Big Stage

Feet on the Big Stage

Exposed feet means that people will see everything. Are they clean, are the nails polished, are they rough? Would Dr. Scholl’s cringe? Imagine a beautiful actress with tresses reaching to her waist walking the red carpet in style, one delicate food in front of the other. Envision a mid-calf princess gown cut in layers of silk tulle. Your eye takes in her svelte body and graceful elegance, but then it wanders to the feet. Yikes! Open toe sandal heels reveal toenail fungus of the very worst kind. Yellowish black goo is visibly present and no amount of red polish will disguise it. Run for cover lady!

Well, such a spectacle is pretty funny and probably seldom true. The same goes for bare feet on the stage. This might be more likely to happen. Actors don’t always groom for each part they play; and if it requires no shoes, they go for it, no matter the condition of their toenails. They are busy learning their lines and getting into character with no particular concern for their feet.

Toenail fungus is an issue for many, and I bring it up because I have it. I therefore see how it affects various parts of public life. There are a lot of new things on the market: just take a look at the numerous TV ads for Jublia and the like. This problem must be rampant to warrant such air time.

You used to have to have your liver examined before you could take pills, but they worked at least for a while. Often the dreaded scourge came back with a vengeance. Now you have a topical solution that will not harm your insides as it is not systemic. You get a little redness, burning at the application site, swelling, and tenderness—but alas, your fungus will go away.

When you are on stage, the audience takes you in as a whole and using the principle of “willing suspension of disbelief” to see you as your character. If you don’t “break character” you will do well in portraying a person of a specific place or time. But sometimes during a lot of dialogue and not much action, their eyes will start to wander. If they hit your feet and take in the toes, woe be it to anyone with fungus.

This is a kind of symbol to me of being convincing on stage and not having your real self break through. It is about sustaining a role from beginning to end of a play without cracks in the mirror so to speak. In filming TV and movies, you can do a retake. Not so on the stage! In movies and TV you can do short spurts, one at a time. A play is one continuous experience.

The theatre is thus an art form like no other, taking place live in real time. This is part and parcel of its magical appeal. You have the actors physically present and you can see every facial expression or gesture of the hands and arms. There is nothing but that actor coming alive as a character before your very eyes.

Costuming is thus a significant element in staging. It is, of course, in films and TV, but it is taken for granted much of the time. It is realistic or not depending upon the concept. Usually you have a real scene that fights for attention with the actors unless the camera goes to close up. On the stage, there is an entire room or outdoor setting as the case may be as well; but there are the actors as focal points in a different way, especially when they move or speak their lines. You see the entire person all of the time. Because they are there before you, you are often rapt if they are doing a good job. Theater is the supreme art for many.

Great skill is required to perform on stage and not all TV and film actors are successful. If it is a musical extravaganza, all the more so. There are techniques and tools of the trade that differ in kind from other forms of performance. Some people like Hugh Jackman or Neil Patrick Harris do find in any context. Others have not fared so well.

So toe fungus aside, feel free to engage mentally with actors on stage and to enter their portrayed realm. Take in their facial expressions, their body movements, and their costumed appearance. It all forms a totality with lighting, props, and sound.