State of Affairs, Part III

I've gotten back into performing again. I'm doing my second show with a troupe called the Post-Meridian Radio Players, who do this sort of hybrid of live theater and radio plays. The actors are in some kind of costume, and we have a live audience, but the only blocking is 'move from this mic to that mc', and the shows are written to be understandable to someone who hasn't got the visual cues. Much of the fun comes from watching the Foley people do their work live, at a table downstage left.

This year's Halloween show is built around the works of Edgar Allen Poe, which is convenient, as the city is unveiling a statue of Poe down by the Public Garden this weekend. I'm in a very loose adaptation of "Masque of the Red Death", not that there could really be any other kind -- if you've seen the original story, it reads like Poe was scrawling down a capsule summary for his editors, making sure to include the one really cool line of dialogue that popped into his head while he was coming up with it. The gist is 'rich asshole gets tired of seeing people die of plague, throws enormous party to distract himself, instructs bouncers to keep sick people out of his house, plague gets in anyway, everybody dies'. Our scriptwriter expanded about a page of text into almost half an hour of creepy things, and it came out quite well.

I landed the role of Only Sane Man, sort of. I spend the entire piece being panicky and paranoid and insisting we're all going to die, and because we're doing Poe here, I'm right. I suspect this happened because when I'm asked for a melodramatic stage scream, I don't use a realistic-sounding one, with all the jaggedy rough edges to it; I produce a very high-pitched, very piercing, very loud sound that probably makes dogs in New Hampshire sit up and look around every time I get to that bit in rehearsal. I have been instructed never to do it directly in front of the microphone. Our scriptwriter snarked that I'd become the PMRP's 'scream queen', and I suppose it's true -- my whole function in my first show with them was to be murdered, complete with clean, clear, ear-busting shriek of terror. Not really something I ever counted as a talent, but hey, if it's useful.

The PMRP is an interesting group. Not that I'm particularly shy about telling people what I'm selling for Circlet, but when I got into that conversation in the green room, one of them pulled out her phone and bought a copy of The Viscountess Investigates while we were still talking, which was a first. They're interested in trying to do audio adaptations of some of the Circlet stories -- apparently seriously, despite the round of jokes this sparked about most of the Foley effects being variations on the sound of pants hitting the floor.

I trucked in a bag of samples for one of our later performances, which was particularly amusing, because our performance space was a church. Before and during shows, the stage manager will come into the green room and call things like 'ten minutes 'til house opens' or 'five minutes 'til first act goes on'; the correct response is for everyone in earshot to sort of sing-song chorus, 'thaaaank you, (whatever number of minutes)', to make sure it's sunk in. If the stage manager calls 'ten minutes 'til house opens', you get back, 'thaaaank you, ten'. If she calls, 'five minutes to costumes for the first segment,' you get back, 'thaaaank you, five'. And apparently when the stage manager points at your tote bag on the snack table, adding, 'and [Arabella] brought porn,' you get back an entire room full of actors deadpanning, 'thaaaank you, porn,' in perfect unison.

I seem to have found them an artist for this show instead. "Masque" is set, reasonably enough, at a masquerade ball. We were talking about raiding the craft store and getting together to make our own masks, but I went on a casting call for something totally unrelated and ran into a lady who specializes in crafting elaborate half-face masks out of dyed leather. The first thing out of my mouth, of course, was, "Would you be willing to lend some stock to our production?" You ask this question a lot, when you do runway shows. No one in their right mind would buy jewelry and accessories for a dozen women to wear for ten whole minutes -- model gets to wear her own underwear, sometimes her own shoes, the designer's showcase dress, and you borrow everything else. I suppose if you're not used to the dynamic, it does seem ballsy and weird to basically ask someone who's selling designs or artwork, 'Hey, can we play with some of your expensive labors of love that we're totally not going to buy?' but nine times out of ten, the artist is thrilled that you want to use their stuff in a thing that other people are going to see.

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