14 March 2010

Tale of A Part-Time Supplemental Extra, Part II

A few days later I’m backstage at the Rep, clomping down a long hallway of concrete and countless metal doors. Every footfall reverberates like a beer cracking open in a cathedral. A woman wearing a limp ribbon of measuring tape around her neck appears from somewhere behind me and scurries past, an emerald green priest’s vestment flapping over her forearm. I follow her to an open door labeled “Wardrobe”, enter, and pause to scan the grid of sewing machine stations filling the room before knocking on the doorframe. By the rear wall, seated at a desk cluttered with pins, papers and bobbins, a young blonde woman in a bright blue jacket and skirt waves and moves to greet me, her grin unwavering. I step into the room to meet her halfway and introduce myself as “The Thom Pain Plant”. She welcomes me, says her name is Shannin, and clarifies my job description: “Technically, you’re a Supplemental Extra,” she says. “It’s an Equity thing.” The redundancy of the phrase is both amusing and deflating.

Shannin offers me a glass of water and leads me to a nearby dressing room for my costume fitting. A needless flourish, I think. I’d hoped my natural civilian status would serve as a cheap asset to the production, and bolster the realism of my performance. But dressing up an actual member of the audience to pass as a member of an audience seems about as pointless as painting a snowman white.

A second designer swoops in with her intern to take my measurements, wielding her measuring-tape like an oversized fragment of dental floss. She measures every angle, rattling off my dimensions with bored ease while the intern scribbles the litany on a piece of paper. When she loops her tape around my right bicep and calls out “Thirteen,” I look to the intern for encouragement. She shrugs and jots it down. After my data is gathered, they vanish and I am left alone with my tepid water. Beyond the dark drawn curtain covering the door, sewing machines chug throughout the shop like the guts of some infernal contraption.

Shannin returns a few minutes later with my costume--an outfit I privately refer to as my Muddle-Class Make-Over: Banana Republic Khakis, a light-blue fitted shirt, and an oversized cobalt blue sweater-vest for garnish. I slip into the clothes and survey the results in a full-length mirror. I’m swimming inside the sweater, and the pants barely reach my ankles. My handlers want to conjure some ill-defined “eastsider” motif, but I feel more Blockbuster Video than Bellevue. Still, this turns out to be a benefit. The more blasé I look, the less I’ll want to be noticed.

That evening, at Jerry’s request, I read through the first twenty pages of Eno’s script. Thom Pain is a funny piece—lean, clever, and wry. I hit up Google for more details, and find I’m not the first to notice Samuel Beckett’s pervasive influence, though Eno's play borrows more from the Irish writer’s novels than his more famous plays. The character Thom Pain—much like Malloy, Malone, or Mahood—shambles through life beginning stories he will never finish. It’s a raucous, ribald piece. The only problem is—my only problem is: none of the lines are mine....

Return to Part I / Read Part III

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