Sunday, July 17, 2005

bossing around pretty girls

I've been with the troupe for a year and a half now in some form or another, and I'm still surprised every time I hear one of us refer to the others as "girls". Chalk it up to years and years of rigorous feminist training. But last night I used it myself--they were "dancers" to everyone else, or "my dancers"--and "girls" within the group.

Come on, pretty girls! I called out when it was time to lead them to the area in the wings where they would await their cue (wings in this case being an area behind a screen; we were out in a parking lot). Obediently they fell in behind me and followed, like heavily ornamented ducklings, their bracelets and beads clinking, the mirrors on their veils and choli tops reflecting scraps of fire and neon. Up front in stage manager blacks I was really proud of them, proud of all the work they'd done to create a new piece, using a new movement vocabulary one of our number brought back from five months of studying with Rajasthani Gypsies in India.

The Crucible crowd, mostly Burners, are familiar with us. But they were probably braced for something quite different than what we had in mind. I know what's coming and y'all don't I thought at the audience as I swung back to the fueling area to help my fire techs bring out the torches, fire paste, wet blankets in a bucket, swords. On stage, Capacitor's crew were sweeping away the clumps of dried oatmeal their dancers had shed (supposed to look like mud on their largely-naked bodies; poor things had been shivering miserably in the green room tent as they waited to go on, unable to put on coats for fear of disturbing their cereal). We waited until all the Quaker's was cleared away and then laid out the props, with dancers hissing directions from the stage right stairs, no, closer to the back, we need more room, can you lay out the wet washcloths flat, put this stick under the cauldron, okay? And then we backed off, the first three dancers took the stage, D cued the music, and they were off.

What was it like? God. Not quite like standing in the wings at Undulation waiting to go on myself. Standing there with a wet towel over my arm, watching the hems of flying skirts and holding my breath when it looked like the ring of fire wasn't going to light properly, I wished I was onstage and not off. But I could feel that I was grinning like a maniac, too; look at how beautiful they are, they're doing such a great job, I can't believe they--we!--pulled this together in three weeks, maybe next time we do this piece, I'll be in it, no S don't spin so close to the fire pot. I could see Earring's boyfriend on the other side of the stage with his own towel; I couldn't tell if Wasabi's boyfriend was on the downstage fire safety post and worried about that for a minute, but Rig's lights were in my eyes so I figured I just wasn't seeing him.

The first time I ever went to a Crucible event, a guy lit himself on fire and crashed through a giant sheet of paper on a zip line. But those were the old days, and now you have to have a whole long back-and-forth beforehand with the event's Fire Safety Coordinator about what you're doing and how, and this was my first SM gig with the troupe and and and...stage managing is cat-herding under the best of circumstances. That hasn't changed at all since I was in school. But we got everything to where it needed to be, and the dancers got where they needed to be, and I was so relieved and happy afterwards that I had to drive around the city in my rental for another half-hour before I went home, listening to the radio at full-blast and singing along really badly.

Yes, if you were at a light in San Francisco late last night and there was someone seriously traffic-dancing near you in a Sentra with Dollar Rent-A-Car plates, chances are excellent it was me.

The next time, I plan to be traffic-dancing in full makeup, if you catch me.