Jonathan Groff, My New Best Friend

The show I usher for was originally set to close mid-August but it has already been extended twice. Which works out well for me and the hazard of unemployment. It also means that the lead (now that I no longer work there I can tell you I’m talking about Jonathan Groff**) had to leave the show to go film an Ang Lee movie and his replacement isn’t quite as charming.

jongroffwoodstock
Went from a hippy musical to a hippy movie: Taking Woodstock

He had the day off from filming yesterday. How do I know this, you ask? Because he came to see the show and of course he sat in my section, because awesome/famous people always sit in my section (I really lucked out with that assignment at the beginning of the summer). I didn’t notice him until intermission when I saw him sitting all by himself and realized he had been the annoying guy sitting next to the show’s costume designer whispering and laughing uproariously at everything the whole first act. Wow, good thing I hadn’t shot him a nasty “shut up!” look!

Well there he was, in all his adorable splendor, sitting alone as the costume designer had left to attend to things. Eee I want to go up there and tell him I think he’s awesome, but that’s not really appropriate. I’m supposed to stay here and man my spot. Damn. Ok, I will will him to leave the theater so he’ll pass by me and hopefully I’ll have the balls to say something. Willllllllllll.

It works. He gets up and I’m searching my brain for something I can say that isn’t obnoxious or groupie-esque.

But he’s not heading for the exit. No, no. Johnathan Groff is walking straight towards me.
jonathangrofffrozen
Oh you don’t know who Jonathan Groff is? He was the voice of this guy.
“Hi! How are you? It’s so good to see you,” he says and then gives me a hug. Like we bonded during the show. Like we’re old friends. Like he’s at least talked to me once before in our lives.

Planning my line? Fuck that! Not even my imagination considered this!

From where I stood there were two choices: play along or let the truth- that I’ve never talked to him before ever and think he’s very talented, not to mention the fact he’s already achieved most of my life goals- take over. No contest. For the entirety of intermission me and this Tony-nominated, the next hot thing, golden boy of Broadway are bffs. We talk about the show, how it’s been since he left, how filming’s been, laugh when some guy comes over to talk to him and ends his “I saw you in this show, you were so great” spiel with: “My friend sitting up over there. It’s her birthday. She wants your dong.” The guy quickly leaves and my new bff laughs and confides in me, “That’s one I’ve never heard before- ‘She wants your dong.’ And did you see how fast he went back to his seat? I bet that was a dare.” Oh commiseration, that makes me feel even more like we’re bffs.

Before I know it, intermission is over. The lights are dimming and so is our friendship.

“It was so great to see you! Good luck with the film! Enjoy the second act!”

“Thanks, you too. I’ll see you later.” He says and gives me another hug before returning to his seat.

I can’t stop smiling.

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[credit:playbill.com]
It’s a good thing I’m 97% sure he’s gay. (It’s a vibe, a chemistry maybe. Sometimes obviously gay leading men in classic musicals can limit the credibility of character portrayal. Like when I saw Wicked, Fiaro was so obviously gay it was distracting. But in this show it made his character much stronger. His connection to Will Swenson’s Berger is awesome. Which I didn’t appreciate fully until he left. Sigh. If he is not gay, he is a truly brilliant actor for creating that. His replacement doesn’t have the same vibe and it makes the whole show a little weaker, in my opinion.) [He actually came out a year after I wrote this.**] Otherwise I would be head over heals in love. Such a sweet, modest, respectful, awesome person. It’s moments like these when I feel like the minimum wage I get paid is totally enough. Who am I kidding, I would do it for free.

**edits from 2/13/2014

Frankenstein is My Friend

The truly technical term for my line of work is “street team member.” Any show with any kind of budget these days has one (including the guy who stands on the corner for “Private Eyes Gentleman’s Club”. Total creeper.) You see us loitering street corners dressed in the-show-that-owns-us paraphernalia handing out fliers or fans or yelling ear catching jingles. Fortunately working for “the man” sells itself- it’s possibly the most recognizable brand name in America- so I never have to yell anything or make any kind of pitch. I’m still out there acting my ass off however, as the model cute/friendly/helpful/happy-go-lucky street team member. It’s quite the role, not really my type per say but I rock it.

All the different street teams are pretty buddy-buddy out on the streets. There’s a shared “omg tourists suck and it’s hot as balls” that really brings people together. We watch each others backs against the weirdos and share stories about the ridiculous things people do. We’re all in the same boat (although I’ve learned “the man” pays $3 more per hour than the non-man…)

Then there’s the street team for Young Frankenstein (the musical). No cute-friendly-helpful bullshit roles for them. They’ve got a tiny team -only two guys- who are dressed up like Frankenstein (the monster) and Igor from the show. They get to run around Times Square as their monster characters scaring tourists, posing for pictures, teasing everyone, and hell having a jolly fun time.

Frankenstein, as he is a newly created monster of course, doesn’t really talk to people- he growls and grunts, bears his fangs and basically sends them to Igor if they have any questions. That’s the way to deal with silly tourists. Now imagine my surprise when one day he comes over to me, drops the character: “God, can you believe how fucking hot it is today? Woo!” He has a tenor voice with a decidedly gay inflection. Totally cute! OMG, You can talk! I blunder back- immediately realizing what an idiot I sound like.

From then on we’ve been friends. I’ve learned that he has a major cooling system inside his costume- completely with fans (the lucky bastard), that Igor wears glasses but he can’t wear them in character so he’s wandering around half blind, that Frankenstein also teaches dance. They’re two really nice guys. It never gets old watching them scare people, or teasing traffic guards, or dancing like no one’s watching (but everyone is) to Sexy Back outside Virgin Megastore. But my favorite moments are when they’re out of character and you see Frankenstein texting on his cell and Igor sucking down a Sunkist. Those are the moments I wish I had a huge state-of-the-art camera strapped around my neck with the telephoto lens in my fanny pack.

I’m still working the ushering gig at night. This means I’m working 49 hours a week. Which is draining as all hell. That and two+ hours of travel time a day…well now you understand the sporadic nature of my updates. The plus side is ushering just got a lot more fun. The Shakespearean tragedy has been replaced by an awesomely energetic rock musical. So the energy in the theater is completely different (it’s tangible, trust me), the audience is completely different, and the show is a whole hour shorter so sometimes I get some sleep.

People like this play, it’s gotten much better press, and has sort of become the must-see play of the summer. This leads to a much more star studded audience. One of the first nights it started raining during the second act. Rain means we ushers really have to work for our money. Rain means every audience member in possession of an umbrella wants to put it up to keep dry, makes sense right? The problem is people behind an umbrella can’t see the stage. Rain means a loosing battle asking patrons to please put the umbrellas down. Now imagine having this battle with Mary-Louise Parker. Yep. Light rain has begun to fall, an umbrella goes up and before I realize who’s under it I’m poking under it informing Ms. Parker that we have to ask her to put it down because it blocks the view of those in back of her. “Well what am I supposed to do?” she asks me. “Uh, get wet? I’m sorry!” I say before I run off to fight more umbrella battles. Awkward! Especially because I really admire her as an actress and love Angels in America and Weeds. Her date was her co-star from Weeds, Justin Kirk (Uncle Andy) so in spite of my the awkwardness, it was pretty cool.

In attendance we’ve had Joan Rivers (who tried to help me do my job. I’m trying to get a woman with crutches to her seat, which is proving slightly difficult, and Joan pipes up “Where are you trying to get her to?” Let me worry about that, thanks. Girl looks even worse than she does on tv), Sandra Oh, Jay- the first winner of Project Runway, and Kevin Kline. I listened to Zach Braff sing to his girlfriend (according to a little imdb search they weren’t officially together at the time of my sighting which I think is funny cause I could’ve called up trashy gossip magazines and caused an “are they back together??” story) as they exited the theater. After observing him throughout the show (he was right in front of me, I couldn’t help it) I gotta say the man doesn’t do much acting on Scrubs. He is JD, JD is him, one and the same.

Along with the celebrities I still keep running into people I know. From high school, college, you name it. Still it surprises me when I’m walking into the theater one night and hear a “Hi!” directed towards me. Especially when it’s coming from a (though seemingly harmless) man I’ve never seen in my life. The look plastered all over my face is ugh, why do random men always talk to me but I’m supposed to be in friendly-helpful staff mode so I reply, “Uh, hi.” He laughs, “Oh, you don’t recognize me!” He then bares his teeth and growls. It’s Frankenstein! Sans costume, off the clock! I get to see him for what he is: sweet, cute, charming, little gay man by night, scary green monster by day. Arguably my favorite star sighting yet.

Working the Streets

I got a day job.Here is my office:

Here are others who occupy the building:

The most famous. He's sold out though (not that I blame him)- he now has Viacom (literally) all over his ass.
The most famous. He’s sold out (not that I blame him) and now (literally) has Viacom all over his ass.
The [deflated/aged] Naked Cowgirl. Not only knocking off the Naked Cowboy but also knocking off a previous Naked Cowgirl. Girl should not be running around in skivies but hell, power to her.
The [deflated/aged] Naked Cowgirl. Not only knocking off the Naked Cowboy but also knocking off a previous Naked Cowgirl. Girl should not be running around in skivies but hell, power to her.
Lady Liberty. She (he? who knows?) is scary cause you can't see her (his? see my point?) face!
Lady Liberty. She (he? who knows?) is scary cause you can’t see her (his? see my point?) face!
Spiderman. Yep, he's dressed up like Spiderman and runs around posing for picture. Again, not a big fan cause you can't see his (but you can tell that) face.
Spiderman. Yep, he runs around posing for pictures. Again, scary cause you can’t see his (though you can tell that) face.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am working the streets. Oh God, we always joked the only thing a theatre BA would qualify you to do was suck cock and that “Become a whore.” was a fun answer to “So what are you going to do after graduation?” but we never actually thought you’d do it! What has the Big Apple done to you!?Unbunch your panties. I have not plummeted from the Prudy Judy side of the spectrum to the lowest ring of the Slutty Butty side (although events from the previous weekend make for speculation ummm… that’s another story!) No, I am not a nooner hooker. No, I am not running around dressed up as Giselle posing for pictures with tourists. Although that is not a bad idea….I’d be awesome at pretending to be a princess and totally fulfill childhood fantasies to boot.Can't you see me?

So what the hell am I doing? I am working for “the man” (and that’s the biggest hint I can give) of the theatre world. Doing publicity for Broadway shows. That’s what I tell people, especially if I’m trying to sound like I have a fancy grown up job. “Publicity for Broadway”- sounds like a career,  right? Ha. This “publicity” = me standing on a street corner, wearing a blue visor and t-shirt, looking like a camp counselor (Just an observation: fewer people wear visors than ponchos these days, they aren’t even favored by tourists) passing out fans. The fan is the brilliant summer alternative to the pamphlet. It’s a piece of paper attached to a popsicle stick- that makes it a fan and thus a souvenir. A free souvenir. That makes people want them. And they don’t just get shoved in a pocket like a pamphlet. People wave them around, literally all over town. I’ve seen them up in Central Park, in Chinatown, it’s crazy. Crazy, brilliant advertising. So I stand there, hand these out to people “Is it free? Really?? AWESOME!”, answer stupid tourist questions, smile a lot, people watch like it’s my job, and get paid $18/hr. Compared to what I’d be making as a prostitute, that’s nothing. But it’s pretty sweet for the amount (really lack there of) of effort I put out.

My actually like my coworkers. I was a little apprehensive at first because they are very musical theater- jazz hands, fan kicks, and all. It was a bit much for me on first reaction. But now it’s simmered down. We all share a tiny room stuffed with boxes of fans- close as hell quarters- and I don’t as of yet have urges to kill any of them. I don’t even flinch when they call me sweetie/baby/darling 20 times a day. I somehow find it endearing. Though I’m not spouting pet names out to all my casual acquaintances, I can see it happening in the future and I have to ask myself- is that risk worth the $18/hr? Only cause we’re in a recession.My coworkers know more about the theatre world than I do, which is a cool and rather unusual experience for me. For the most part they’re older than me, too. Which I greatly prefer. I don’t feel like I’m wasting my life yet, it’s just not prime. It’s also awesome because most of them are working actors. One just finished filming a network-ABC-tv show. One just quit to go on tour with Cats. Several have been in Off Broadway shows. My supervisor was up for the part of Simba in The Lion King until he befell an awful throat disease (he’s bitter and amusing). It’s great to be around working actors. And here we all are working for the theatre man in menial labor tasks. I’ve got a bright future: I always wanted to see the lights of Broadway. Now that’s my job. Perhaps this gig is the closest I’ll get. Time’ll tell.

Gay Pride Parade NYC

Gay Pride in New York. Which must qualify at the very least as somewhat-theatrical because hello (1) we’re in the musical theatre capital of the world (2) drag queens, floats, rainbows (3) elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist-wrist (that’s the equation for the royal wave, ya dirty mind), (4) have you ever talked to a gay man?

That being said I was surprised.  I am from San Francisco. Yes. Notably shocking: I’ve written 6 posts with out any mention of my beloved hometown. So while NYC is the musical theatre capital of the world and the capital of countless other things, San Francisco stakes claim as the gay capital of the world and also the only place I have ever been to pride before. I found it odd- SFPride wins -hands down- as more theatrical, lively, spirited. New York has numbers and a nonchalant, I’m-fabulous-and-I-know-it-sure-I’ll-accessorize-my-ensemble-with-a-rainbow-something-for-the-day-but we’re-keeping-it-cool where are San Francisco is I-ran-away-from-my-homophobic-parents-in-South-Dakota-to-be-here-and-I’m-fucking-FA-BU-LOUS-and-I’m-going-to-display-all-my-wondrous-GLORY-in-leather/lace/feathers/RAINBOWS/inch thick makeup/pink cowboy regalia/a thong/pasties!! I’d say that’s about the difference. (Should you care for a bit of expose and a walk down memory lane, here’s my 17 year-old-self’s account of my first SFPride.) I really couldn’t help but compare the two. I tried not to. I really did try.

NYC Pride 2008
NYC Pride 2008
Street view! It was a lovely day when it wasn’t raining.
These ladies were awesome (I wouldn't be surprised if they hail from SF =)
These ladies were awesome (I wouldn’t be surprised if they hail from SF =)

Mika came down for the weekend which was absolutely wonderful. My lovely date for Pride. My friend. I don’t have enough friends here yet. My loner tendencies generally keep me from loneliness, but it was really, really nice to have a buddy. As it was Pride, where hetero-normative becomeshetero-abnormative = you’re assumed to be gay rather than straight, Mika and I knew we’d be viewed as a couple. We were rather amused by this and you’d think would have limited come ons from either gender. You’d think. What you wouldn’t think is that we would be propositioned by a middle aged short kinda fat man. Not individually, oh no. The man wanted us as a unit. “You are beautiful. Both so beautiful. Would you come with me to hotel room?” EW. We fled. Okay, I grabbed Mika’s hand and fled, we both pushed our way away through the crowds of people feeling gross. Fuck you, short middle aged gross short fat man, for having the power to make us feel gross. Fuck you.

Fortunately this was the only real down of the day.

Our journey to the parade was all New York. We woke up in Mika’s brother’s apartment on the Lower West Side which has an awesome roof garden (where, surprise: tenants actually hang out. We were caught us off guard by a man having a morning smoke) and an awesome view of the Empire State Building. This was followed by the perfect Sunday brunch. Classic diner. Classic New York brunch. Well, Mika and I weren’t all that cliche, but the tables surrounding us were. Across from our table. group of about ten 20-something girls all regaling high-pitched stories of the night before, a compilation of “omg”s and “I can’t believe I drank that much!” and “I’m soo hung over” and “did that guy get your number” etc etc all on a soundstage of giggles and requests for more coffee. Mika was annoyed, I was amused. At the table next to us was the woman who takes 2 hours to order. Charlotte York, Sally (When Harry Met Sally, Sally). “Do you have Splenda? You do? Ok, can I get a large iced coffee, no cream and can you bring us some Splenda?… Do you have bran muffins? …Can you check? ….You have mini bran muffins? …ok…that’s fine. I’ll have the Belgium Waffle [I wasn’t expecting that] with no butter on it. Ok? Ok, that’s it.” Again, I was amused.

After breakfast, we make our way to the parade route. We’re also on a mission: rainbow paraphernalia and Arizona Iced Tea. This leads us to making many little stops on the way. All the while Mika keeps saying “I feel like I’ve been here before.” “This is really familiar.” Which I imagine is some vague memory from childhood- the 4 year old Mika in a stroller being pushed down streets of New York. Sure, I have memories like that too. Neighborhoods dig up memories. Well, turns out this memory is not that vague. “Holy shit, I think my friend Alex works at that store.” Alex is one of the 2 of Mika’s New York friends I’ve met so can appreciate this crazy coincidence.  We walk in the store and ask the first employ we meet. Yep, Alex works here, he might even be on now. Crazy. Mika’s kinda freaking out as we approach the counter, she hasn’t seen the guy in a couple years. We approach the counter, as a customer is just finishing her purchase and BAM. We are face to face with Creepy Rachel. What are you doing in New York? So funny to run into you! We should hang out. Nice to see you BYE. Ah! Of all people to run into.

Creepy Rachel, as she is not so fondly referred to by most of my college theatre community, is pretty much just that. Creepy. Weird. For the longest time I thought she had a crush on me as I would always catch her staring at me and she occasionally would say “hi” after being caught. I had no idea who she was until during the tech week of some show I saw her in the theater and realized she was a techie. Ooh. Confession: I have a dark past of  being the cliche actor who doesn’t know all the amazing people who keep her out of the dark on stage. I have since (done some tech work, which put me in my place and) reformed my snooty actress ways.  Techies are generally cooler than actors. Sure, I admit it. Creepy Rachel- whose name derives from her stares, stories she’s told in the booth about her trysts with vampires, the fact that she’s always playing mindsweaper on the computers in the student lounge (especially when you desparately need to use them and all the others are occupied), and also her general aura-  is a rare exception. Still, it’s fun running into people and even the creepies make me smile because It’s a Small Island (After All).

I have since learned that Creepy Rachel isn’t creepy enough to attemp to contact me. More smiles.

I like Pride and Rainbows.

It’s a Small Island (Part 2)

Being in the theatre world is such an advantage/disadvantage paradox. On the one hand I have automatic community, automatic camaraderie, automatic sympathy with a large group of New Yorkers when I admit “I’m an aspiring actor.” I’ve been lucky to land a job where this makes perfect sense to all my coworkers. When I’m in the city I almost  interact with people to whom this makes sense. Where it makes sense I’ll work a shitty unfulfilled failing hundreds of times to land the job I really want. I’m a New York cliche and New Yorkers understand that. Outside the city, I’m a freak, a derelict, a slacker, a stupid, naive, damsel in distress. A “what if you could get a better job?”, a “don’t you realise the odds are mad/wicked/hella stacked against you?”-  the perfect “don’t you realise you won’t be a movie star? let me save you from your silly delusion. And as that’s the case why the hell would anyone want to be an actor?”

Because I can’t not be. I can’t explain it better than that.

Thank god I can be in a bubble where that makes sense.

Of course this bubble is relatively small. They say the theatre world is a small one. And it is, as all accounts of my previous post attest.

And yet the island has proved surprisingly small even outside my bubble. Let’s journey from the semi-theatre related (because let’s face it, it’s hard for me to break away) to totally non-theatre related through this series of “It’s a Small Island” posts.

On the same rained out night where I was mistaken for Lauren Ambrose, I was making my way over to a house party in Brooklyn (and if I lived in the apartment where said party took place, my cliche-ness would be complete. The perfect cliche Brooklyn residence complete with view.) The premature ending of the show left me with a couple hours to kill, which was no problem- two hours after leaving the theater I’m down 70+ blocks trying to catch the L. And there standing next to me are two people who had tried to see the show that night. Who had stayed until the final announcement after one hours wait in the rain and one soaking to the skin. I had admired their perserverance and “eh, it’s ust water, I’m too cool for an umbrella anyway attitude.” And they were both around my age and kinda cute and ok, which didn’t hurt my remembering them 70+ blocks and 2 hours later.

So we’re standing on the platform and I do something very out of character. I approach them, I chat them up. It was a victory in my ongoing battle against my insufferable “I make people come to me” nature. They were from Canada. Now residing in Brooklyn. I learned the key differences in American and Canadian dialects (we say “roof” they say “ruff”) and that in Canada every Walmart has a McDonald’s in it (eeeeeew), and the most valuable lesson: if you want to go up and talk to someone, just fucking do it.

in the works: NYPride (Mika you should give me access to pictures so I can post them), I got a new (totally cliche) job, Scottish con men, Central Park Guy update, Bronxville and moving out of it

It’s a Small Island (Part 1)

According to wikipedia there are 8,274,527 people who call New York City home. According to facebook I know 29 of them. Neither figure is from an exactly sitable source, but I more or less know 0.00003% of the city. Give or take. Math makes me feel like I am a tiny person in a gigantic world. And yet my month of living here has made me feel like the world is undeniably small. I keep running into people I know.

This started my very first day here, my very first day on the job, my very first viewing of the play when everything was new and fresh, before I could recite monologues or pet peeve about actors’ decisions that really don’t make any sense if you think about them. I’m sitting there watching and all I can think of is That guy looks so familiar. Who is he? I’m I just doing that thing like when you go to college for the first time and everyone reminds you of some one from home? Perusing the program after the show does not answer all my questions until BAM. He’s a guy from the theatre program I did last summer. We used to go running together every other day. He had to create a stage name for union reasons. Sure enough, I approach him the next day and it all comes out. I know someone in the show I’m working for? Crazy.

It gets better.

I go through the same thing about the guy who’s doing props for the show. He looks so familiar, I swear I know him from somewhere– holy shit. He’s been in my apartment. Yes he has. See, the lovely luxurious huge apartment that I lived in my senior year of college was pretty much perfect for throwing parties. Among the many fetes held over the course of the year was the cast party for the spring play The Good Woman of Setzuan. The debauchery that went down at that party is another story and a moot point because it all happened after our director and his friends who had come to see the show that night stopped by. In my tipsy-omg-this-may-be-my-last-show-in-college (fortunately it wasn’t) haze I remember talking with them about plans after graduation and how I was probably moving to NYC, and that one of the friends was moving too. Little did we know then we’d be working at the same theater.

It’s always a little risky with these people. You’re 95% sure they are the person you think they are, but the 5% of doubt makes it scary. I approach Props Guy thinking If he is not who I think he is, he will think I’m fucking crazy. Hi, are you Rich Vibrose’s (sudonym, but it captures the gist of the actual) friend? I love watching people’s faces change from Why the fuck are you talking to me to Oh hey! which was exactly the reaction this question received followed by the cast party story in conversation form.

I have yet to embarrass myself. I have successfully identified four people I went to high school with who I haven’t seen in 4+ years, several other people from the theatre summer program, as well as the golden couple of the theatre department my freshman year who are still together 3 years later. Other people have not been so lucky. I’ve been waved at by total strangers (he was clearly an international  tourist and perhaps it was a come on, and no it was not to some person in back of me) and been questioned, Are you from Alabama? and been stared in these eyes and told I looked really familiar (and I’m 95% sure she wasn’t hitting on me). But my absolute favorite misidentification happened on a night the show got rained out.

When the show gets rained out that means we ushers get to stand in the rain for probably an hour-roughly the time it takes to decide the storm isn’t just going to blow over. We aren’t allowed umbrellas, only clear ponchos. Thus this is the only place in the city where plastic ponchos do not automatically mark you as TOURIST, MUG ME.I don’t have an umbrella with me, and it’s still storming as I leave the theater and after weighing the options (wear the poncho, don’t get wet, risk getting mugged vs. don’t wear the poncho, get soaked, get raped because I look like a wet t-shirt contestant) I decide to wear the poncho out. I am shrouded in clear plastic as I walk out of the park.  There are two paths to exit the theater, and I see two of the actors from the play leaving the path which means I will pass in front of them and they’ll be right in back of me on the main path out of the park. Yay, I bet I’ll get to overhear some of their conversation!

Which was true, but not as exciting as I hoped until my absolute favorite actor in the play who has the best voice ever says to his companion Is that Lauren up there? That looks like Lauren! Hey, Lauren! he yells Lauren! I know there is no one in between me and them, and the only person infront of me is a fat lady HOLY SHIT, HE’S YELLING AT ME! THEY THINK I’M LAUREN AMBROSE! Eeee! What do I do?? Quick! I turn around No I’m not Lauren, but I’ll take the mistake as a complement, and can I pay you a complement? You have the best voice I’ve ever heard and I’m an usher so I loved watching your performance every night. Response? Oh you are so sweet. And just like that, I’m in. For the next 2 blocks I am in. Introductions and brought into the conversation and I even get called adorable. It was awesome. Icing on the cake of looking like Lauren Ambrose…at least from the back and shrouded in plastic!

Security for the Stars

 As an usher at Shakespeare in the Park, I have the privilege of watching the show every single night. This activity is actually the majority of my job. I’m paid to tell a couple people where the bathroom is and watch a show. To date, I have seen this Shakespearean tragedy 18 times. These have all been “previews” which is very specifically theater lingo that pretty much means the play hasn’t been reviewed yet and the company wants to make opening night a huge deal.

hamlet
A production still from the show, credit: nydailynews.com

Finally after those 18 shows it’s opening night, no more previews, the “gala” performance. And you can be sure they’re making it as big a deal as possible.  I’ve agreed to work “extra security”, thinking it’ll be an experience for sure.  I show up at 4pm, dozens of tables have been set up outside the theatre, caterers are running around filling glasses with water and mixing drinks, people in pretty party clothes are not allowed in yet but you can see some milling about already. I’m given a 2XXL black SECURITY shirt and told to “make it work”. Which is harder than a Project Runway challenge considering my budget is ummm $0.00 and it has to be completed ummm NOW, I don’t even get a pair of scissors or a safety pin, oh and it must be tucked into khaki pants. For a red carpet event (no joke, I watched them set it up.) Needless to say, I will not be looking fabulous for this portion of the evening. Balls. I tuck my dress-of-a-shirt in and can at least be amused. The armpits fall down to my waist.

rasberry martiniMy security station is next to a bar. Not the bar, a bar, there are three others. Sky Vodka, wine, cocktails, bar tenders doing their thing. It’s all under my security. Hells yes. There’s a promo for a new cocktail, and the beverage obviously sponsoring the night. “Tava” is a new brand of sparkling no calorie fruit drink. I drank quite a fucking few as they were all over the theater and I can report it’s a pretty decent drink. And they make for good cocktails. “Tavatinis.” I overhear someone say, “Come here my little Tavatini” and almost die.  Clearly all real New Yorkers quote/reference Sex and the City on a daily basis. Hells yes exclamation point.

Unfortunately, security guards are not supposed to almost die due to funny things patrons say, or really laugh ever. Well fuck that, it’s a party. I am going to smile at people. And I do. I don’t even attempt a mug, a security scowl. Well surprise, surprise, I am pretty much the worst, least intimidating security guard ever. And that’s not just me being pessimistic. Over the next 4 hours I am approached by 3 catererrs and 3 guests “You don’t look like a security guard, who’d you fuck?who do you know who got you the job?” “You’re to cheery to be security.” “Don’t they usually give this job to big threatening men?” “ooo, I’m really intimated. ha ha.” “Here, let me help you practice a mug.” “Is your shirt on backwards?” Thanks, thanks so much.

It is a spectacular people watching situation, in fact I am being paid to people watch. And the people I’m watching all paid at least $1,500 to get into this party. That makes it even more interesting, and the fashion is fascinating. I note a beautiful, flowy, floral, orange dress one woman is wearing. It’s fabulous. And 10 minutes later another woman walks in wearing the same dress. That sucks. And one of course looks way better in it than the other.  There’s one woman on the arm of a man in a fucking fabulous jumpsuit. Floral, sheer light fabric. It is awesome. New New York goal for me: be able to rock a jumpsuit. It’s hard to do, but if you can it really boosts you up a level. Another New York goal: get into fabulous parties as a date. Best case senerio? I’m working on it.

For the moment, I’m flirting with caterers. They’re all really cute, in pressed white shirts and black pants, likely having more interesting  endeavors that don’t pay the bills, and here the ratio is skewed in a way I rarely see in my business: way more men than women. My flirtations are rewarded with dessert trays inconspicuously made available to me before the return trip to the kitchen and as much Tava as I can chug down when no one’s looking. $1,500 buys you decadent desserts that your diet probably doesn’t allow. Score one for me (me: one, them: 1,500).

And the fellas I was flirting with were cuter (though I do love Martin Starr).
And the fellas I was flirting with were cuter (though I do love Martin Starr).
[image: guardian.co.uk]
As this is a red carpet, gala event people watching reaches its peak when I see cameras flashing. These photographers have a pretty shitty job, snapping pictures of famous people, being kinda annoying, and the majority of the time are just completely ignored. It’s hard to describe, but it was weird to watch and I sort of felt bad for them. But yes, there are famous people milling about in front of me. Which is kinda cool, but also kinda scary. If there was an actual security situation I would not know what the fuck to do. I glance at Kim Raver at least 10 times before I finally place her as the actress who plays Nico on Lipstick Jungle. Steve Martin is there and I resist the urge, “I love your books! They’re all I want to read right now!” One of my favorite actresses ever is there. Cynthia Nixon, looking fabulous. That was cool. But interaction with famous people is weird. They’re just people. The I-know-who-you-are-but-you-don’t-know-who-I-am deal is awkward. And they look a lot littler in real life. Which is kinda cool when you can be like “You know what? I honestly never want to be that skinny.”

So yeah, there are famous people at this deal, but it’s totally not my place to interact with them. There’s not much joy praising someone who gets recognized on the street and hears it every day. It much more awesome for the semi to not really at all famous, who rarely get recognized and you can instantly tell are not jaded by fame. Like the people in the play I’m ushering. I ran into one of the guys who has a really small ensemble part on the subway and there I could tell my compliments to him really meant something.

And then the show after opening. We’re back to the usual ushering, no security, no  $1,500 minimum, no fancy dresses, no red carpet. No celebrity people watching.

Until:

Hi!

Hello, can you help me find where this is? he hands me the ticket.

Of course! You’re in Section L which is right here, but as you’re seat 710, you’re actually on the far left, so you’re gonna want go up those stairs and keep to your left.

Thanks a lot. and he smiles at me!

You’re welcome, enjoy the show!

jamesfranco
[img: boxofficeprophets.com]
I have this exchange in various forms a dozen times a night. But this time it was with James Franco. Yep, Daniel DeSario of Freaks and Geeks, Spiderman’s Harry Osborn. He’s with a blonde,  wearing a leather jacket and has the same melt worthy smile you’ve seen on screen. How to put this….squee! rather sums it up. Somehow I was fucking professional, didn’t make a fool of myself, and didn’t even get fired for jumping a patron. Hells YES. The concept of celebrity still weirds me out, but that was pretty fucking awesome.

It has been a good week.

(there was an after party post-show where cast and crew where invited too. Open bar, good food, dancing, theater people as well as big bucks patrons, no more security. I traded my 2XXL shirt for an awesome dress, mingled, danced, and got a little sloshed. Fashionably sloshed. Lots of fun.)