Tag Archives: theatre

Lil’ Disasters! Occurring In: Theaters

Jana: Here’s something new for the cheap seats in the back: A segment called “Lil’ Disasters”! In these posts, Cath and I will tell mini stories of times that we have embarrassed ourselves horrifically, but in small ways. Today, enjoy some individual moments in my life when I’ve walked away from a situation thinking “Jesus I wish I were dead.” 

In the inaugural edition, let’s talk about my acting career, shall we?

1993, The Beginning

In the third grade, my class did a play for the first time. As soon as the activity was announced, I felt something stirring in me and knew that this was my destiny. Then, I got the lead! The play was called “Daniel, Servant of the Lord,” and I was playing DANIEL. Yesss. I didn’t even notice that this was customarily a part for a boy! When the time for dress rehearsal finally arrived, I donned my tunic and tights with nervous excitement.

During that rehearsal, I was feeling PRETTY great about myself and my future as a gender-ambiguous actress. I had to go to the bathroom, though, so I left the auditorium in costume and headed downstairs. As I rushed down the top step, I saw the school receptionist heading up the stairs towards me.

“How are rehearsals going?” She asked, catching me off guard.

“Oh, great!” I managed to choke out.

Then, my tight-clad feet slipped out from under me, and I fell down the ENTIRE flight of stairs. Aside from sheer, body-wracking embarrassment, I don’t actually remember what happened next; all I know is that I avoided that receptionist at all costs for the entirety of my 5 remaining years at the school.

2005, The College Years

During one of the first rehearsals for the musical “Hair” that Cathy and I both had minor roles in our sophomore year of college, we were rehearsing a racy dance number, “Hashish”. The intimidating director was teaching us some choreography, and he placed me in contact with my crush, Peter. Peter was a junior, and I believed him to maybe BE the funniest person I’d ever met. I was thrilled that he’d have to touch me, which I expressed by looking at the floor and scratching the back of my neck. 

Unfortunately, on the day of this rehearsal I had chosen to wear my favorite workout pants. Like all of my favorite things, they were 90s-esque, with an elastic waist. During one dance move, Peter had to lift me up (YES!). BUT. The pants were so loose! Peter grabbed my waist. BOYFRIEND!, I thought. One second later, I felt my pants slide down. Like, all the way down, so that my underwear was exposed to not only Peter, but the entire cast of people I was hoping to impress. THE CLINCHER: My underwear had been purchased at American Eagle, and it was decorated with “school” phrases, like “To do: Homework!”, and little lists that read: “Field Hockey Practice, Math, TV!” 

Everyone laughed at me, I tried to be like “Ha, who doesn’t love American Eagle?”, and rehearsal continued. Shockingly, Peter never became my boyfriend.

This is what I ended up looking like in the real production of “Hair”. HELP THESE PANTS DON’T FIT ME, I wish I had been screaming. As I mentioned, Peter and I never dated.

2009, On The Downslide

Right after college, no longer an actress but still “wanting to be involved,” I worked as a House Manager at a local theater. One morning, I got dressed in what I deemed to be a classy, adult outfit – consisting of a strapless black top and a cardigan – and headed to work, where it was my job to instruct the volunteer ushers.

The ushers who showed up on this particular day were a man and woman in their late sixties. I gave them some little job to do, like picking up trash in the empty auditorium, and headed to the supply room to get the box of Kit Kits we’d sell at intermission. I leaned down and hoisted the box up into my arms. Easy breezy! Then I returned to the ushers. Like a professional, I instructed them to do another task. As I talked, I noticed they were looking at me with pained faces, as if they were being tortured but had yelled at to be cool about it. What a weird couple! I thought, but I didn’t let it get to me. I made some generic joke like, “Don’t get lost now!”, and sent them on their way. I was KILLIN IT. 

Confidently, I went to check in with the box office attendant. “Jana, oh my god,” she said. “Jana. Your shirt is off! I can see your whole bra! Oh my god!” She gestured wildly towards my chest. I looked down: BOOBS. The strapless black tank top was now just hovering underneath my completely exposed bra. The fucking Kit Kats! The strapless top hadn’t been able to maintain its position under the weight of the concessions! AHH NOO THE USHERRRS.

To my credit, I shimmied my shirt back into position and continued instructing the ushers as if they hadn’t just almost gotten to second base with me. To their credit, they didn’t complain to the theater that their House Manager had exposed herself while on the job. It was a win-win, if you think about it some way other than the way I think about it.

That’s all for today! I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of “Lil’ Disasters”! Don’t worry, there are more to come – lil’ disasters happen in my life every day.

Catherine: JANA YOU ARE A DELIGHTFUL TREASURE TROVE OF HUMILIATIONS. I love the image of your “tight-clad feet” giving way under you, sending you tumbling down the stairs, your bobby pins breaking free and dispersing wildly.

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What I Did For Love (of weird theater, and in the pursuit of completely unattainable dreams)

Jana: Aright guys, huddle up. I’ve been watching a lot of “Friday Night Lights” lately, but what I really want to talk about today is the series of weird plays that I was in during my college years. Please enjoy.

THE GAS HEART

The Gas Heart is a “Dada” play. “Dada-ism”, which I don’t really actually know anything about, is a form of art in which nothing means anything. The play “The Gas Heart” is just six characters (character names: Mouth, Ear, Eye, Nose, Neck, and Eyebrow) talking complete nonsense. Really. They talk, but they don’t actually SAY anything, at all. This is huge amounts of fun for the audience! I played Eyebrow, and the director conceived of my character as a mental patient, in a straight jacket. My lines were uttered while pacing and shaking back and forth.

“Eyebrow”

It was the first part I got in college, and my proud parents drove to Vermont all the way from Boston to see the show. They weren’t, in the end, that glad that they had come. Luckily, they’d had lots of experience sitting through really terrible productions I’d been a part of, so it wasn’t a NEW bad experience, just ANOTHER one.

THE MEASURES TAKEN

The Measures Taken was the one act play I was cast in the following year. This, too, was mostly people saying things that didn’t mean anything. Except that this one had an underlying theme, which I believe had to do with the right of the common worker. I THINK this was the point of one montage in which one of the (white) cast members wore a coolie hat and acted out a conflict in a factory of some sort; however, I can’t be sure.

Mostly what I understood about the play was that I was dressed in all black, usually crawling around the stage, and always speaking in unison. There were four “leaders” who also carried long sticks, which must have symbolized their power.

Wisely, that year my father stayed home. My mother, though, trekked three and a half hours to sit there and again be perplexed and, undoubtedly, pissed off.

THE BOOB PLAYS AHH NOW WE’RE REALLY GETTING INTO IT

Ok Guys. So, yes: in college I was in not one, but TWO, plays in which I was topless or half-topless for a number of minutes at a time. This is a weird thing about me. It’s a thing that I now look back on and think: What? That was weird Jana. That was really weird. But it happened, and one day I’ll tell my grandchildren about it and they will either think I’m badass or be totally grossed out (definitely the latter, of course).

It all started with a play called “La Ronde”. “La Ronde” is entirely about sex, and when it was first produced in Germany way back in a different time it was incredibly scandalous. It starts with one couple who has sex, and then the next scene is the dude from that couple and a new lady, and the scene after that is that same lady and a new dude, all the way until we’re back with the first lady again. The circle. You understand.

I was cast as lady #1: luckily, Lady #1 did not have a name other than “Prostitute”. Now, you should know that this was the first big lead I’d had in college, and actually the first lead I’d had since my shining moment as “Peter” in “Peter Pan” way back in the 8th grade. So, naturally, I was excited and proud! I saw the cast list, FREAKED OUT, and called my mom right away. Prostitute! I’ll be playing the Prostitute! What? Oh yeah, she does have to get naked, is dad home so I can share the news?

So, there it was. In the final scene, for no actual reason that I am now, in hindsight, able to discern, my character let go of the blanket she was clutching, spent one to two minutes topless in front of full audiences, and then found her nightgown hanging on the bedpost and pulled it over her head. On opening night I was very nervous, and when at last the moment came to dress myself the nightgown seemed to be just a pile of fabric, and it took me what seemed like YEARS to find the opening that I could pull over my poor, naked head. As a result, I ended up topless for three to four minutes while I searched for it. This was really uncomfortable for, I’m sure, everyone.

The rest of the run went smoothly. My parents came, many other people came, we got decent reviews, and most people I went to college with have seen my boobs.

Here I am backstage, in my Prostitute costume. That red thing around my neck is a “Ho band”, which ladies of the night used to wear so that dudes knew what kind of ladies they were.

But Jana, you may be thinking, didn’t you say you were in TWO plays in which you showed your boobs to strangers? Well, reader, I did. The kicker here is that in the second play I only showed ONE boob. Which at that point, I was like, one? Oh sure. Right or left? Whichever. Who wants to get lunch after this?

But seriously, I was cast as the first female actress on the English stage in the 1600s, and in one scene she gets her portrait painted, and the painter says that nobody’ll believe she’s really a lady unless she shows a tit (actual dialogue). So then she opens up the corset that the costume department designed specifically for this moment, and literally takes out one tit so that she can be forever remembered that way. And of course, when I’ve been saying “she”, I’ve been meaning me, me right here, this is what I did.

My parents are great people. They did not make too many jokes when I again called with the news that: I got the lead! What? Yeah she does but just one this time!. They came and supported me. There was talk, of course, amongst the theater department, that I was being typecast as the girl willing to show one or both of her boobs onstage. We laughed! Just college, kids doin whatever they have to do for their art because later they will definitely work in that field. You know how it goes.

Here I am in my specially designed for one-boob-display costume. Although I would never have admitted it, I think the photographer captured the strain I must have been feeling from all of this toplessness.

So there you have it. And when I say “There you have it,” I don’t mean that I have now given you the complete story of the weird plays that I have been in – oh no. I simply mean, that’s all that I will tell you for today, because I have to go watch another episode of Friday Night Lights.

Catherine: First off, I want to commend the Jana for watching FNL – it is the best show ever, and the fact that Tim Riggins isn’t “real” or “into me” will always depress me.

Oh, RTT… the memories. The happiness, the massive destruction, the forgetting lines on stage. Memories, people. Here I am, looking wonderful backstage, in Jana’s first boobydebut. I would like to add that Jana and I tried, really tried to lose weight for this damn show so we wouldn’t frighten people with our bodies. It didn’t work, but even if it had, with faces like this (see below) I don’t think it would have mattered much/at all.

Additionally, I would like to add that I assistant directed on Jana’s second booby show, and that that moment of the show was just SO FUNNY and if I could speak with the playwright I would be all like, … why did you put that moment in there? It is so weird. And so is like, a lot of what is happening (ie – one character descends from the SKY in a chariot, completely naked, covered by a shield thing?)

This, from a backstage series of photos. Clearly, I was unstable.
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