of a quarter, not because I’m a special princess with whimsical pocket demands.
And so it came to pass, last night, that I was standing on the stage during a break, maybe ten feet away from Costume Nazi, when the assistant director I’d spoken with earlier was going over a list with her and said, “Oh, and remember that Mir needs a different apron because the pocket on the one you brought isn’t big enough.” And Costume Nazi ROLLED HER EYES and shook her head as if she’d just been informed I demand a bowl of green M&Ms in my private dressing room or I refuse to perform. I’m sorry, but WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?
I would like to tell you that this is simply a minor and perplexing annoyance and I didn’t let it get to me, but the reality is that I’m sick and tired and I have invested an enormous amount of time, energy, and money in this production, not to mention having basically missed seeing my kids for the first time in a month and everything else that’s happened lately; so I saw her do that, and I actually cried. Because what is this woman’s damage? At what point did she decide that I was demanding/difficult/not worth common courtesy? I’m sure she’s going through some stuff. I am also going through some stuff. We don’t have to be besties but is it really necessary to treat me with such disdain? It just felt so unfair and arbitrary and nasty. It got to me. I wish it hadn’t, but it really did.
Costume Nazi, if you ever read this: Grownups working together suck it the fuck up and play nice. You don’t have to like me, but if you have an issue with me, either discuss it like an adult or find a way to move past it and interact with a modicum of human decency.
(She will never read this. I can only assume all of her spare time is spent making voodoo dolls.)
And that, dear readers, is the story of how I let one person singlehandedly make a tough Tech Week feel one hundred times worse. Notice I said “I let,” because I know it’s on me that she got under my skin, and that is somehow the worst part. This nearly 4,000-word screed is my attempt to evict her from my head. Let’s hope it works! Let us also hope my other costumes show up! But I am dragging my snot-encrusted self out thrifting later, anyway, just in case.
So. Um. Hey! How is your week going? Better than mine, I hope.