I had been in Hollywood for about six months when I saw an audition for dancers in the Drama Logue. Drama Logue was an industry publication that would list open-call auditions. Everyone looked in that paper for auditions. It has since been bought out by Back Stage. It was for a live dance show at Universal Studios Theme Park and the auditions were held at the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio in North Hollywood, not far from where I live now. The studio is still up and running.
I didn’t know what show it was or anything about it. I just showed up, did the routine and got the gig. It turns out it was for the show “American Tail: Feivel Goes West.” Okay, I had no idea what this movie was. If you don’t know either, it’s an animated movie by Steven Spielberg about these mice that come from Minsk and move to Green River, which apparently is somewhere in the west. It’s the sequel to “American Tail.” Feivel is the little mouse, and he and his family move west but get trapped by a big cat or something like that. I’m still a little unclear on the story line. To this day I have not watched the movie.
Another thing I didn’t know was that it was a “character” show, which means we had to wear giant mouse costumes and dance in them. I played Feivel’s mother because I reek of maternal instinct. The costumes were heavy and the heads were huge. The eye hole that I looked out of was actually the mouse’s mouth. The giant heads had a little helmet inside which they had to enlarge for me. I have a big head. The body part was made out of thick material that you wore like a dress but it had a giant hoop in it. Then we attached these fuzzy gloves that covered your arms and fuzzy feet that we attached to our sneakers with Velcro. There were 12 mice in the show including cowboys and can-can dancers and a giant cat that was worked by puppeteers backstage. Doesn’t that sound like a show you’d like to be in the front row for?
The director of the show, Barbara Epstein, took this show so freaking seriously it was just silly. She wanted us to “create our characters” and the let the emotions of our characters come through. What did they go through on their journey from Minsk? What were they feeling? Was it a difficult journey? I’m not kidding, she told us to do this like we were in the Lee Strasberg Institute of method acting. GET A GRIP LADY, IT’S A THEME PARK AND I’M A GIANT MOUSE.
It was a pretty fun job for the most part. The audience was made up of kids and parents, and kids make funny audience members. They would get so excited to see Feivel, they would practically shit themselves. Well, they were probably doing that anyway. We would have to do “meet and greets” with them after the show, and sometimes they were really cute. Other times I just couldn’t deal with their bullshit and I’d run back to the trailer before they could get to me.
We would do between 4 and 8 shows a day depending on how busy the park was and the season. Summer was brutal. Dancing in those costumes in 90 and 100 degree weather and doing 8 shows a day wasn’t easy, even though the shows were only about 20 minutes long. But hey, I did it for the kids. Okay, I did it for the paycheck. Fuck the kids 🙂
*More Universal stories to come….
(just to be clear, I’m the one on the right in the picture…the one on the left is my friend who now lives half way around the world. Hey girl, miss you! )