Mark Chambers is currently in The Great American Trailer Park Musical at the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville, FL running now till August 3rd. Click here for tickets.
"the dressing room. i've been in many dressings rooms since my debut upon the wicked stage in 1968. that dressing room was a dank, musty under the pavillion, old-timey place, and the park rangers helped to put the makeup on. it was grease paint. it never came off that summer. had to sleep with a special drop towel.
i've dressed in private dressings with private showers and sofa beds, in water closets, in a u-haul trailer, a big rig trailer, a motor home trailer -with the really good a/c, under the stage, beside the stage, upstairs gentlemen's, on different floors, adjacent buildings, gymatoriums, locker rooms, kitchens, in bars, and in shared bathrooms,and one state park that was oddly from another time.
the purpose of the dressing room, for me, has changed. it is not a locker room. it is a dressing room. a place to gather your wits and concentrate if you need to. to study the source material DAILY, and to gage your fellow actor.
when i made it to the men's chorus at 13, i found out it was much different than the children's rooms i had been in. they had a porter! and he brought you 2 linen service white towels each performance, and a cup of coffee at intermission, and then a cocktail apres performance. i couldn't bribe him enough to get a cocktail, and i credit him with making me drink my coffee black- "that's too much sugar and fat, master chambers." it is where i learned that the elder of the cast always got his own seat of honor of his choosing. the truly remarkable men, never took the star spot,they took the journeymens place they had enjoyed when younger.
i've had a private dressing room several times. i do enjoy it. but it comes with the weight of the show too. so you use it in a different way of approaching. i like to get there somewhat early. especially if wigs are involved. a few years back i did the solo show of sanataland diaries, and i had a key to the back door, and the dressing room. the phone would ring, "half hour, mr. chambers." " thank you, half hour." i never saw another person til i was on stage.
i dressed on beale street in memphis at both the old daisy and the new daisy, at the orpheum,and many years with playhouse on the square. at the original on walker,then on madison ave, i ended up with a two seater for a few years. and it was a smoker!! hah. if only the insurance folks had made us not smoke sooner, maybe i'd have a high note. yes, we smoked backstage. little did i know then that i was just ruining and harming the most precious instrument i would be given by smoking it out,my voice. the damage was done.
i've had many friendships in dressing rooms that have spanned decades. we shared fears and happiness,various clean and unclean garments, wigs shoes susupenders, i travel with sock garters, sooner or later ya need em.
but mostly i travel with my little helpers. dermablend foundation-it is water proof for swimming if properly sealed, eye brow pencils, blush. im one of those that believes a mask should be put on. especially if the ladies are wearing makeup. without makeup those same lights only make me look bright pink when my hair is light like a q-tip. but basic powder will knock the shine and even out the skin. many men don't want to go thru the hassle of learning how to apply for a realistic look. it's just another tool. sorta like the folks who think singing and dancing is not as high tone as a straight play. the lights affect your look gentlemen, you can powder down in 2014. my father AB Chambers always told me to shave in the morning so your beard stubble will still be there when you put on the makeup at night, so you dont look like a sissy. well, daddybear, ive been parading my ass on stage and calling it acting for years, but with a good beat. "beat" ---that is the familiar word for putting on your makeup. pounding it with colors.
i'm in a very nice dressing room these days,at the hippodrome. it has always been one of my favorite places. i love to listen to a show on a monitor more than i visually see one. there is a comfort in being in your space that is oddly familiar, in each venue.
and to the people ive dressed with, i apologize for my nerves and chatter. and i thank you to all those who took the time to arrive freshly showered and in fresh undies. to the stinkies, well. thank goodness it isnt a locker room, although it is a shared space.