Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Stage Debut with the Alberta Ballet: The Nutcracker

I have never had an aching desire to be on stage. When I was little I did some stage-y type stuff, but with age, I have grown fond of behind the scenes writing, where you heard and not seen. That suits me. I do however, have a desire to tell a story. If going on stage means having a good story to tell - well then, I will enter stage right. Here is a story about the time I took the stage with the graceful ballerinas of the Alberta Ballet.

Late in September 2014, while Calgary was under a pile of wet tree-breaking snow, I received a message from the Alberta Ballet requesting that I be in in their popular holiday production of The Nutcracker for a night during its run.

My first thought was, "Will I have to interact with the human sized rats? I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with the nightmares that would follow for the rest of my life," followed by,"Do they think I can dance? Because I definitely have the grace of a rhino."

I didn't get answers to those questions, but said yes anyways. All I knew was I had to wear a costume and that other people, including the Mayor, had done it in the past. This was reassuring - because, as amazing as Nenshi is, I think he and I would get about the same grade in ballet class.

Months went by and then it was the week of the big day.

I arrived for my fitting backstage the day before the performance and was put into my costume. It was amazing to me, that something that included enough fabric to make clothes for 300 orphan children, could also double as a 19th century harlot dress. It also had the most giant, magnificent sleeves/shoulder puffs I had ever seen. The puffs alone could have covered at least 10 orphans during a summer month. Once it was confirmed that I could fit in the dress and barely stand under all the material I was finished.

Finally it was the day of the performance. I was instructed to arrive two hours before the show and to put on 'heavy street make-up' before arriving. I had no idea what 'heavy street make-up' was, and since I already had reason to believe that they were wanting me to play the part of the prostitute, I interpreted 'street' to mean 'street corner'. Basically, I wore red lipstick and was like - I AM SO EDGY!

As soon as I entered the greenroom I was whisked away to get my hair done. I sat in the chair, waited for the hairdresser to get over the fact I have 80 pounds of flat hair, and then watched her work her magic. By the end of the sitting I looked like I could have played an extra on Anne of Green Gables. (I am very glad I didn't live in that era, my hair couldn't handle that amount of backcombing.)

Back down in the greenroom I was dressed and ready to go. The other walk-ons were looking dapper in their suits and we waited for our time to be lead to the stage.

Once we finally got on stage behind the second curtain we were given instructions about where to stand and what to do for the whole 20 minutes we were going to be on stage. I was a little nervous at this point because the last glass of wine I had was 2 hours prior and it wore off after bobby-pin 89 went into my hair.

The ballerinas were all around us practicing their fancy named spins and moves and I stood with my group putting all my effort into not tripping over my dress and falling into the curtain. I could hear the audience filing in...there was no backing out now! (Actually, I am sure I could have said "sorry guys - gotta go" and the only person that would have been mad was the hairdresser who spent an hour fighting with my hair to get me to look like a more scandalous version of Olivia Dale from Road to Avonlea.)

Someone started to make an announcement on the stage. It was almost time! The person talked about cellphones and sponsors and then he told the audience to look for the walk-on guests in the performance...then announced our names. The horror! I want the story, but I don't need every person in the sold out show looking for me on stage.

I started the scene sitting on a chaise looking as glamorous as ever, the whole time panicking because the chaise was on wheels and I was afraid I was going to accidentally roll into the backdrop or knock someone over. I ended up getting up without either happening. I drank some punch, had some fake overly expressive conversations and made fun of all of the little children who were in the scene. Every once in a while, the ballerina who was assigned to monitor the walk-ons would tell us to move to one side of the stage or the other and before I knew it, we were being lead off the stage. It was done!

I didn't fall or knock anyone over. It was basically a Christmas miracle!

We headed back to the dressing room and celebrated our success by giving back our costumes and putting on our normal people clothes. We headed up to the lobby just in time for intermission and a much needed glass of wine.

And that folks, was the time I was a ballerina. Sorry I did fall, it would have made for a much more entertaining ending.


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