Sunday, October 12, 2008

what not to do at the stage door

          I don't know, there's something about a Sunday matinee in Greenville that brought out the crazies to gather around the stage door today.

           Picture this, though really, nothing beats having been there and witnessing it for yourself...

           A few of us walk out of the stage door, eager to try some of the Fall Festival delights that we hadn't yet been able to savor.  It's 4:30. We just finished one show, with another looming in the not-so-far-future.  It's Sunday. We're hungry.  We see many people waiting with programs and pen in hand, so we are gracious as we walk towards them ready to autograph and smile, maybe even pose for a picture.  But we don't expect the Smiths. How could we?  

     Thank God there is safety in numbers.  

      Mrs. Smith quickly converges upon me, Ian, Brandon, and Derek, asking for an autograph for her daughter that is silent beside her.  Her husband waits with a smile hidden behind a rather large mustache.

       The family looks a little like there might be some cousins who married not too far back in their family tree.  I'm not trying to be rude here, folks, just trying to paint a picture.  

       To begin with, Mrs. Smith has a beard.  It is obvious from some of the stubble spots that she did, at one point, attempt to shave it--perhaps for a wedding or a church event, maybe--but she has let it go now for a good three week's growth.  I look at this woman and can't help but wonder at what point you just decided to simply let the beard grow.  Are you combing your hair back from your face, choosing your outfit for the day, and pointedly ignoring the hair on your chin?  Are you relying on the poor eyesight of others?  Do you still push back the facial hair to apply some lipstick, or do you let that go, too?

    It occurred to me that allowing a beard to grow is a point of giving up that I hope to never reach.  


    The first thing that Mrs. Smith sort of shouts to us is, My daughter's gonna be on Broadway!  
    Great, we say, Go for it! we encourage.

     Said daughter is awkwardly shifting back and forth, standing beside her mother.  She is large, with about four inches of roots showing before a bleach blond pony-tail takes over.  She is wearing open-toed low heels with thick stockings underneath, a longish skirt and a blouse.  She can't stand still, but keeps shifting back and forth, as if she can't decide how, exactly, to distribute her weight.  Her hands nervously fix the front of her blouse, over and over again, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles.  

     Mrs. Smith then asks us what schools we went to, but it is apparent that she really isn't listening but is rather waiting till she can tell us something else about her daughter.  Her chance comes quickly, since we quickly rattle off our respective undergrads without commentary.   

   Well my daughter is probably gonna go to Julliard! Though the Princeton Review says it might not be the best match for her...At this, she looks at her daughter, who finally pipes up:

   It's more for people going to the Met, rather than Broadway. She says this still shifting, not quite looking at us, but not quite looking away.  Her hands are still moving, fluttering over the front of her shirt.  

   Ian jumps in and encourages her to look at bunches of schools, try the Midwest, don't overlook the smaller conservatories; they might be just what she needs.  

   Mrs. Smith then starts talking to us about her husband--a large mustachioed man with pants pulled up quite high, thick, square, tinted-glasses that might have been sought-after in the 70's, and a shifty manner that is similar to his daughter.  

    Well, he went to school for music, but more the instrumental-type.  And it's funny, he has been her, she motions to her daughter, only voice teacher so far.  She's won beauty pageants, singing being her talent of course, though she was marked off one-point for her skirt being too short.

   What can you say?  Congrats on the beauty pageant victory--too bad on the skirt being found too short; judges can be so strict...

  Luckily we don't really have to say anything, Mrs. Smith is quite happy to proceed as she then starts to prod her daughter, Sing something for them. Come on, sing for them...

   The daughter continues to shift and pull at her shirt, but is obviously entertaining the idea...

    Sing Popular (this is from Wicked)! Mrs. Smith demands.

    No, no, no, says daughter, I think I should, ah, sing something that is more fitting to my, um,  personality...At this point her hands are moving rapidly, up and down the front of her blouse and she is looking somewhere between eye-level and the ground.
    We stare, realizing that we are now in for a song.  The Festival feels very far away at this point.

     The daughter continues shifting and speaks quietly, under her breath, Remember the lyrics, remember the lyrics! Don't make a fool of yourself now!

     We pretend not to hear her so as not to intrude on this intimate pep talk she is giving herself.  And then she starts, Something has changed within me, something is not the same...

    Yes, we are getting a live performance of Defying Gravity (another song from Wicked, that apparently is more fitting to her personality than Popular is; and sadly, I can kind of see why) right outside the stage door.  Her parents are smiling, basking in the perceived perfection of this impromptu and certainly un-anticipated (on our part, anyway) performance.  

    Honestly, her voice is not bad.  A little breathy, maybe, but still, not bad.  However, the awkwardness of the moment pervades.  I feel like I am at a really sad audition for American Idol; I kind of wish Simon was nearby, just so he can do the dirty work of putting the uncomfortable exchange to rest.  And honestly, I never thought I would wish that. 

    She sings all the way through the lyric, Close my eyes and leap...And we start to clap, signaling that it is over.  But she continues, singing right into the chorus, It's time to try defying gravity...We stop clapping and settle in for some more listening, unable to stop from thinking how we should have been eating pumpkin cheesecake right about now, maybe even sipping on some good southern sweet tea.

   At this point, Mrs. Smith sees some more cast members exiting the stage door and aggressively grabs them for autographs for her daughter's program. She is busy reaching across, speaking quite loudly, even, and all the while her daughter is still just singing.  Though now she starts walking backwards a little, dodging behind her busy-beaver mother, but still singing.

   It is unbelievable.  

    She finally stops. We clap. Again.  We tell her to keep the dream alive. We thank her for singing and walk away--before Mrs. Smith can suggest her daughter perform a dance or something--mentally shaking our heads and making sure to avoid each other's gaze so as not to crack up laughing.    

    We wonder aloud to each other what, exactly, they were trying to accomplish. We are not casting directors; heck, we aren't even beauty pageant judges!  When we tried to give them suggestions on schools, they weren't listening. I suppose they truly just wanted to show off to us.  They were absolutely socially awkward, unable to sense what is appropriate and what is not, and uncomfortable to be around.  

   Perhaps we perpetuated their social misbehavior by being gracious, clapping, and even thanking the daughter for her song.  But in that situation, what else were we going to do?  

   We left there seriously grateful for normal parents who never made us sing for actors outside stage doors.  We were grateful anew for our mothers who were not bearded.  We were thankful that we had voice teachers beyond mustachioed fathers who did something instrumental.  

   And we finally got to the Fall Festival, confident that we had seen it all at the stage door.  
    That is, until the next crazy corners us.  


peaj said...

So... I take it you are not going to be the advocate for her singing career? Maybe that is what they were hoping for - that you would be so carried away by her awesome talent that you would give them the personal cell number of some great director or something. "You have to talk to so-and-so!" you'd say.

Maybe they have watched too many talented-unknown-becomes-next-superstar movies.

Mom said...

Yes, Bearded Mother probably wanted the name of your agent! How awkward! And really inappropriate. I don't think I ever was a stage mother. You got where you are by God, talent, and lots of prayer. No meddling Mom.

Pop said...

Totally hirarious. I love your writing. Your descriptions make what's happening so real. You guys were so polite and kind. How many genuine Broadway performes would have hung around and endured to the end? And hey, perhaps you just met the next smash-hit Met soprano?

jason said...

This reminds me of the "actor/writer/director/producer" who kept asking Mom if he could talk to me while we were casting for Electric Chainsaw Massacre at the Embassy Suites.

He worked as a janitor there, and Mom accidentally accused him of having "special needs."

I still have his card. Hopefully I'm not his ticket out of town.

Anonymous said...

Such a funny story. I actually saw the Sunday matinee and thought it was great. To a teenager in Greenville, SC, y'all are a big deal, and your patience may end up being some sort of defining moment in her life! Take this from a grown women who still has memories getting autographs from the cast of the RENT national tour 10 years ago- I still have that playbill! Thanks for a great show! And, I hope that your experience down south wasn't soley defined by your visit to the confederate war museum and encounters with bearded ladies and men in camouflage--those just make the south--er...colorful...

kathiek said...

My goodness...I am almost at a loss for words (how often does that happen?)! Was Smith really their name, or are you just offering them anonymity out of the goodness of your heart? Don't get me wrong, I do not want to know their last name, I am just curious.

Jamie said...

I have been trying to come up with something to do at the stage door to make myself your next crazy!! I know I will probably chicken out because I hate to be embarrassed, but I have come up with some funny stuff! But even though you were counting down the minutes until the song ended, you probably made her entire year by just listening and clapping. While you are telling a colorful version of the crazy Smith family, she is probably telling all of her friends and maybe closely related brothers/cousins how part of the cast of ACL listened to her sing and clapped for her. It was so nice of you to put up with it all and watch out for me at your stage door :)

By the way, if you ever stop dancing/singing/playing piano you need to be a writer!

Gabrielle said...

So many great comments...

First of all let me say to Anon that I LOVE the South! Seriously, some of the kindest, most welcoming people have truly made Southern hospitality a household name! I just choose to write about the interesting/funny things I encounter...But we had a great time in the south--really! And thanks for coming to the show:-)

Kathie--I am pretty sure they did introduce themselves with first names--at least the mother was sure to tell us her daughter's name--but also said their last name was Smith. I figured it was such a common name, that it would be safe to use and keep their anonymity.And I was sure to not use the daughter's first name cause that would just be mean.

Mom and Pop--I am so glad you guys were NEVER stage parents; I think they produce some pretty weird, emotionally stunted kids!

Jamie--can't wait to see what you have prepared for the stage door!!!!!:-)

And yes, I supposed there is something to be said for the bravery of the girl and the tenaciousness of the parents. Goodness knows that others have used the same tactics and gotten far...Many wouldn't have had the courage. However, in this business, though casting directors are sometimes looking for actors to play strange and awkward characters, they generally do not want HIRE strange and awkward characters.

jessica said...

oops-I am borrowing my friend's computer, but that last comment was me!

christine said...

This was one of the funniest and one of the saddest posts! Wow! There is just too much to say to all of that so I will just say thank you so much for sharing that gem of a story : )

Nina said...

This situation is like the perfect storm of awkward...and if this was a movie scene, I'd probably fast forward through it. Yikes! They're lucky they happened upon such a gracious audience.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this mother was over the top, but do you have ANYTHING positive to say about any of the cities you've been to?

Jessica Latshaw said...

yep I do--Greenville was lovely, the fall festival rocked! the band we saw there was awesome!

Denver was beautiful and so clean, L.A. was fantastic-my house there was out of this world, got to spend tons of time with my fam, Seattle was lovely on the water, Portland was so artsy and cool...Boston was you read this blog?!?!

I have loved my travels, but I also see a lot of humor in them, which is what I like to share. This anecdote having to do with this socially awkward family had NOTHING to do with Greenville; it just happened to take place there.

Cleveland was not great because it felt (and was) dangerous. But there are lovely people there and I still had good experiences meeting them (see what I wrote about Laureen).

Before you judge, please actually read the entirety of what I write (which I know may take a while!).