A Peek Backstage
by Sally Ollove, Arden Literary Manager
NOTE: Best read after seeing La Bête.
At the beginning of La Bête, Elomire and Bejart have left their troupe at dinner to discuss unwelcome dinner guest, >rx Valere. Valere quickly follows. In the world of the play, the acting troupe is left alone offstage. The actors who play those characters are left in a very similar situation. Since they don’t appear in Act 1, they must amuse themselves backstage while waiting to go on. Here’s a snapshot of what I observed during the epic monologue delivered by Scott Greer.
Minute 0- I am in the greenroom next to a mound of croissants brought in by director Emmanuelle Delpech for the hard working cast. The only people I’ve seen in costume are the folks on the stage. The rest have over 50 minutes left to get ready before they are onstage.
Minute 2: I visit the women’s dressing room. Alex Keiper (Madame Du Parc) and Wendy Staton (Madame De Brie) start putting on their make-up.
Minute 3: The greenroom and dressing rooms are equipped with sound monitors so the actors can keep track of where in the play they are so they don’t miss an entrance. Since only Amanda Schoonover who plays Dorine needs to pay careful attention, the actors only half-listen. At minute 3, a huge wave of laughs comes in from the audience—the ladies look up from what they are doing, and try to figure out what caused the laugh. They are pleased for Scott. Alex and Amanda say some of the words with him, mimicking his delivery: “he turns them slowly, slowly on the spit.”
Minute 6: All the women are now busily putting on elaborate make-up. As they do, they chat about the film achievements of Samuel L. Jackson. Amanda keeps one ear on the monitor and plays games on her iPad.
Minute 9: I visit the men’s dressing room. Michael Doherty (Du Parc) is working on play he is writing. Alex Bechtel (De Brie) gets his wig on.
Minute 16: Becca Rose, the backstage dresser who helps the actors with their costumes, wanders in to the greenroom, where there is a television monitor trained on the stage. She checks where we are in Scott’s monologue: Valere is sharing his vision of a play performed in Ghent.
Minute 18: Alex Keiper checks the make-up work of Taysha Canales (Madeleine Bejart). Eye-lashes are tricky to get even, but Taysha nails it.
Minute 19: Alex Bechtel has gotten his wig on and made his way to the piano in the greenroom. He noodles around, then plays “Love Me Like the World is Ending” by Ben Lee.
Minute 20: The music attracts followers. Dito van Reigersberg (Prince Conti) dances into the greenroom, and uses a rolly chair for some dance moves. Alex Keiper, in make-up and wig cap, joins in and Dito offers her a “spin” with the rolly chair.
Minute 22: Request time from the piano player! Dito requests some gritty funk. Alex Bechtel responds with Bill Withers’s “Use Me Up,” which Dito sings.
Minute 26: Alex Keiper does a Sarah Mclachlan impression. Alex Bechtel plays some Tears for Fears, which brings Wendy to the dance party.
Minute 31: Fears that we can be heard onstage breaks up the dance party. Plus, Scott’s almost finished.
Minute 31.31: Scott finishes his monologue and gets applause, from the audience and the backstage audience. Wendy challenges Taysha to a ping-pong match. Both agree that during the course of the run of La Bête, their skill sets will probably dramatically improve. Considering the formidable skills of Arden regulars such as Scott Greer and Ian Merrill Peakes and the amount of time they have to practice, they are probably right.