Reza Abdoh’s Bogeyman, 1991 – Part II

Our rehearsals for “Bogeyman” took place on the 3rd floor of LATC (I think – the upper levels are not clear in the fogs of my memory). I think I ended up SMing Bogeyman because I had subbed in for two weeks of rehearsals on “The Hip Hop Waltz of Euridyce,” an earlier project of Reza’s a year earlier. But regardless of how I landed this show, hired by Production Manager Don Hill,  I faced the most challenging assignment of my career. The set, by Timian Alsaker, the resident scenic designer for LATC, was like Hollywood Squares on acid.  The photo below, from video taken by Video Artist Adam Soch, showed 6 of the 9 cells of the hellishly creative  imagination of the author. Boogeyman6 of 9

This was new terrain for me . There was no neatly typed Samuel French script, nor even a neatly typed script of a new play in my binder. In fact, Reza Abdoh’s  work featured text that was often  the last of the elements to join the play. Complex choreography, in this case, provided by Ken Roht,  iconic and jarringly startling imagery smashed together to  probe our cozy assumptions of what it meant to be an American in a time when AIDS patients were dying at an alarming rate; Reza himself would die of AIDS in 1995.  I grappled with the “why me?” of working with artists like these, but supported them to the best of my abilities and absorbed the experience like a sponge. The rehearsal room lacked the levels necessary to mimic the set design, which is frequently common, but we taped out three abutting rows to represent three levels of the set. There was no way to really rehearse the physicality of running up and down the staircases to get from room to room. That would impact the cast much later when we finally got to work on the set.

On the first day of rehearsals, I came smack up against my personal shortcomings when Sandie, the wheelchair-bound transgender actor hired to play the fairy grandmother, asked me for help to the bathroom. I stood in the stall with her, poised to assist her rise from the toilet and all that that entailed, and then defiantly  marched to the production manager’s office to complain about duties outside of my AEA contract. What a jerk.  My guilt at refusing to assist this actor in her future breaks was somewhat mitigated by my willingness to drive her home on my way to the valley, but not really. Even now, I am struck by how ill prepared I was to deal with the special circumstances of  the show. Another reality check occurred when we were first in the theatre working on the set. The set, constructed of steel, was built for the insane pace and demands of the action of the play. In the opening moments , Cliff, the boy with the green hair, was asked to scale the front of the set from the ground level to the second level. In doing so, he cut his finger on the steel (the first of many minor accidents on the set); I rushed with him to the bathroom to attend to his injury. Grabbing some paper towels, I reached for his hand. “NO!!!!!” He shouted at me. “Don’t touch my blood!” Chastened, I withdrew my hand. More gently, he told me in no uncertain terms that I did not want to have contact with his blood. Again, I was completely unprepared for such considerations.  My naivete was embarrassing.

I would never have been able to survive the production process of Bogeyman had I not had the talented and willing crew we did on the show, headed by ASM Sandy, deck crew Michael, video operator Mark, dressers Alix and Anne,  and light board operator, Jane.  Galen, the sound designer, also mixed the show, which rivaled a musical in its complexity.  Galen and I worked in the house, not the booth – poised like airport traffic controllers, Galen house left, and me house right. There were easily 400 light cues and maybe as many sound cues; calling the show was an incredible rush, unlike anything I’ve experienced before or after.  When my director friend, David Galligan, with whom I had done five years of the APLA S.T.A.G.E. benefits, came to sit in Theatre 2, he chose the seat closest to my perch on the concrete plinth house right. As the play began, he repeatedly looked up at me and  drolly  mouthed “Oh Nurse.” That was a hard show to call.

During techs, the technical director, David Mac,  and ATD, David Libow,  undoubtedly grew tired of my visits to the basement vault where the production office was, but remained assiduous in addressing the daily scenic safety modifications requested by our Equity Deputy, Tom Fitzpatrick.   At one point, there was a cast meeting where I was presented with a list of about 10 safety issues that the cast refused to perform until they were addressed and corrected. They were simple, sensible things, and the notes were taken care of promptly by Mac and David Libow. For example, each of the doors leading into the rooms of the set was the same. They had no markings to differentiate them from each other. So the actors would come crashing out of one room running up and down the stairs to their next entrances, meanwhile feverishly changing costumes in the dark and then not being able to find the appropriate doorway. Once the backs of the doors were painted white, with a descriptive phrases like Mud Room, Submarine, Hospital, etc., things looked up considerably.

At one point in the show, Michael was charged with carrying Sandi from her wheelchair at the bottom level of the stairs up to the top level so that she could appear as the Fairy Princess. The journey took place in the span of a single blackout transition.  Michael recounted to me that Reza had complete confidence in him and said something to the effect “If anyone can do it, Michael, you can.” And so he did. Imagine asking a crew member somewhere else to do that. Never would have happened.

Props Supervisor Cat Dragon provided the the many  instruments of violence that populated the play. Costume designer Marianna Elliott designed all of the extraordinary costumes, including the oversized frog costume, shed by an actor after being kissed by Juliana Francis, the blue unicorn horn that actor Tom Pearl sported, the fat suit and greasy wig worn by the raging emcee of the evening, Tom Fitzpatrick. Easier by far to supply, were the pairs of black army boots worn at the very top of the play by the naked male dancers led by Ken Roht, complete with bleached blond hair.  See some images below.

https://masslivearts.org/event/bogeyman/  

And the review.

Review – LA Times by Sylvie Drake

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