Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Costumeless in a Costume Drama

Okay, while I was working away on revisions this summer, I was also in a production. Not just any production, either, but the first production ever in the new Dayton Theatre Guild location—Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

First of all, everyone thought I was crazy auditioning for a show when I had the book due, but it actually turned out to be the perfect balance. I have a small, but juicy role, so it didn’t require too much extra time, and being a part of the cast kept me from being a total hermit when I got into the final push on the book. I could rise early, write all day, then shower and go interact with people in the evening. It was the perfect way to “get out of my head,” plus the cast is a great, fun group of people.

The Dayton Theatre Guild is an amazing organization. After having been in their rinky-dink location on Salem Avenue for years, they finally moved! They bought the Dayton Gym Club and began transforming it into a theatre. This made our production a little nervewracking. I’ve never been rehearsing a show while the theatre is being built around us (that is not an exaggeration).

More on that later, but first, a bit about my role...I’ve developed a bit of a reputation at the Guild, for appearing scantily clad. It happened slowly—a revealing pageant outfit in The Miss Firecracker Contest, a rush to answer a phone wrapped only in a towel in Belles, a leather dominatrix get up in Communicating Doors...it got to the point that when I tell my sister I’m cast in something, she asks, “Do you keep your clothes on this time?”

When she asked me that about Liaisons, I had to answer, “Um, well, no I do not.” Here I am, cast in this magnificent costume drama...and my character doesn’t wear one! I play Emilie, a courtesan, and in my first scene, I wear only a bedsheet...and lots and lots of jewelry. The main character, Valmont, uses my bare back as a desk to write a letter to another woman.

I’m thrilled, though, that in my second scene I get the full 1780’s regalia, complete with custom-made corset and pannier.

A word about corsets. Oh my. No wonder those poor women fainted all the time! I have a love-hate relationship with my corset. It makes my waist look three inches around, it lifts my boobs up under my chin, and it makes my posture regal...but whew, it’s hard to draw deep breath and it wreaks havoc on your stomach. How we suffer for our beauty...

The panniers are another matter. They make a woman take up three times as much room as a man. They make it impossible to put your arms at your sides. And navigating a room of women backstage all wearing them makes me think of bumper cars.

So, as opening night approached, it became a daily discovery to walk in and see what state the building was in. We were navigating our enormous costumes through dry wall dust and wet paint, but I’m happy to report that all went well. We opened to wonderful reviews and receptive audiences. You can read our Dayton Daily News review, our City Paper review, and our Oakwood Register review. A few highlights: Russell Florence said of me, “...and the delightful Katrina Kittle whose portrayal of courtesan Emilie is so saucy that even her legs become a character all their own.”

Burt Saidel joked about my bedsheet scene being a “money saver” for the new building: “Perhaps one scene was meant to save money. Beautiful Katrina Kittle was a lively courtesan clothed only in a strategically placed bed sheet. How much more could have been saved by eliminating the sheet?” Only Burt could make that seem charming, instead of lecherous!

And my favorite “review” came from a patron on opening night who stopped me in the lobby and said, “Where can I get a desk like that?”

That made me smile...but I do wonder if I’ll ever be cast in a show that allows me to be fully costumed the entire running time?

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