Some days, you just have to go into a practice room and sing Barbra Streisand tunes, loudly, fully, and preferably alone. Today was just such a day.
It’s day five of our Alaska cruise, and we’re anchored in Skagway. Yesterday involved “scenic cruising” through the Tracy Arm Fjord in the morning and a port afternoon in Juneau (Alaska’s capital, as all third graders will tell you), but I was in a full day’s rehearsal, so I just caught sneak peeks from my porthole in the morning and on breaks. I’m thinking of posting a daily “from my porthole” collection of photos, but we’ll have to see if I have enough variety to make it worth it.
Other than my singing Barbra this afternoon, there was nothing very exciting about two days of rehearsals (yesterday and today), so you’re probably wondering what happened on day three. Is it bad to say that I can barely remember? Two days seems like an eternity. I know that I had two shows in the evening, but I’m not sure what happened during the morning and afternoon of day three, other than assuming it was more rehearsals and some more training (story of my life right now). Let’s just skip right to that performance night, then. It was quite the evening…
I had decided to set my hair in pin curls, since my curly hair was apparently taking curls very readily due to the humidity at sea. But I was horrified to take them out thirty minutes before places and see a limp, untidy mess of frizzy hair that didn’t even resemble curls. It was literally one of my biggest fears come true.
You see, I’ve often struggled with doing my own hair and makeup. I have wonderful hair that straightens and takes curl well, but there’s a TON of it, and as a result, I have never been adept at making it do cool and pretty things. (My mom, when I was eight or nine, exasperatedly told me that she would no longer be willing to style my hair in a ponytail because it was like trying to wrap an elastic around a telephone pole, so that’s when I started having to do my own hair.) I don’t know if it’s impatience or lack of arm strength or sheer ineptitude, but this is not an area in life at which I excel.
I spent about a decade of my life trying to wrestle with my Hermione mane with minimal success, only to discover in college that, really, the best course is simply to let it tell me what it wants to do each day. So I either do natural waves (the curl of which varies dramatically from day to day for no apparent reason), styled according to ITS desire, or else I flat iron all of it into submission and pull it out of my face. For important performance events, I usually get my hair professionally blown out. The $60 or so is SO WORTH not spending the hour or so before my performance in tears and anger, and it is embarrassing how much better I perform when I feel attractive.
So there I was, sitting in front of my mirror staring at a red-ink F in hair-dos (that would be an F for frizz, obviously), and at that moment, my dressing room companions casually mentioned that it was very inconsiderate of me to be using hair spray in a closed environment. You know that moment in Inside Out when little red Anger steams up and takes over? Yah…that had to be what was taking place inside my head.
I can’t say it was one of my better moments. Admittedly, never in my entire life as a performer have I had someone tell me I can’t/shouldn’t use hair spray in a dressing room, so I was definitely taken aback (despite how much I like my fellow singers), but in conjunction with Hiroshima on top of my head, I had a silent, invisible meltdown.
To my credit, without a word I took my hair spray down to the dancers’ dressing room, checked that it was fine to use it there (I was certainly not the only one!), and attempted to salvage the disaster. One meh 40s-style roll later, I was ready-ish to go on stage, but it was not the best way to start my first performance.
In fact, for the first time in my entire life, I was nervous about opening my mouth and singing. I don’t know if it was the difficulty in hearing my voice in the stage monitors, or the fact that some of the choreography had changed the day before to compensate for a couple of dancers who couldn’t perform, or just the fact that I didn’t feel beautiful enough to be on stage (I can’t be alone in this whole self-worth attached to her looks thing, right?), but I have to say, it was not my strongest show. Was it good? Sure. Did the audience enjoy it? They seemed to! But I was definitely dissatisfied with myself.
We then had an hour and a half or so before our next show. I took some quiet time in my room, which I think was a good choice. I was able to think through the whys of my silent meltdown earlier (at the time, all I knew was that I was livid and that I didn’t want to let it show) and to figure out how much of it must have had to do with my disobedient hair and my frustration with the makeup (see: EYELASH GLUE). So by the time I came back to the theatre, I was determined to be positive and graceful.
About five minutes before the second show, I looked up above my dressing station and had a flash of inspiration. As you might remember from an earlier post, we were given a few different hairpieces, including a couple of clip on “falls” (like what Ariana Grande wears), for no official purpose other than “if you need it.” They look totally natural, matched as they are to our real hair color, so you can’t tell from the audience that it’s not really my hair. And suddenly I realized I could clip the curly fall over my meh hairstyle and instantly look fantastic. That’s why they gave them to us, duh! But I hadn’t even thought of it, as I’ve never used one before. I have a feeling I may have to buy one when I get back to NYC.
Immediately, I felt brighter, fresher, and more beautiful. I wish to high heaven that it wasn’t so impactful (makes me feel vain, I guess?), but the fact is, I can tell when I’m not as put-together as everyone around me, and it bothers me greatly.
Combined with an adjustment in our stage monitors that enabled me to hear myself, the new ‘do springboarded me into a fabulous second show. I felt more comfortable and more present. And I remembered how much I enjoy performing.
Ironically, the second show had a rather embarrassing costume mishap, but it didn’t bother me much, perhaps due to my renewed confidence. One of my bracelets got caught on my skirt and pulled off my wrist in the middle of a number. As I exited the stage, I tried to look for it on the ground but couldn’t see it anywhere. As I promenaded the front of the stage thirty seconds later, I realized it had velcroed to the front of my skirt – and was in plain view of everyone! Amused and yet calm, I ripped it off during a moment when I was turned upstage, tossed it on a platform I knew no one would be walking on, and then picked it up in a blackout to put it right back on my wrist. Too funny!
So that was the night of my first performance. It’s not always glamorous backstage, no matter what it looks like in the footlights. But those are most often the moments we remember – the moments where things are real and honest and gritty and not perfect. It’s live, folks. And that’s why we live for it.
Though I am an employee of Princess Cruises, all opinions are mine only and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.