Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to America’s favorite TV trivia game show. If you’ve missed the previous posts, check out Why Smash Matters and our first three game shows, for the pilot episode episode two and episode three. If you are new to My Own Space the blog, my name is Sharon and I’ve been in pretty many Broadway shows. I am also friends with Theresa Rebeck, the creator, writer, and all around guru of the show–so I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place and should maybe try this instead.
Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number fourteen and might be a year’s supply of drinks to throw in your ex-husband’s face.
Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….
I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.
First of all, let’s welcome Ann Harada to the cast of SMASH. Ann is the original Christmas Eve in Avenue Q and she plays Linda the stage manager for the workshop in this week’s episode. It is always fun to look up and see a friend on the TV. Yay Ann!
Now. Let’s talk about behavior in rehearsal.
1) All musical theater actors are either catty and mean or overly friendly. Fact or fiction?
Fiction. As a friend pointed out, where are all the tired and over it people? There isn’t a jaded character actress in site, and they are gold standard in any rehearsal room. True, true.
But let’s dig deeper and get into specific behavior, shall we?
Catty and mean behavior. Does it happen? ABSOLUTELY. Actors can be some of the nastiest people on earth, and to add to the fun, we are notoriously cliquey. Generally speaking, the younger the actor, the more this behavior surfaces. Since Marilyn the Musical is made up of a cast of entirely young actors, it is totally believable that this kind of gross ostracizing of Karen might happen. And hey–I am not saying that there aren’t horribly jaded cliquey older actors out there–I am just saying it is more prevalent in younger actors. Older actors usually fall into the tired and jaded category where they save their energy to complain. I have fallen into all of these categories at various points in my life and have been in Broadway shows full of these characters, so I feel like enough an authority to say it even though other actors might think I am being harsh. Sorry, it’s true, we can be catty and jaded and cliquey. Here’s the thing I missed in SMASH, generally speaking, all of that jaded and catty behavior would be well hidden from anyone important in the room. When the director or the producer is nearby, everyone is all smiles and best friends. This leads me to…
The flip side. Actors can be overly friendly. It is 100% normal for actors to meet on the first day of rehearsal and within (I’m not kidding you) 5 minutes, you will hear two total strangers say “I LOVE you!!!” and then hug. Totally normal. Usually they’ve bonded over something monumental like having the same cell phone case. It doesn’t take much. Okay, now I think this is a really fun thing about being an actor, but I can see that other people would find it unsettling and odd. I find it unsettling and odd when I am somewhere other than in a rehearsal room and people do weird things like take time to know each other. It takes forever to make friends in the civilian world. We don’t have that kind of time, our show might only last for a couple of weeks and then we are off to a new group of people.
2) Musical theater performers travel in groups, sit on each others laps and talk loudly in sentences that end in exclamation points!! Fact or fiction?
Fact. I mean, not exclusively, but as a general rule, yes, I have to admit it is pretty true. It is hard to admit this, but my one of my non-actor friends (yes, I have a few non-actor friends) tells me this is absolutely true. Pretty embarrassing.
3) It is perfectly acceptable for an unknown star of a show to call the shots regarding who is in a dance number and who isn’t. Fact or Fiction?
Let’s talk about this for a second. Okay, I am going to say to you that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable and even the biggest star would NEVER pull the kind of crap Ivy was pulling in rehearsal and get away with it. Complain that someone is singing so loudly that you can’t perform unless they are removed entirely? No way. My husband is working on Evita right now and he said that even the biggest star in the show, Ricky Martin, would never get away with that kind of diva behavior. Okay, but then a friend said that Mario Lopez had guys moved to the back row of A Chorus Line if they had a chest that was bigger than his…..so maybe it does happen. Honestly? I am going to come down in the middle of this. My feeling is that IF a star wants to get their way, they aren’t going to throw a disruptive diva fit. It would be more insidious and passive aggressive, especially if said actor is sleeping with the director. It would be a post coital conversation with lots of sentences that start with “You know what kind of bugs me?” Or “Have you noticed how…”.
That said, my guess is this is all part of the build up to can Ivy. So let’s just keep watching and see.
4) Actors give each others makeovers and sing together at clubs. Fact or fiction?
Fact. First let’s talk makeovers. At one point in my life, I dropped a lot of weight and totally changed my look and my type. I was suddenly going in for all the “pretty girl” parts and had formerly been more of a character actress. I literally didn’t know how to dress or do my make up or what to sing, and I will report that several of my best friends swooped in and taught me. They really did go through my closet. They did my makeup. They taught me what to sing. These were all women I would now be “competing” against and rather than trying to trip me up, they helped. So I give the “makeover” part a rating of “fact”. I really wanted to call foul on the singing together at clubs, but again, a friend weighed in and said this absolutely happens. Exactly what she said was, “I mean, it isn’t any thing YOU or I would do, Sharon, but there is absolutely a crowd of Broadway actors out there who really do go to cabaret clubs and sing at open mic nights.” Full disclosure, I have done it a couple of times as an invited guest, but I wouldn’t go just for fun. But of course, I have two kids and need my sleep. So there you go.
One final editor’s note: Actors can be really nice people and many of us land somewhere between jaded and overly! enthusiastic! But no matter what, we are always entertaining, we tell a good story, and you absolutely want us on your team in a game of celebrity.
Thanks for playing! See you next week! If you like this and think your friends might like it, feel free to share it. No pressure, just fun.
(To read the next post in this series, go here)