December 22, 2021
People & Places

Waiting in the wings

South Australia revels in a rich and diverse performing arts scene. But what happens in those quiet moments before the performers step onto the stage?

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Davine Productions
Three decades of storytelling
The costumes for Beautiful were mostly owned by Davine Productions already – they’ve acquired quite the collection over the decade producer David Gauci has been presenting shows in Adelaide. Additional items were purchased in local op shops and vintage replica sites interstate and overseas. Wigs in the show were sourced from Trent Whitmore in Melbourne; David met Trent when he toured nationally with Hairspray.

In the show there are 22 wigs, more than 150 costumes and three decades of storytelling to represent. “I was mindful of the fact that the trends in USA in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s were ahead of much of the fashion we may remember in Australia for the same time,” David says.

Maya Miller (pictured on previous pages) who played Cynthia Weil, says being backstage during this show was almost as much fun as being on the stage itself.

Becoming the character
“Wigs and costumes have a powerful way of embodying a character,” says actor Michaela Gauci, who played Lucille in the production. “They can tell you so much about how a character moves, talks and carries themselves.”

A dream role
While preparing to become Carole King – a dream role, she says – Jemma McCulloch devoured Carole’s autobiography and watched countless performances and interviews. Jemma stepped on stage each day well prepared.

“I like to do my make up at home, listening to Carole King herself to start to get into character,” she says. “Then I drive to the theatre singing the entire show – just to make sure I remember the words!”

Jemma found herself furiously changing in the wings at one point in the show, when a change of outfit and wig had to be completed in just 20 seconds.

ASO Classics Unwrapped
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Conductor Guy Noble likes to prepare for a concert by getting a feel for the music. “I tend to listen to a few different versions, look at the score and work out the essence of the piece,” Guy says. “There is a certain point where the music goes into your subconscious. If you wake up humming it, that’s a good thing.”

There’s one particular superstition Guy follows – he always checks his fly before stepping on stage. “There was one occasion when I came off stage and realised to my horror that my fly was down for the entire concert.

“Of course, this is where being a conductor is a good thing, as your back is mostly spent towards the audience. But not so good for the orchestra.”

When he’s side of stage, Guy says he’s quite relaxed. “But as a pianist if you told me I had to go out and play a Beethoven concerto from memory, there is a possibility I would break my arm to get out of it.

“The players really do the heavy lifting in a concert – playing all those notes, while we wave our arms in pretty patterns. I shouldn’t say it, but conducting is easier in comparison.”

I Wish…
Patch Theatre and Gravity & Other Myths
“I Wish… is the fourth show Darcy and I have worked on together. I couldn’t co-direct a show with just anyone, for true collaboration to happen, you need to ask questions and challenge ideas. We work well creatively because we understand that you need the mini-community around you, to operate as a tight ensemble where everyone has input.” Geoff Cobham, Artistic Director of Patch Theatre

“The events of the past year and the impact of that on the arts industry, has seen more theatre companies creating together and sharing knowledge and resources to produce work that reaches a more diverse audience. It works between Patch and GOM, because we understand that it’s not only Geoff and I who contribute creatively, we need everyone from the performers, through to the designers, technical designers and composers, they’re all ‘makers’, everyone has ownership of the work.” Darcy Grant, Creative Lead at Gravity & Other Myths

Adelaide Tonight
Adelaide Cabaret Festival

As Anne “Willsy” Wills is preparing for any show, she ensures she has one important element covered. “I do make sure I have a spare pair of earrings in my bra in case one breaks on stage,” says Willsy.

During the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June, Willsy was part of show Adelaide Tonight, with Mark Trevorrow – aka Bob Downe. The two personalities shared a dressing room with Trevor Ashley, who played Liza Minnelli, and Willsy’s sister Sue.

They’d begin getting ready from 4.30pm and the laughter would start the moment they stepped through the door until they ventured into The Famous Spiegeltent. “I would have to say it was the most joyous backstage feeling I’ve ever had,” Willsy says.

“I’m always so excited to be entertaining people that I am always bursting at the seams to get on stage and start the show.”

As for Mark, warm up is about simple calisthenics and Bach’s Wildflower Rescue Remedy drops.

The Naked Artist
Adelaide Cabaret Festival
“I still get butterflies and nerves before I step on stage, so in order to calm myself down and focus, I stretch my muscles and meditate my mind with deep breathing techniques,” says Brent Ray Fraser, The Naked Artist.

“And just before I step on stage, I warm my body up physically with push-ups to get the endorphins flowing.

“To charge my energy before I step on stage, I always applaud myself with a few light claps while quietly cheering ‘whoo hoo!’ to myself.”

Most of Brent’s work is done before the performance, with the canvases he paints primed and treated with a special glaze, ready for his brush, which also happens to be his penis.

The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race
State Theatre Company
“The moment before stepping out on stage is such a thrilling time – it’s awash with adrenaline and nerves.

“I try to steady myself with a few deep breaths and imagining where my character is and what is happening in the moment just before the scene begins. I think about what it is that my character wants out of these next few minutes of her life … and then I go out there and try to achieve that quest for her.” Anna Steen, actor.


This article first appeared in the September 2021 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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