It all started with a list of notes on the Director’s desk:
-Lead blew a fuse. Needs replacement.
-Cover looks worn. Burnt out. Update to newer model.
-Jumper rusty, refresh asap.
-Female 4 bipolar. Further evaluation needed.
-Ratings too low for current needs.
-Termination tomorrow, close doors.
First let me explain the importance of “notes” in the life of a showgirl. “Notes” are when the creative higher-ups watch the show and single out the weak links in the production. Sometimes those weak links are the performers.
The Director had called for an important meeting with the cast. At the time, our performance conditions had been challenging. They were renovating our theater during the day while our show was still running at night. It wasn’t easy performing on a stage surrounded by all that construction. We expected to get more notes than usual, but we were not prepared for what the Director had in store.
One of the dancers arrived early for the meeting. No one was there yet, and she happened to come across that list of notes on the Director’s desk. Panic set in. Instead of waiting for the cast meeting, she took a picture of the list, went straight to the dressing room and reported back to us what she had read.
The dancer recited, “Lead blew a fuse. Needs replacement.”
The lead of our show was known to be a strong personality. She definitely knew what she wanted, and at times she wasn’t afraid to voice her opinion. But we all agreed that describing her as “blowing a fuse” was a little harsh. Replacing her was extreme! They never even gave me a warning. (I mean they never gave her a warning.)
The dancer continued, “Cover looks worn. Burnt out. Update to newer model.”
The “cover” the Director referred to was the understudy for the lead, a seasoned showgirl. Sure, there was some wisdom behind her eyes, but she looked amazing for her age. In fact, she was exceptionally radiant, fresh out of her latest Botox session. I would hardly call her “worn” or “burnt out.”
It’s such a harsh business. It was scary how the Director could be so cavalier with his words: “update to a newer model.” You would think she was an inanimate object, the way he spoke of her.
The blows kept coming, “Jumper rusty, refresh asap.”
The “Jumper” happened to be an amazing acrobat! Granted, she was recovering from knee surgery—all that impact takes a toll on the body after a while.
The list continued: “Female 4 bipolar. Further evaluation needed.”
“Female 4” was one of the featured female dance tracks. She couldn’t figure out how the Director found out about her bipolar disorder. She had been on medication for quite some time and managed to appear stable, especially at work!
No one understood why the Director had suddenly become so mean. He’d always had a talent for pairing constructive criticism with positive feedback. We started to think maybe he was suffering from bipolar disorder. Why the sudden change? The last two items on the list answered our question: “Ratings too low for current needs. Termination tomorrow, close doors.”
We knew ticket sales had dipped—it was risky keeping the theater open during renovations—but they were closing doors tomorrow? We had so many questions. How could they close the show right now in the middle of theater improvements? How come they didn’t tell us sooner? We were all going to be out of a job in 24 hours! It all felt like a bizarre bad dream.
The scheduled meeting with the Director couldn’t wait. We were fuming, and the cast decided to march into the Director’s office early. With no designated speaker, the Director was bombarded with a surge of voices, all shouting questions at him simultaneously. He was taken completely by surprise and was clearly overwhelmed.
The noise died down as we were interrupted by the resident electrician and his assistant. I guess no one heard them knocking amid the chaos.
"Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt. Anybody seen my checklist?” the electrician asked. “Oh, there it is. Forgot I left it here,” he said, picking up the list of notes on the Director’s desk and walking out of the office.
As he left, we heard him speaking to his assistant, “So let me read my list. Let’s start with this blown fuse …”
We found out later the Director had called a meeting to congratulate us on a job well done amid the obstacles of construction. He also wanted to deliver some good news: We were being extended by a year.
Okay, I have a confession to make: Only some of us were extended a year.