During the final week of The Lieutenant of Inishmore at Berkeley Rep, I spent an evening with the wardrobe crew. Over the course of the show, 30 or so gallons of blood covered the stage and the actors. Here's a glimpse of what life backstage looked like:
5pm: Barbara, Paige, and Lauren arrive for work. They start by pre-setting robes and slippers -- these clean clothes won't be touched for another five hours but it is best to set them while everyone still has clean, dry hands.
For many articles of clothing, an overnight soak in a bucket of Oxyclean is needed to get the blood out. Mixed with the need for lots and lots and lots of clean towels, the first task of the day is to sort and finish laundry left from the night before. One problem is that things on stage are sometimes supposed to look messy. And, when they're washed daily, they start to look clean. So, the crew must distress the clothes to get them to look old again.
5:30: Paige gets the wigs and makeup ready for use. Adam Farabee has two wigs for the show (the wig for the second act has a ponytail that will be "cut" off during each performance), Molly Camp has one wig, and Blake Ellis has a very small toupee (at the end of the show, it's used to make it look like his head was shot open). Each performance, the wigs get covered in blood, shoe polish, and sweat. After each performance they are washed, styled, and mounted to dry. Paige uses pins to hold the wig on a foam bust, sized to the actor's head.
6:00: Here's Lauren, the costume intern, walking around with the pre-show checklist. Most shows at Berkeley Rep perform eight times a week for four to eight (or more!) weeks. And yet, even when a show is in the extension, the checklist is vital. Lauren's checklist includes making sure that downstairs stations -- containing baskets, buckets, bins, and towels -- are set out for the actors.
Shoes and some fabrics just don't like letting go of the red from the blood. This bin, filled with oxyclean and water, has been working away at the blood-soaked clothing for almost 20 hours...and yet, the shoes within still need to be washed again before they'll be ready for another walk on the stage.
6:30: Barbara checks the costumes in the men's dressing room to make sure everything is ready for the actors to arrive... around 7:30.
The stage crew is charging the blood packswith a bicycle pump and setting up for the actors to arrive and run through all their fight sequences in a process known as "fight call." Paige has taken over a washroom so that she can apply blood makeup to Daniel Krueger. (The work station looks like an unpleasant place to spend time, but it's actually quite fun.
7:15: The actors are about to arrive. The clean stations get one more check as some things have just come out of the dryer. This is also the last chance to check things over before the lights get switched to "show mode."
7:30: Barbara checks Daniel Kreuger's blood application station to make sure it includes his harness (he hangs upside down by his ankles over the stage) which was built into his costume. Upstairs, Paige is getting the actors into their wigs and the actors are getting into character. When asked what she thought of the wardrobe crew, Molly Camp simply said: "They're awesome."
8pm--curtain! I clear out of the backstage area to make way for the cast and crew. The show starts and the crew gets to sit down and wait. Some shows require lots of quick-changes and running around. Luckily for this team, this play is busy pre- and post-show, with little going on during the show itself.
Stay tuned next week for part two!
I unfortunately did not get to see the show, but heard it was wonderful. Thanks for sharing a glimpse of backstage!
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What a fascinating look behind the scenes. For some reason, it never occurred to me that so much might be necessary between shows. Thanks for showing all the hard work that goes on that we never see.
I absolutely love seeing the behind-the-scenes look that you have provided. I hope you were able to get the blood out of the clothes and shoes. I've used hydrogen peroxide to remove blood for years but never had to soak anything for that long. Plus, I find it leaves the material feeling rough for some reason, when I soak it for too long. I hope that didn't happen here...
Thanks of sharing, to also share my good stuff!
I've been involved in theatre before and seen how much goes into warddrobe preparation each night getting the costumes ready for the next performance. We did a performance of Jekyll & Hyde where it took several varieties of detergent to get the blood out of Lucy's nightgown - but we finally found that OxiClean worked too. I love that you set out robes and slippers for the actors - I think every theatre should do that for costume changes. To make it fun, you could put out some Kids Slippers to keep your actors in high spirits!
I like behind the scenes pictures/videos just to see how it's all done. Most especially for theatrical performances.
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