by Matthew Chase
OK people, my schedule has just changed and I'm not entirely adjusted to it, so this week I will tell you guys a little about what goes on with one of my little shows.
It usually begins as always with the date. Once that is set in stone, the cogs begin working on what the evening will entail, whether it is a raffle, silent auction, or just a spectacle. For example, when I was asked to do a fund raiser for Shooka Dookas, I began by thinking about what would make some good money. So we decided to have an auction, AND a fifty/fifty raffle. In case you don't know a fifty/fifty raffle is where there are prizes all assorted out there and you can buy one or more of those colored tickets like you get when you go to the fair. Corresponding tickets are placed in a bucket, and near the end of the evening, you draw the tickets, and the last prize, is half of the income from ticket sales. So now that I know what I'd like for the event, I have to try and find people and items to facilitate this. So what I do is go around the city stopping at every available store and asking for donations to my cause. Some store owners are really great and donate a number of things that are expendable, because it's good publicity. Others, sadly enough refuse because I'm not feeding starving African mice with Guatemalan ancestry, But in truth supporting a gay cause. Either way all of the donations are kept secreted away until the final day to resist temptation. The rest of the prizes are purchased at different stores for the pure comical effect. Last years prized included a "Love Truth Or Dare" Card game, and a selection of erotic lubricants and "Massage" oils. (Which, funny enough, my Aunt won!)
I also create a rehearsal schedule to meet once a week for three hours at either a person's house or a general location. This goes up with a sign up sheet for volunteers and performers with instructions to make it to at least so many rehearsals in order to be a part of the show. For example, for "Moonlight Dancing" we had six weeks, and six rehearsal dates, a volunteer signing up, had to make sure to attend three out of six rehearsals in order to perform onstage. I have been performing for a number of years and even that seemed like a bit of a stretch to me. I'm used to rehearsing at least for a few months before a show. But when dealing with volunteers, I believe that the easier you make it, the more help you're bound to get. What happens during these gatherings is the performers screen music and basic routines, while the other volunteers decide what decorations would be good for the performance space available to us. What do I do, you ask? Well I am the Queen of the castle. I have the power to veto anything and everything. I plan out the order in which the performers go onstage, I plan where the props will be, when the raffle and auction will be held, I approve of decorations and I also make suggestions on performance pieces and routine styles. I am the director, choreographer, planner, and event coordinator. It is a lot to put on my plate at times, however it is totally fun!
"Moonlight Dancing" was a great experience for me because it was my first time planning an event like that on my own. I had some new faces to work with, and familiar friends to assure a good production. It has come to my attention that I needed to make more of an effort to screen our performers because for that show, I worked with the "Barony of all Vermont", and one of the performers came with a piece that I had not heard before, and halfway through a lighthearted production, this performer took the stage dressed as a ghoul and performing a hard metal song no one had ever heard before. It shocked a few of the audience members and did not fit in with the overall theme of the evening. However as a performer, I think it's healthy to actually allow an artist or a performer to follow what feels right to them. If it didn't exactly fit the evening, at least it got the attention of the room! Oh goodness! I almost forgot about what's–her-name. I suppose her name doesn't matter, but we also had a performer that year that was a bundle of crazy with a side order of lunatic. She did one number for the whole evening, and it lasted about a minute and a half. The poor thing couldn't walk in her heels properly, and when she arrived to do her makeup, she had applied so much cake makeup, her face looked more like a treat from the Dunkin Doughnuts seconds collection. It took three drag queens and a pissed off lesbian to make her look respectable enough for the stage, and even then we used low lighting. I saw her a few months later, and you could tell the poor dear had a coke habit. It explained a lot, and I vowed that if I ever did a show I would not place that thing on the stage again.
I also make a point to rehearse with the other performers and allow their input on my own work because as we all know, any feedback is good feedback. Sometimes I like what they say, other times I don't give a hoot, and I'm ultimately going to do what I want. I do make sure that I perform the opening and closing numbers, and do the announcement work during the show. I wind up doing more costume changes than anyone else, while at the same time running about like an obsessive compulsive on crack. I get a great work out and have a great time.
So once the date and the rehearsals are scheduled, then it's a matter or practicing everything until it gets as good as possible by curtain time. The last rehearsal in the schedule is reserved as the "Heel Rehearsal". This is when I ask everyone to bring in the shoes and props they plan on performing in/with. This is to make sure everything will go somewhat to plan, and to debug any issues that might arise. For example, my shoes I planned to wear for my performance of a T.L.C. song with the amazing Ms. Nova Caine Fox, were just a wee bit too tall and awkward. So I had to make a switch. But at least I knew it before the night of the show. I also plan a dress rehearsal for just before the show, in order to do a rundown of the order in which the performers will be going onstage. This is another debugging that works pretty well for me. Once it is finalized, I make a copy of the play list and it is given to the performers, the DJ, and it is posted in the dressing room. This is to prevent performers from forgetting which number they do and when. It's not exactly good to be prepared to sing "Hanky Panky", and the number you have playing overhead is "Wind Beneath My Wings". It looks funny, and people will laugh, but ultimately you wind up feeling foolish.
Even with all the preparations it doesn't ever prevent disaster from striking. I remember one show I did, and at the time I was working with basically water balloons for boobs. It was inexpensive, and jiggly, people like that. Don't ask me why. Anyway I was doing a rendition of one of the wonderful songs from Cher's last studio album, when all of a sudden; my right boob popped out of my bra and went rolling down the stage and onto the floor. Now one of the things that makes a performer good, is ignoring the little things and continuing the show, while acting as though nothing is wrong, whether you've lost a shoe, or there is a strap about to break off your bra… Which wasn't the case; my boobs were just a bit slippery from my sweat. So I laughed and dropped the other one. The audience roared with glee right along with me, and I somehow felt vindicated. Even fabulous persons like myself are only human and are prone to accidents. I was in the middle of a costume change during "Moonlight Dancing" when one of the performers finished and I held up my own show because my earring was caught up in my wig… But Jason Wolf helped me out of that little jam. Thankfully, my boob didn't pop out at my show, but plenty else went on that night. All boobies aside. So that's a small taste of what goes on behind the scenes at one of my shows. Perhaps later I'll give you the backstage pass and tell you all about the crazy things that go on back stage before and during a show. I've been performing for a while, and I have lots to tell! Until then, I hope you find happiness in the coming week. Don't worry about me, I'm a Drag Queen, What do I know?