Parting Shots

Assassins closed last night after a sold-out run. For once I remembered my camera to get some photos from the final performance. This shot is from backstage at “places” – the two silhouettes in front of the flag drop are Erin Driscoll (Squeaky Fromme) and Priscilla Cuellar (Ensemble). It was always sort of eerie when we went to places – we could see the audience but they couldn’t see us, and the red, white and blue of the flag drop gave the darkened stage a strange glow. I was usually one of the first cast members at places and I always enjoyed watching everyone take their positions, after a certain amount of milling about: Mika Duncan (Guiteau) swinging his long legs as he did his stretches; Peter Joshua (Zangarra) visiting with everyone before the absolute final yes-I-mean-it-this-time call to places; Dan Felton (Ensemble/Gerald Ford), the epitome of professionalism, sitting quietly at center, ready to start. Then Jenny the ASM would flash her flashlight at us and everyone would go still as the orchestra struck up the first drumrolls of the evening.

Because there was no easy concealed access to the backstage of our set, the cast had to go to places by exiting the building through the shop door, walking down the alley alongside the building, and re-entering the building via the rehearsal room door behind the set. Umbrellas were at the ready in case it was raining, but we only had to use them a few times, and never in downpour – extraordinarily lucky. This photo is of the cast heading to places before the final matinee, a sight that always seemed to surprise the mechanics working at the garage next door.

This is my dressing room door, with “South Park”-inspired mockup of me at center (click on the photo to get a bigger view). The “admirably useful” sign on the right is from Andy Brownstein (Sam Byck), who found a French blog about the show which mentioned both of us. When translated via BabelFish, “admirably useful” was the description of our performances. We still don’t know if that was a compliment or not. The letter at the left is a long note proposing marriage from Charles Guiteau to Sara Jane Moore, penned by Mika and dropped into my purse one night during a performance. The array of business cards that cover the door are more of Mika’s work: he would drop one in my purse and give one to Tally Sessions (Leon Czolgosz) during each performance. His job titles on the cards changed after the first week: he started out as Lawyer but eventually became more and more obscure and arcane, with titles such as Prince of Pax, Propheteer and Sir Amore. Mine remained pristine since I never had a chance to look at them onstage; Tally would take his out onstage, mangle it and drop it to the floor, where it was recovered post-show by the stage crew, who got a huge kick out of them.

Something I won’t miss: my wig from the show. It was a nice wig – human hair, lace front and a nice color, but it was just a bit too small and I despised having to glue the temple area down every night. The wig also had a tendency to poof during on particularly hot and humid days (which meant most of them time) and to mat in the back where it rubbed against the collar of my costume jacket. What would start out the performance as a nice-looking head of hair would be standing out from my head at a 45-degree angle by the end of the show, regardless of how often I brushed it down. So goodbye to the wig, the attendant cursing while trying to glue it down and the rubbing and rubbing and rubbing with spirit gum remover to get the sweaty gunk off afterward. Maybe my skin will clear up soon, too.

Here’s my Cup O’ Blanks. Stage management kindly provided each of us with a coffee mug for the run of the show; since I don’t drink coffee, I used mine as a storage bin for the used cartridges from the blanks I fired onstage. I would go through them nightly and pick out the ones that hadn’t blown out as much when fired. Given to ASM Taryn, they’d be used for the Squeaky/Sara Jane scene in which I accidently dump all my bullets on the floor. Since this happened in the audience, we didn’t want live rounds to be rolling around – hence the need to hang onto a few empty cartridges from night to night. Those that had blown out the least fell out of the gun’s cylinder the best: I had one particular empty that had blown out so little that its ends were still tightly closed. I referred to it as “Mister Pinchy” and used it for nearly four weeks of the run, until one night it bounced down the house steps and disappeared under the risers. Since there was so much junk stored under the risers, Mister Pinchy was lost to me for the balance of the run. He’ll probably be found when they strike the set this week, and no doubt tossed out with the trash. Mister Pinchy, I salute you.
Here are two things I’ll miss now that the show is closed: my good buddy Stephen Gregory Smith (Balladeer /Lee Harvey Oswald) and Bradley Bowers (who was one of the two boys who played Billy). Stephen and I always have such a good time together, whatever we do – whether it’s murmuring obscenities to each other during Allegro, doing the Joe Papp dance during Elegies or singing “Someone In A Tree” during Pacific Overtures. I borrowed this photo from Stephen’s website. Assassins was my first time working with Bradley and I hope it won’t be the last – talk about an extraordinary kid. Terrific actor, incredibly focused and professional both onstage and off, and just an all-around nice person. Stephen starts work on My Fair Lady at Signature in a couple of weeks; Brad is currently appearing in An Enemy of the People at Olney. Brad, I didn’t get a chance to sign your birthday card this weekend – I hope you had a swell time. Thanks for a great time in Assassins, and best wishes for continued success to the both of you, from your pal Mrs. Mig.


  1. StephenGregorySmith

    Awww…you made me blush, then laugh…I forgot about the murmuring of obscenities…heh. HA-Ha! That is making me laugh even as I type!I’ll miss working with you too, but fortunately, I don’t have to miss it for too long!And you know that I won’t be a stranger in the meantime..oh, PS-I have to mail you your CD back…I forgot to bring it back in all the closing weekend hub-bub.Luvs ya…SGS

  2. Andy

    Wow,What a wonderful post. I’ll have to read it again when I’m not so tired. After getting up at the sacrum of dawn to go to Philly, I’m happy to report that my sister had a healthy, and quite beautiful girl named Lily Raisa.Thanks for everything, Donna. In addition to your professionalism and humor, you gave me a much-needed jolt of confidence at the start of the run–at a time when I was sh*itting in my pants every night about “Another National Anthem,” among other things–for which I will always be grateful.Hope to see you again with or without fruit.Best,Andy

  3. Donna Migliaccio

    Congratulations on your new niece, Andy! Lily is such a beautiful name.And Stephen, you had to remind me about the schmatta on the head – I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard since, except maybe last year during “The Dinosaur Musical” when the cast was prostrate after a fight scene and the director yelled “Keep acting on the floor.” I thought I’d bust a gut.

  4. stage mom

    Yup, you made me cry again, and Brad welled up.Thanks for your kind words, for the wonderful backstage glimpses I never got, and for a terrific memory page for Brad’s scrapbook!Anytime you need a kid…he’s all yours!!with love,Brad and his momp.s. Congratulations Andy!!!

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