Keeping the Show on the Road

The life of a theatrical touring company is a bit like the circus. There are insiders, stars, backup people, and a variety of equipment and gear to tote. It is a world unto itself that keeps the spirit of drama alive. You want to bring entertainment of the very best kind to the masses. It is a treat and a treasure to those normally not exposed.

So just what happens behind the proverbial scenes. You will see real people that transform themselves into characters at the drop of a hat. The good ones can be anyone at any time from King Lear to Curly in Oklahoma. They are real pros, versatile and trained. Some can sing, perform athletic feats, and dance. They can do comedy or tragedy at will, miraculous embodiments of the most unpredictable kind. These stiff requirements of the theatrical arts take their toll. You have to keep mentally and physically in shape.

You might find hidden amid the portable trunks of costumes and boxes of pancake makeup a scale or two out of sight. Actors need to know how they are doing weight wise. They have to fit into their costumes and can’t grow even one size. They also want to stay fit and healthy to keep the show alive.
They know a lot of others depend on them.

Plenty of water and good nutrition are key, even though it may be hard when you are not at home where you can control your normal food consumption. Drinking lots of fluids will help to prevent fainting on stage. Those foot lights are really bright! I remember one young man who seemed like the epitome of health, but his role was demanding and he had to execute a lot of intense movements. One time, he did not drink his normal bottle of water before going on stage. As you can guess, he fainted at one point.

The moral of the story is simple and obvious. Take care of yourself on a routine basis and do not neglect bodily needs. Stage work burns up a lot of calories and sweating likewise for water. Some actors have those big bottles of the stuff lined up in their dressing rooms so they can grab them throughout the show. Missing just one can mean the difference between energy and defeat.

Getting back to the original topic of weight, a few words of wisdom here might suffice. Heavy people get tired fast and it pays to be on the lighter side. If you need a good quality set of bathroom scales to remind you, so be it. In the theater, practicing the refinements of the trade, you want to be at your best. I know there are plenty of character actors (including women of course) who stake their reputations on their appearance, and that often means pudgy to obese. But most of the time excess weight is a detriment.

When you pack on the pounds, you alter the exterior nature of your given role. The director who hired you no doubt had a certain look in mind. He or she wants that look to remain intact and be consistent throughout a traveling show. It is your obligation to follow suit and eat accordingly.

When you think of stage actors, you don’t think of weighty types. Perhaps these people have will power and perhaps it is vanity. No matter, it works. Motivation allows actors to remain a certain type. They become known as such and their roles are tailored to their appearance. The leaner you are, no doubt the more roles for which you qualify.

People expect film and TV stars to be attractive visually. No wonder we spend so much time perusing their Instagram posts.We want them to be larger than life and better than average. We want to idolize them, seeing them in some kind of Edenic, perfect realm. While stage actors are usually less well known as “names,” unless they come from other arts, they are also in the same category. Audiences expect a modicum of perfection in terms of the physical self.

Keeping that scale handy in a dressing room is a symbol for actors to stay slight and look the part. Unless they are Big Daddy in Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, they want to be as lean as Brick and as beautiful as Maggie. We go to the theater to see real life, but one that is magnified in proportion and also mythic in content. Theater is thus a higher slice of life laden with meaning and import.