I know it’s been a few days but it’s been a busy time. We are previewing. The audiences continue to be packed and excited. They are raucous and fun and excited and listening and joyful. During the day, we are still fine tuning, tinkering, adjusting, trying to make the story clearer, the set move better, etc. (I just noticed how I use very few contractions when I write, even while maintaining a casual tone – hmmm) We now have two days of two shows a day which is actually a good thing. It will give the creative team a chance to step back and just watch it or even take a show away to clear their eyes and heads. And for us, we get five times in a row to iron out kinks without new things to do, to work out business or nerves and such. I was laughing at intermission today at how crazy our lives are and how non stop this show is for everyone, including the dressers and crew. No one in our show gets an intermission. There is so much to set up to get ready for act two that there is no time to break. Much of the act two sets pieces are stored above our heads so they have to shift everything when act one is over. And the dressers have to store away or hang up all of the costumes from act one, then get out and/or set out the costumes for act 2.
And we, as a cast, have changes to make. That’s what made me think that that I would take you through my intermission. I finish the first act in “Scottish drag”, so after the curtain goes down on Act 1, I go off-stage and hand my camera back to Jerry – who is fantastic, one of our great crew guys – then go take off my wig. After that, I go back to the dressing area and take off my eyelashes, then my sweater, my kilt, my blouse, my boobs (yes, boobs – rather ample I might add – she’s a husky Scottish lass). Then I take off my shoes, socks, and pantyhose (underdressed from a previous scene). Then I put on my robe, and head downstairs to my dressing room. When I get there, I have to take off the lipstick I’m wearing, and the eye make-up and then reapply the my base make-up: we’re all made up in basic make up from the top (basic male make-up unless you’re one of the two ensemble guys who play drag queens through most of the show). By then we’ve gotten the 10 minute call. Once I finish retouching my makeup, I start to get into my Nude Illusion suit (or as my dresser likes to call it, my Nyewd Illyeeeewwwwsion suit. It’s basically a thin stretchy suit that’s made to look like we are smooth and naked. We wear it under a couple of things. This time, it’s for the Les Girls (showgirl) number that happens in the second scene of act 2. Anyway, I put that on then put on the waist cincher and one of my dressers has to come and do me up like some half-breed Scarlett O’Hara. Tight, tight. When I can’t feel my legs, I know we’ve arrived. Then I put on my fat suit . . . . dramatic pause. Yes, I said a fat suit. I play a local bear-drinkin’ guy at the top of the second act. Then put a t-shirt on over that, then my jeans, and finally a long-sleeve denim shirt. By this point, we’ve had places call (for the laymen, that means we are almost ready to start act 2 so it’s time to get to your “places”. I grab my baseball cap which is the last bit of my costume I get into downstairs. I go upstairs and put on my Bluntstones (shoe boots) then get to my starting position. That is literally my intermission. But I gotta say, I like being busy. I like that you get on the train and keep riding.
Now on to some other Thom thoughts. hahaha It’s a wonderful thing to be doing a show that is bringing people such joy. But I have to admit to you, my peeps, that there is something a little melancholy I feel by the end and I wasn’t able to figure out what it was until tonight. I love being a part of something like Priscilla that has such magic in it but I miss being one of the people who directly tells the story. I haven’t been a non-featured ensemble member for many, many years and that’s going to be a bit of a challenge. I will need to find other creative outlets. I was writing in the last blog about how we have the opportunity to touch the hand of God every time we step onstage. Then for the last two nights, I’ve been watching Tony Sheldon craft his Bernadette with our audiences and I see the intelligence and joy and craft and skill and, most importantly, instincts of this man. It’s when you see someone where they belong, it’s as natural as breathing. And then tonight I read an interview with the incomparable Barbara Cook. She was talking about how she chooses songs, what speaks to her, how she learned to make the most of the gifts she was given simply because they were uniquely hers. I’m glad I have these upcoming concerts, teaching gigs and appearances to keep me bubbling. It’s taken me years to realize I’m a singing storyteller but now that I know that I need to be able to really do that to keep my spirit alive. I keep thinking of that great line from Mame – “Life is a banquet and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death.”. I have no intention of going hungry on this one-time-round. This life is not the dress rehearsal, this is the show and I want to bring whatever gifts I have to the table. I guess this is where I should be clear that I don’t mean that I regret my decision to do Priscilla. Not at all. I’m having a great time in the show. There is something to be said for not having the pressure of carrying a show. I know this is where I am meant to be right now. If I’m going to be doing a ensemble role, this is the show. It’s a hoot, the kids are great (kids, like I’m 237 years old), the leads are great, the show is a party. And I know that bigger things are meant to come of this.
I kept getting all of these signs to do this show, so I know the universe has plans. Certainly the most obvious one is Broadway, of course. That opens up so many opportunities to become whatever it is I’m meant to become. Hmmmm I guess that sounds a bit . . . what? . . . esoteric . . no . . . obnoxious? Maybe. 😛 Whatever, it’s my blog and I’m feeling all “what am I doing with my life”-y. So pbbbbssssttt!!!! Anyway, I guess as we enter our previews, I’m feeling a bit searchy – not lost, but . . . . yearning. I want to tell stories. That’s why more and more, I find myself drawn toward cabaret and concert-work. I love that you can tell the stories you want and need to tell, using music that speaks to you. That’s incredibly exciting. That’s also why I’m excited to get to New York and check out the cabaret scene. Oh, by the way, I’m still trying to see if there is a possibility of doing a cabaret before I head off in February. I’d love to have one more evening to share with the amazing people/country that has supported me and shown me such love for the last 20 years. (Okay now I am 237 years old). So keep a look out.
Anyway, where was I? Yes, yearning. I think every actor has those moments when he/she questions the choices he/she is making. Many leave the business. It can be hard on the heart and the soul. But I know I’m meant to be in the business, I’ve always known that. But I think that over the next ten years, the “how” is going to change. I have stories to tell and there are songs I want to sing, spells I want to weave. I want to re-interpret worlds for an audience that wants to come on the ride with me. I want to walk onto the greatest concert stages and cabaret spaces in the world and “touch the hand of God”.
Patti LaBelle’s autobiography is called “Don’t Block the Blessings” and I love that. I saw her on Oprah when it came out years ago and she was talking about what that means. Basically, God/the Universe/Buddha/whoever or whatever you believe in gives you gifts to use while in this life and on this earth that are specifically yours. They are to be used and shared, not hidden or denied. Miss Patti was talking about how we get so self-conscious about letting our light shine when we are only the conduits and how when we simply let the glow happen instead of try manipulate it or feel ashamed or self-conscious about sharing it, we can just get on with being our fabulous unique selves. “Don’t Block the Blessings”. I love it and think about that often.
It’s bizarre, I’ll admit this to you all right now – partly because I’m trying to be as honest as one can be in the printed public word (and it’s important to me that the young’n’s reading my blog know that everyone is human) – I’ve been so strangely shy on this Priscilla contract. And by shy I mean, unsure and not confident. I’m sure it’s something I’ll work through in my memoirs one day “The Priscilla Time”, but it’s been an interesting lesson . . . I’m not even sure in what yet. I love that everything has a reason though. It’s made me write more, which I have been really enjoying.
Oh speaking of which, an edited (by me) version of my blog for Priscilla was printed in FAB magazine. I’m leaving the link here because as you know, I’m a media whore.
That’s now the second thing I’ve published. Well, second big thing. Life surprises us – Good.
Anyway, there is no final thought to any of this. It’s 2:30 AM and I just have stuff in my head. We just started a five show weekend tonight – 2 tomorrow and 2 on Sunday. Then one more week of previews, I sing the finale for this wonderful choreographic benefit for cancer on Oct. 25, then we open on the 26. What else? There are a couple of other things to put on your calendars if you are available. I am doing an intimate evening for Acting Up Stage on Nov. 14, which is actually sold out, I think. But the other thing and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, I’ll be one of the featured soloists with Metropolitan Community Church at their amazing Christmas Eve service at Roy Thomson Hall. I’m always so thrilled and honoured when they ask me to sing with them when I’m in town. And if you’ve never gone to one, you should. They’re always a beautiful evening. I don’t have all of the details yet, nor do I know how to get tickets, etc. but I’ll share the info as soon as I have it.
Hmmm now I’m just rambling from exhaustion. The long and short of it is, I love what I do when I get to do it. I must always be active in letting it be free, in sharing it and I guess part of this blog is to encourage all of you to do the same. Follow your instincts. Sometimes we make choices that veer us away from what fills us with joy – let those be a momentary lapse or a means to an end, NOT a habit. Feast at the table of life and Don’t Block the Blessings, my darling people.