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Friday, November 20, 2015

The Charlie Chronicles Part 3

by Terrance McArhtur

On With the Show, This Is It!

The play is afoot!

The Music Man opened November 7 at the Selma Arts Center, and I’ll be onstage November 20 and 21, as the town constable on Friday, and as Charlie Cowell, Anvil Salesman, antagonist to the con-artist hero, Harold Hill, on Saturday. In the meantime, I pop in from time to time, helping out and hanging around.

I’ve put make-up on faces, taken tickets, handed out programs, watched parts of the show, and mouthed the lines of the actors playing the parts I’m understudying. I spend some of my time with the cast in the basement of the building, surrounded by old props and costumes. There’s a lot of space, and a lot to see.


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Under the Backstage

A large-cast musical comedy usually has a small group of major characters that carry most of the story, and a large group, known as the chorus, who show up when the songwriters have a big song that needs lots of voices, or when a bunch of people are supposed to see something happen. The rest of the time, they hide in some place where they can’t be seen or heard, and where they won’t be in the way. At the SAC, that place is the basement.

Under the stage, there are areas for the costumes (things that people wear on the stage), for putting on make-up (close-up, actors look weird because they put on a lot of stuff on their skin to compensate for the washed-out look their bare faces would have when the bright stage lights shine on them), for curtained-off dressing areas (where the actors can change into those costumes they are supposed to wear), and for props (the things they carry around onstage).

Because I’ll be playing different characters on different nights, I will have to worry about two hats, one police helmet left over from Mary Poppins, legal-looking papers, a suitcase big enough to carry an anvil, a pocket watch, and a pair of handcuffs.
Somewhere around and between the props, costumes, make-up, dressing areas, and a zone where the Queen of Costumes performs magic with pins and sewing machines, the chorus dwells. What do they do in this underground lair? It depends on the person, but a lot of it falls into the categories of Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.



Image source: Terrance McArthur

Food, Glorious Food

I love to eat, and my body shows it. In the theatre basement, I find myself in Munch Heaven. Over here is a cheese/pepperoni/cracker platter. Over there is a container of dried mangos and dried pineapple. On another table is a bin of M&M mix that is mostly raisins and peanuts, because the colorful candies have been eaten. If you hear someone say “Donuts,” get out of the way, because a stampede is about to start, and you don’t want to be crushed and trampled.

Cool, Clear Water

Some of the things you eat while waiting for your cues need to be washed down, but you don’t want to get the costume cola-stained. What do you drink? Water. Of course, some cast members will bring in soft drinks, but they risk the wrath of the Costume Goddess. I don’t think the carbonated rush is worth the possible public shaming.

...And We’ll Have Fun, Fun, Fun

Besides eating and drinking, there has to be some way to while away an actor’s off-time. Some people watch the video feed of the show that’s going on over their heads. Others read books. A cluster of young boys usually indicates a cell phone with a video game, I’ve seen knitting, needlepoint, and crochet, while I sit in a quiet spot and stitch up coiled pine needle baskets.

Now, I don’t know if this is a fad in other areas, but the teens and tweens in the Selma-Kingsburg area are into Kindama (or something close to that spelling). When I was a child and we went to Olvera Street in Los Angeles, I would buy a Mexican toy with a wooden ball with a hole in it, attached by a string to a stick with a handle. I would swing the ball up and try to catch it on the stick, Kindama is like that, but with rounded cups sticking out of the sides. These kids catch the ball on the tip, in the cups, and do tricks I couldn’t do with a Duncan Yo-Yo in my prime (if I ever had a prime).

And Now, The End Is Near


I’ll be onstage, this weekend, to do my parts. I’ll be easy to recognize—the short, bald-headed guy looking slightly puzzled as he tries to remember his lines.

You can check out part 1 and part 2 of the Charlie Chronicles, and a review of The Music Man, over on kingsriverlife.com.


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.


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