Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another fond Garage memory..."Higgins Deaths"

This one is more recent.
During the run of My Fair Lady, I waited by vom 4 to enter for the curtain call. During this time, Andrew Long was on stage delivering his touching rendition of "I've Grown Accustomed to her Face". I would sit on the floor next to Dana Krueger, who if you didn't know, is a treasure of the American Theatre. She can devastate an audience with the turn of her head. There are few who possess such gifts and use them so effortlessly.
As time went on, after about a week of shows, I for some reason or another started pantomiming everything that Andrew was singing. Don't know why...just to pass the time. Dana started playing along, and before the next week was over, this had turned into a show "tradition" of sorts.
"Show traditions" are common among actors, and usually involve something that an actor starts doing on stage, or backstage, or even before or after the show for that matter. It can be anything at all...for instance, I will list all of mine from MFL:
1) Before the show, 2 Red Bulls, and 2 Cigarettes.

2) Being Dance Captain and Assistant Choreographer, and also being a big cheerleader at heart, I would then visit all of the dressing rooms prior to going up to mine to get ready. I would walk around and say hi, and see how everyone was feeling, ect.
3) Work Out: I would do 50 sit-ups, 50 push ups, and 30 arm curls on each arm with free weights before I went on stage as a cockney (I did it 4 times a night).
4) Oh, and at the places call, I had a little routine with Lauren where I...umm....tightened up her body with my wrench, pinched her straw hat, shook her hips left and right like she was Shakira, and freak danced her. I called her "Beulah" during the run, and she called me "Burt". Strange, I know.
Oh, she also sat on my lap at the places call for Act 2. I would rock her back and forth like she was on a swing. We talked in cockney accents. Normal stuff like that.
There are many other ones besides that that I couldn't even list because they are too small or involved.
Why do we do these things?
Superstition.
For fear that the one night that we didn't do one of these things that we always did, then our subconscious mind would sabotage our shows.
Then came this time with Dana....at the end of the show, as you probably know, there is the whole "Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?" line when she comes back to him.
Well, one night I acted like Eliza as Dana acted like she was Higgins (now, this is all pantomime, and she was seated on a chair, and I next to her on the floor, so no-it wasn't loud and distracting or inappropriate). After he asked her where the slippers were, I pulled an imaginary arrow from my back, bowed it, and shot him with it. She loved it.
Next night was a gun. Then a grenade. Then a poison dart.
I pondered the fact that I would have to devise 60 some ways to kill him before the show ended. Ugh...I made a list, and asked for help and suggestions from others. Kathy Fuller came up with several really great ones.
Here are the ones I remember now...
He was...beheaded, smothered, crucified, he took a nose hair clipper shoved up his nose and into his brain, drowned, electrocuted, walled up like in "The Cask of Amontillado" (a little Poe homage), drawn and quartered, run over, neck broken, killed by a swarm of birds, a poisonous spider, a cobra charmed from a basket by a recorder, piano dropped, head shut in a piano, and so many others that I cannot recall...I wrote them all in a card to Dana for closing night. The last night, I enlisted the help of several cast mates to pantomime a shooting squad.
On closing night, she gave me a little "Hell-cat" to represent the lyrics "I'll slam the door and let the Hell-cat freeze!".



This time was so funny and special for us both, and I will never forget it.
The last night at the Garage, I crouched down in that same spot and sat for a minute. That's when the first of many more tears started to pour.
I enjoyed this time with Dana every night...I loved seeing her giggle and try to stifle it. She would come back to the dressing room every night and tell her dressing roommates how I killed Higgins that night, and she would giggle as she told it. I heard all of this while I was upstairs in my dressing room getting out of my costume. She told me at one point, "Now, I don't expect you to keep coming up with this every night, and I don't want you to feel pressured to do it..", but as Kathy and Chan told me later, she LIVED for it. I had to keep it going, and I did.
It made me happy that she was so touched and entertained by a silly little "show tradition" that became much more than it ever intended to be.
Love,
Steve

3 comments:

Kathy said...

Dana would recount to me every night what the Higgins death was and then give me her brutally honest (she is Dana afterall) review of the concept and execution. Most of the time she thought it was fantastic and would leave me while mumbling to herself: "He's a genius, a genius." Speaking of show traditions and Dana...for the final performance of MFL I carried her rubber snake on stage in the pocket of my maid apron (every time I went on as a maid) and Eleasha had it in her green bean basket at the top of the show. It's my understanding that Dana's rubber snake has made MANY an appearance at the garage...I hear he's looking forward to the new digs.

Donna Migliaccio said...

I wore Dana's rubber snake in my cleavage during Signature and Arena's co-production of "Sunday in the Park with George." It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Barbara Bear said...

Great story Stephen!