Dressers think a lot of stupid things are funny. Like the way a single hanger can travel from location to location throughout the show. Or naming ensemble characters with ridiculous names. (In Ghost Light, Peter Macon’s character in the film sequence is named Baboo, and Danforth Comin’s “Man 1” has become Keith-Bobby. Hell, we even think it's funny when George Moscone’s shirt magnetizes itself to the refrigerator backstage.)
One of our favorite things to bide our time thinking about is the realism of quick changes. Last season, fellow dresser Alex Zeek and I spent much of our time obsessing over the fact that, in Three Sisters, Natasha had a quick change that occurred in real time of the play, so there should not have been two dressers changing her — in the reality of their Chekovian world, poor Natasha would have had only the help of one little woman, Anfisa, and I’m guessing it wouldn’t all go down in a minute and a half.
But that, my friends, is the reality and magic, of living breathing theatre, which takes me to the root of our story, the rise in our action, and the quick change that rocks the world. Yes, folks, you guessed right: I am talking about the transformation of Mr. Bill Geisslinger from seedy prison guard to the honorable Mayor Moscone.
Quick changes such as this are choreographed with the grace and beauty of Olympic-level synchronized swimming. Alex and I arrive in the stage right quick-change room about six minutes before the Prison Guard exits his last scene. We prep the room: chair in the center, pants pooled on the floor, shoes out of the way, pre-tied necktie on my arm, and magnetic shirt in my hands — all awaiting the arrival of Bill and his arms.
After the gunshots and dreamworld transition music, the auditions begin with Reggie van Huuson. Our cue “It’s Van HOOOOOOOsen” is the moment Bill arrives, sliding his arms into his shirt like a snake darting at the neck of a small child. Standing behind him, I slide the tie over his head while the shirt magnetizes itself closed. Alex unzips his gnarly boots while Bill drops his pants and sits in the chair. Alex then puts his legs through the pant legs, and slides on his shoes, while Bill and I apply the Moscone wig to his head. I glue down the sideburns and hold them as Bill stands up, buckles his pants and belt, and turns toward the mirror. I continue to apply pressure while Alex helps him into his glasses and wedding band. I clip the toupee clips that hold the back of the wig to his own hair as Bill perfects the infamous Moscone curl at his forhead. Alex runs to page the curtain for his entrance, while I help Bill into his suit coat. And by the time the Puppeteers and Ghost puppet are done with their audition piece, Bill has left my sight, like a ghost, vanishing into the depths of backstage blackness.
I am left to clean up my brush and adhesive, and scram so that Barbara Blair can change Louise into her last show look.
I grab my wig block and walk the stairs back to the wig room, knowing that I will do nearly the same thing again tomorrow, in a job that is monotonous, but never mundane.
Sarita Ocon, the Moscone wig, and I wait in the green room for our next cues in act two.
In regard to Ghost Light, I think the play would greatly benefit from extensive editing. It is much too long and the many extraneous items (including long scenes) distract from the main message.