Backstage at CCPA is our behind-the-scenes blog. Contributors are students, faculty, and members of our community.
Joscelyne Tamburri tells us about her experiences as a Year II student, from the classroom to the stage.
Maybe not quite what I was expecting when I think of being a “star”, but a girl’s gotta start somewhere. One of our costume changes near the end of the show sees us portraying stars in the heavens. We are dressed in dark morph suits with over 120, hand sewn, battery operated fibre optic lights.
Although we have a second bodysuit underneath to keep the scratchy lights away from our skin, this costume did come with a warning. Being a outdoor show, when it rains we are told to keep the dance number under the proscenium / arch overhang to avoid the risk of getting electrocuted. Talk about lighting up the stage.
Props and intricate costumes can take some getting used to and these ones are no exception to that rule. These outfits were interesting to move in at first and we ended up refitting everyone’s suits to make them less bulky. All of the lights were secured a second time with plastic clips and even with the extra lining it was quite scratchy. The clips prevented the lights from popping off with the movement, but if we bump into each other just right the clips tangle together and we are literally stars aligned.
As we set up in the dark, waiting for our cues, I like to think of us as shadow dancers. Then it’s time to switch on the lights. I’m told it’s quite a beautiful and moving picture, for the audience. For us dancers, it’s a little more of complicated. Between the dark stage lighting, the fog machines, and the glow of our starry suits, we can barely see the edge of the stage or anyone else. Because of this we actually had to change the choreography, a few times… We had blocked a separate lift sequence for each of the six pairs of dancers, but due to the literal flight risk off the stage, we had to simplify the difficulty of the lifts. One of the pairs did manage to sneak in the ‘Dirty Dancing’ lift which was really cool, but the rest of us keep to the safer ballet “fish” lifts. The audience will never know that difference, but I do miss my iron cross lift. As we sing “If you reach for the heavens, you get the stars thrown in”, I suppose I’m just glad our partners are not throwing the stars into the audience. Afterall, Mary repeatedly sings “Anything Can Happen” in this number.
Speaking of stars, I have been lucky to enough to work on some other great projects this summer with some “stars” from TV and film. I have been keeping extra busy on my days off getting to learn a bit more about the industry through the lens of a background actor. I have worked on a few movies; including one called ‘To all the boys I loved before’ where I sweated my lady parts off pretending it was winter when it was really 32 degrees out. Another job was a Nickelodeon produced film called ’Inside Voice’ which turned out to be one of my favourite experiences. It had the best cast and crew, I was selected for a few featured spots, I was paid union day rates (I not officially a union card holder, yet) and an important perk, the food on set was especially tasty. I also booked a number of days on Amazon Prime’s ‘Man in the High Castle’ where I played a daughter of the SS in a historical dystopian society piece set in an alternate reality. I was blown away when I was sent to Wardrobe, hair and makeup days before the shoot and walked into a huge warehouse full of authentic vintage clothing from the 1940’s. And the period hairstyles done by the hair and makeup team were amazing; no expense was spared, no details overlooked. It was like walking back in time and a little unnerving to see men in full German military garb walking past and to have to attend a training session on how to present an authentic “Heil Hitler”. So surreal.
My time on the set of the Supergirl series was a lot more light-hearted. Supergirl and her co-stars are super kind and nice, the day was full of the magic of Hollywood North. It was interesting to learn that a lot of the special effects can be done post-production. We were set up for a scene with a bomb explosion. I kept thinking it was going to be pyrotechnics and loud noises but we all just had to ‘react” to the direction yelling “BANG”. Very cost effective. There were some amazing stunt actors working on set though and I thought their fight scene was real until I realized the fight had stopped because the Director had yelled ‘Cut’. Good job guys – so realistic!
I did a handful of other movie & show work, but my most thrilling experience on set this summer has to be my time on the TV series Riverdale. Even though I was on the clock for 8 hours, of which only 30 minutes of it was actually on set, which will probably result in at most 30 seconds of screen time, it was so worth it! I’m a bit of a super fan of the show and my character worked right next to one of the shows main actors. As with all film work, everything is to be kept confidential, so I can’t divulge what the scene was about, but I won’t soon forget my few minutes in Pop’s diner, and how delicious my Cherry sundae was! I can’t wait for the new season to start.
I’ve learned so much this summer, both on the stage on on film, and I can’t wait to learn even more. Every opportunity I get to meet people or perform in some capacity is another chance to learn and grow. And if I’ve learned anything it is that there is a little star in each and every experience, and in every one of us.
Until next time friends, stay classy and sassy.