And so, thanks to A Christmas Carol, I now have another backstage job to add to my theatre resumé.
Because yes, we debuted last Saturday, and it went enormously well, and we’re very nearly sold out until January, and have actual waiting lists… And usually, at this point, I’ve done what I had to do, and can sit back and enjoy the ride, right? Not so this time!
At some time around the Monday before last, when we had the set mounted at last, Nina began to think about quick changes. Because we have twenty people onstage for this play, you see, and a grand total of thirty-eight costume changes. Seven out of thirty-eight are quick changes to be done in the wings, in a handful of seconds. Six of those happen offstage left…
“We need a person there,” Nina mused. “Someone to help undress and dress people… You’re doing it, Clara – aren’t you?”
And that’s how I was made a dresser on the field. Of course I’d never done anything of the sort, so I spent the rest of the week trying, organising myself in the very narrow backstage space, devising routines and practicing with the relevant actors – most of all our wonderful and rather excitable Scrooge. I’d go home at night and place a family member in a corner, and experiment with a raincoat and a scarf. Then I’d browse the Internet for dresser’s tips, prepare checklists… In the end I even got myself an unofficial assistant – young Dado (Charlie Cratchit in the play – as well as the Boy in the Street).
And… what can I say? It works. I wait backstage, get the costumes and props ready at the right moment, ease Scrooge in and out of coats and dressing gowns, keep tabs on cloaks, roasted geese, led candles and the like, close doors that remain open… And I love it. One must be careful, quick, and wary of mishap, know the play to the last comma, and have an eye for what can go wrong. With Dado – who, at fifteen, thinks very much on his feet – we’ve already averted one minor crisis, and dubbed ourselves the Quick Change Team. It’s exciting and fun – and a completely different perspective on how there is no such thing as two identical performances…
So now I can add it to the list: playwright, assistant director, occasional director, stage manager, lighting designer, occasional light-board operator, prompter, and backstage quick-change dresser!