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Student Dress at SDO

PART ONE  

I say "Hey!" and "Hello!" and "How ya' doin'"'s to the various backstage people I come across. The costume personnel are some of my favorite people, as well as the make-up crew and the stagehands: they have stories up the wazoo about everyone and everything. As I pass through the small hallway, I look at the posters that advertise the past shows, with pictures and signatures adorning the framed collage. "Kiss Me, Kate," "Dosholvy Ballet," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "San Diego Opera 1997," "Oliver!" and "Sweet Charity" line the walls everywhere. I recognize most of the names, and file others away to look up at a later time. As I round the corner and climb the 15 stairs to my dressing room, the humming of the "OFF LIMITS!!" vending machines greet me, filled with snacks, treats and goodies that are STRICTLY off limits when in costume. I smile as I read the intimidating sign taped to the glass in hot pink spike tape, "DO NOT eat OR drink in costume!!" I think it's funny. Most people abide by it. Most.


I turn into my dressing room (second door on the left) which I share with 5 other choristers, three of which I know very well, the other two, well... not my type of people, but nice girls nonetheless. The costumes sit patiently for us to don them in nooks on the left, with spaces for fabulous hats on top. My costume, "blk/white check w/blk velvet cuff/lapel" jacket and skirt, hangs just behind my station and to the right. I do like my costume (I have yet to DISlike a costume), and I appreciate the silver brocade bodice that has white and crystal buttons from top to bottom. I check the front of the bodice as I strew my things haphazardly. They DID get the lipstick I accidentally smeared on the front off. (SORRY!!) I was so devastated about it. :( Thankfully, none of the Perfect-For-My-Complexion!! "Natural Brown LS-12" remains to be seen on it's beautiful satiny silver self. I was SO sad to get it on!! But, like I said, I love the costume crew! :)

The chorus starts to filter in slowly, about ten minutes after I arrive, and chats happily amongst themselves as they start to prep for tonight's Student Dress. I've already wet and brush my hair to put it in tight pin-curls. I really like my wig, and I LOVE my hat! "Best friggin' hat in the show!! HA!" I say to myself giddily. I really do like my hat, all black with netting, black and grey roses and mountains of feathers adorn it like some ostrich hiding in a dead rosebush. Too fabulous for words. :) I put the wig cap on, sliding it back above my hairline and pin it to the six or seven pin curls I just put in. My make-up kit, with said "Natural Brown LS-12," is a pencil box, like the ones from elementary school, and has my name on it with a tiny "B" beside my name, to stand for the show that I am contracted for this season, "La Boheme." In it, I find more things than I know what to do with. Aside from a very scratchy sponge that I'm supposed to apply the base with, there are three blush brushes (no, I don't know why), an angle brush, an eyeliner brush, and a "short round" brush whose bristles are frankly too long to do anything constructive with. There's three shades of brown pressed eye shadow, a cream color for highlighting, a rosy pink blush, black dry cake that I use for eyeliner, and two types of lipstick, one in a little unlabled container and beautiful "Natural Brown LS-12." I start to apply the make up while listening to my "Crowd Pleasers" iTunes Mix that includes Fitzgerald, Holiday, Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney (MY GIRL!!), The McGuire Sisters, The Crew Cuts, Dean Martin, Tommy Dorsey, and quite a few others. I like putting it on because everybody seems to like the good ol' types of music. And putting on opera music while being in an opera is a little overkill. The dressing room lights that everyone has on start to warm up the room quickly, and the chatter with the music fill the air with a sense of comraderie and glamor. There's nothing like getting ready for a show and listening to Ella.

Unlike EVERY SINGLE other night, I remember tonight to put on my black stockings and black, lace-up boots first, BEFORE getting in my corset, which I have my dresser, Debbie lace me in very tightly. I am proud. :) I put my petticoat on next, then go downstairs to the basement to get my wig and Fabulous Hat put on. By this point, the entire cast and crew are here, and the hallways and dressing rooms are filled with the loud laughter and chatter of people who are excited to put on the full show. In the basement underneath the stage, and two floors beneath my dressing table, the Childrens' Chorus and Supernumeraries are in with the hair and make-up crew. I say hello to Alex, my twelve-year-old child for this show. She is still complaining that she doesn't like her hat. I say that I like it. She looks like she should belong in the movie, "Newsies." The other children ask what I'm wearing, and I explain that it's a corset. One says, "Oh, I wish I could wear a corset." Oh, you'll learn I think to myself. I tell her that most people don't like wearing them, but I don't mind. I actually like wearing corsets. And it's true. Don't ask me why... Six Hair/M-U stations are available, and Peter, the Lead Hair/M-U guy greets me pleasantly. We ask each other about our day, and joke about the divas in the chorus. I give him my wig head that I've grabbed on my way in, and hold Fabulous Hat in my lap as he gently places the brunette Up-Do on my wig cap. I can tell I've done a good job tonight with putting my my pin curls in close to my head, the wig fits a little loosely, and Peter pins it in tight. He compliments me on The Hat, and I vehemently proclaim that it is The Best Hat in the show... next to Musetta's of course. :) He sends me scurrying back to my dressing room, since they are busy downstairs, with a smile and well wished broken legs for tonight's performance.

After the two story climb back up to my dressing room (all 40 stairs, no it's not fun), I collapse into my seat in my indecent underwear (skirt, petticoat and stockings), and wait for the other choristers to finish their hustle and bustle of getting their costumes on, and to catch my breath. There are coquettes, and Mme. Renards, and Ladies of the Town, here, all getting ready to get their final Christmas Eve shopping done. I don't like throwing myself or my clothes everywhere while people are trying to get themselves dressed. After a couple of minutes, the other choristers traipse downstairs for their wigs and hats. I check my make-up, just to make sure that everything is in place, and start to put the rest of my costume on. The bum roll comes first, a quilted lacy thing to make my butt look larger and to kick out my train a bit, then the floor-length with a train skirt made from the same material as my jacket, the beautiful, silver non-lipsticked bodice, and polyester lavender/grey-ish gloves that go on BEFORE the jacket with black velvet around the four-collar and sleeve cuffs that have two large buttons that don't button, but snap together. I can put all of my costume on myself, aside from the corset, which is better than a lot of the chorus women.

As the five ladies file back into the room, I have already established myself on my computer and the pilfered internet in order to cool myself off. It is very hot underneath all the wool and cotton and the dressing room table lights, but I've turned my station lights off, and have been sitting, getting used to the weight and temperature of my costume. I'll be fine like this for the next 30 minutes until we're called onstage.

More once the opera starts...

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