Out of "The Woods"

Into the Woods at Signature closed last night, after a short but successful sold-out run. The only downside was the inclement weather which kept many audience members at home – we had about half an house for the matinee; perhaps three-quarters for the final performance. It’s always distressing when that happens.

The photo at right is my costume “hat” for the show – a large, striped mob cap with red curls stitched inside. It was airy and comfortable, and I didn’t have to wear a wig. I’ll miss that hat.

What I won’t miss: my “death hat.”

My character received a fatal bonk on the head from the Prince’s Steward about twenty minutes into the second act. Since the director wanted it to be a bloody death, we had to come up with a way to produce blood from my head. After several attempts, we discovered the best way to achieve the effect was to pin the blood pack (a cheap plastic bag, filled with stage blood and knotted off) inside a second hat which was constructed specifically for the effect. After the opening of the second act, I would go back to my dressing room, take off the first hat, put on a shower cap (to protect my pincurled hair from the stage blood) and then put on the “death hat.” When the Steward hit me, I’d fall to the floor, clutching my head, and squeeze the blood pack until it burst. The stage blood would soak through the hat and onto my hand, which made for a suitably gory death.

Since the death hat had to be laundered after each show, the red curls were attached via snaps so they could be removed before the hat went into the wash. For some reason the death hat wasn’t as well constructed as the main hat – it had a definite list to starboard, it lacked any of the netting that gave the original hat an upright and jaunty air, the elastic inside it was very tight, and the curls were a lighter red than the original, so it looked (to me, at least) as if Jack’s Mother had gone off and gotten her hair colored prior to her death. I was assured that no one could tell from the audience, but it drove a detail freak like me crazy. It was the very devil to put on, it always looked lopsided and wan, and after repeated washings, the hat looked much the worse for wear. I was grateful to throw it into the “blood bucket” after the final performance.

Other things that I WILL miss from the Woods:

The “egg game” I played most nights with Production Assistant Jennifer Mott. I exited the stage after the second act opener carrying a fake chicken and a basket of golden eggs. Over time, Jen and I developed an ongoing “thing” where she would try to beg an egg from me and I’d refuse. One night I slipped a candy egg into my pocket and grudgingly gave that to her in lieu of a golden egg. Shortly afterwards, she removed one of the golden eggs from the basket, and I would find photos of the egg in various environments at my station, with a note explaining where the runaway egg was and what it had been doing. I continued to pass her various eggs during the run (some Easter eggs, a Silly Putty egg, an egg filled with bath soap) and she continued to leave the photos and the notes – but we never discussed what we were doing nor acknowledged it in any way. Closing night I gave her a large metal egg with a windup chick inside it; she gave me the errant golden egg and a pretty ceramic birdhouse (in the shape of a chicken). Thanks, Jen.

I’ll also miss hanging with the M.O.B. (Mean Old Broads):
Dana Krueger, Channez McQuay and I had a bang-up time sharing a dressing room, many between-show meals and waaaaay too many catty remarks. I haven’t had so many good laughs backstage in a long time. Thanks, ladies.

I’ll miss the cast of Crave, which came in shortly after we opened and is running through April 1st in Signature’s “Ark” Theatre. Considering the subject matter of their show, the Crave company is remarkably funny, kind and generous. I forgive them for being finished with their evening before ours was even half over, and for their whooping cocktail parties in their dressing room (yes, I admit it – I was jealous). After their show was down last night, they knocked the sand out of their clothes and hair and came around to wish us a happy closing night (note the wine glasses). Thanks, friends – hope the balance of your run is as happy as our was.

I’ll miss Stevie Cupo, who goes in for his second round of chemo starting today. He had his first round midway through the run, missed a week of performances and then came back to complete the run. He was often tired and nauseated, but he pulled through like a champ. Kisses, prayers and all good wishes to you, my friend.

And of course, I’ll miss my “son” and good pal Stephen Gregory Smith. Stephen is always such a good sport, even when I had to whale on his backside or smack his face or yank him around (all part of the show, of course, although he’d probably be just as amenable if I had to do it in real life). It’s always a blessing to work with someone you like, but to work with someone you like who’s also a conscientious, gifted and energetic actor (and who has the same weird sense of humor as you do) is like a gift from God. Thanks, Stephen – have fun at Ford’s.


  1. Anonymous

    Hmmm. I’m not at all sure you should call the conversations with you, Dana, and Shannez “catty.” Given the perpetrators, perhaps leonine or leopardish would be a more appropriate adjective. If only there were tapes for the national archives….

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