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  • Writer's pictureCeslie Parker-Waller

Dreamgirls Wrap-Up and What's Next

Dear Reader,

I'm back! Where does the time go? After my time in Lancaster, PA at The Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre this past May, I returned to Kansas City and immediately went into rehearsals for Dreamgirls at New Theatre & Restaurant.

This was my first time ever taking on a swing role in a production and to be be quite frank, I was shaking in my boots. Yes, I have understudied before and added parts of another track to my own days before we opened, but learning on 5 tracks instead of just 1? Now, this was going to be totally different.

This was bows during the first show I had to swing on for. (Costumes: Georgianna Londré)

I remember sitting in the rehearsal hall waiting for the rehearsal full run to begin (the cast had already had 2 weeks of rehearsal while I was shaking my hips in PA) and prepared to follow each of the female ensemble and notate their individual tracks. If only it were that simple! My first day of rehearsal and our Effie had to miss a bit of the morning rehearsal, but would be back. I was going to have to step in for one of my tracks as that ensemble member would be putting her understudying to the test for Effie. I would give anything to have seen the look on my face as I was approached to step in for the track that run, having no idea of staging and asking the other ensemble members in the wings what I needed to do next.

Of course, it went just fine. I hit cntrl + s the best I could with all the information given to me and did the thing. Our Effie came in later that afternoon and I was able to go back to my perch and catch up on all my notetaking as the run continued. Even though this was a very lowstake situation, I knew I would be going home that night and learn this show front and back.

Any swing can tell you that there are three important things when it comes to fulfilling your role.

Firstly, stay organized! Color coding my script on notability and making tracking sheets for each track became my bread and butter. I cannot express the relief I felt each time when I was able to rely on them for both rehearsing at home and backstage/in the dressing room.

Just a preview to my note-taking

Secondly, find security and validation within yourself for your work and performance. As swings and understudies, there can be times where you do not get recognition for the immense amount of work you do and the flexibility and preparedness you inhabit. It can be really exhausting if you are seeking these things from others and not from within yourself. This isn't to say that every time you take on a swing/understudy role it will happen, but it is important to note that it does. In an industry full of rejection and subsequent feelings of not feeling good enough, you have to really trust in yourself, the work you put in, and the talent you possess and show up for yourself when others may not.

Thirdly, and I cannot express this one enough, stay ready so you don't have to get ready (thank you, RuPaul). The stress dreams I've had since I began doing theatre as a little munchkin where I am thrust into a show on opening night and know NOTHING continually contribute to my motivation in knowing the material the best of my ability. I do not need the trauma of being so out of order that even the audience can tell I have royally messed up.

We opened the show and it wasn't long before I got called in to cover my first track. I was a bundle of emotions, but knew that there wasn't anything to do, but to do it.

Cast photo with our choreographer Courtney Germany

And. I. Did. It.

During this run, I got to go onstage for each of the 5 tracks I was assigned. I really enjoyed myself and gained so much trust and respect and awe for myself. To say I was intimidated of the responsibilities that come with being a swing would be an understatement. I would even go as far to say that I am still quite intimidated.

But, I still did it. (-:

Now that Dreamgirls is closed, I can look back on my experience with immense joy and pride. I went on for 21 of the 79 scheduled shows. I excelled the expectations (and anxieties) of myself and proved that I need to start dreaming bigger! I remain grateful to this talented, beautiful, all-black black cast (and Jordan, haha) and to the lovely creative team for all the support and spectacular work they do.

So, what's next?

Well, I will be traveling back to Louisa, KY for Little Shop of Horrors at Mountain Movers Theatre for the Halloween slot as Chiffon.

Then, I will have a little time off before going to Fort Myers, FL to reprise my role as Betty/Ensemble in an updated version of Elvis: A Music Revolution starting around Christmas time into February of the new year.

Thank you for following my journey thus far and be sure to check my instagram for what I'm currently up to!

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