Cat’s Eye View of Backstage
August 27, 2013
Prrrrrrrrup? Calling all theatre kittens (and humans, too). Let’s prrrrrrrowl around backstage, shall we? We’ll start in the auditorium where the audience sits (both those words come from a word meaning hearing, although everybody’s seeing, too). As Sir said last month, in the theatre, that’s called ‘the house.’ Just follow me down this aisle to the pass door.
Mrrrrrrow!!!! I always have to mrrrrow at the pass door, because I can’t open it myself. Oh! Thank you. The pass door takes us from the front of the house to backstage. Sometimes part of the play happens in the aisles out in the house, and the actors go through the pass door to get back onstage. Other times it’s just for getting back and forth easily, the way we’re doing. Now, follow me up these stairs…
Now we’re in the wings. When theatre kittens first hear about the wings, they look around for birds, but these wings have nothing to do with birds, except that there is one on either side of the stage, so they’re sort of like two bird wings on the big bird that is the stage. If you were in the audience, you wouldn’t be able to see into the wings, but there’s a lot going on back here during a performance!
Actors wait back here, it’s called ‘waiting in the wings.’ That phrase is used a lot, even outside the theatre, to mean someone who is ready to do something but isn’t needed quite yet. Not just actors are here, and it’s not all just waiting, though! The stage manager stays in the wings during a performance, making sure everything happens just the way the director wants it. That is a very imporrrrrrtant job.
There are a lot of people who make sure the stage looks just right. They’re called stage hands or crew, and they take props and scenery onstage and offstage. Come back further, behind the stage. See all those pulleys and ropes and weights? They help the crew raise and lower the drops (sometimes called backdrops). Those are like huge canvas curtains that have scenery painted on them. They help make the stage look like the place it’s supposed to in the play — maybe it’s a room in a house, or a park, or even a city street at night. All that gets painted onto a drop, and dropped down at the right time. So being part of the crew is very important, too!
In old theatres, there used to be a catwalk up, up, up where the audience couldn’t see. It didn’t have cats walking on it, although it would be a purrrrrrfect place for a cat. It was a narrow walkway for the crew to be able to work the drops. Now it’s all done mechanically, and people don’t have to be up on that high, narrow place. I think it would have been fun to be up there, looking down on everything.
Behind all this, and sometimes even upstairs, there are dressing rooms where the actors put on their costumes and makeup. There are tables with big mirrors, and the mirrors are surrounded by many lightbulbs, so the actors can see properly to get their faces made up just right. There are a lot of things on those tables that look like great things for a cat to swat at and play with, but the actors don’t like it when their makeup gets knocked over! So I have to make sure theatre kittens look but don’t touch when they’re prrrrrrowling around in the dressing rooms. We bring the actors good luck, so they like to have us there, really.
It’s nearly time for the actors to go on stage, so it’s time for me to skedaddle — Sir and I will show you about the stage next time.
Have you ever been backstage? What was it like? Purrrrrhaps you’ll tell me about it in the comments.