Monday, January 31, 2011

Time to Dress Up!

Houston Grand Opera Chief Financial Officer on his experience as a cast member in HGO's Dead Man Walking. 

The HGO logo is "tattooed" on
HGO Chorus member Brad Blunt's neck.
A “full dress rehearsal” means that every one of us artists wears all of the costumes, wigs and makeup that we will wear in the show. Some of my colleagues put on faux tattoos, as well. Making sure the tattoos stick looks like it will be an interesting experience involving some kind of goo and powder. Glad it's not me. The tattoos are for the prisoners in the show. Most of the prisoners are choristers—during the show, see if you can spot the HGO logo that is “tattooed” on one “prisoner’s” neck!

Principal singers have special dressing rooms, used by one or sometimes two singers. Each has its own lighted vanity mirror, comfortable chair, private bathroom, and a piano that they use when warming up their voices. If I close my eyes and walk through the principal singers’ hallway before a rehearsal, I almost feel as though I am in a rainforest, surrounded by exotic operatic birds.

My dressing room is down in the basement among the other chorus and supernumerary dressing rooms. I find their resemblance to athletic team locker rooms to be comforting, though I have never been in a sports locker room that boasts lighted vanity mirrors. There are rows of full-length lockers lined up next to each other, with each person's name at the top. Our costumes hang in them when not in use. Several people have more than one costume and have to change clothes during the show once or twice.

This is my row of lockers, with five of the other supers: Gerald Guidry, Leraldo Anazaldua, Philip Brent, Tedman Brown and Derrick J. Brent II—they appear as guards, prisoners, protestors, deputies and SWAT team members during the show.

My fellow actors in our locker room.

Luckily, HGO employs a whole wardrobe team to help make sure that everyone in the show, and the stage crew, are outfitted and ready to go. They take care of making sure the clothes you need to change into make it upstairs if it is a quick change. Yes, in this show, even the stage crew wears costumes: during the show, some of the “guards” in the towers onstage are actually members of the stage crew, ensuring the safety of everyone below.

The stage crew is an intricate part of the show from the moment its scenery arrives at the Houston Grand Opera loading dock. They "load in" the scenery, taking it off the beds of eighteen-wheeler trucks and bringing it into the auditorium, assemble the sets, and operate all of the moving parts of the set from every part of the stage. The stage crew for Dead Man Walking includes twelve carpenters, nine electricians, two sound engineers, four house crew, and four "stage property" crew members, who manage all of the items that the singing actors use on stage-chairs, tables, court gavels, firearms, etc . Stage Manger Jessica Mullins coordinates the elaborate dance behind the curtain as crew members bob and weave their way around and through everything around  and above the stage, bringing the set to life.

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