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May 3, 2011

The Whirlwind Backstage – Kat Chin

Kat Chin is our assistant stage manager this year for two shows; the double bill, which includes (re)Birth: e.e. cummings in song & Window on Toronto, as well as The Aleph. Before that she worked on a number of shows with Soulpepper, such as Glengarry Glen Ross, As You Like It, The Odd Couple, and Uncle Vanya. Kat has also been involved in productions at Toronto Fringe, Summerworks, Next Stage, Stratford and the National Ballet, and takes a brief moment from the flurry of activity backstage to talk about her experience with the double bill.

Kat ChinThere is “snow” everywhere. EVERYWHERE. In the costumes, in my shoes, in the instrument cases and I have to sweep it all up at the end of every rehearsal. Despite the opportunities to discover a more efficient way of cleaning up a pound of white confetti everyday, working on the double bill is quite a treat. I can’t explain how exciting it is to be a part of the gorgeous music and poetry that is (re)Birth: E.E. Cummings in Song AND the incredible fun and whirlwind of “what just happened?” that is Window On Toronto.

I’m mesmerized by the magic of E.E. Cummings. I’ll easily admit that I’m not a big reader of poetry, but the enchantment that the ensemble weaves over the audience is something that I cannot escape. I tend to get lost in the music, sitting in the wings, waiting for my cue to move an instrument. I sing along quietly, and listen with some awe, to the ensemble that is so talented and engaging.

Sitting “backstage” in the rehearsals for Window is a sight in itself. I have no doubt that Soulpepper could sell tickets for the show that happens behind that wall. I’m sure the audience has no idea of the mayhem that occurs when eight actors race around a confined space performing quick change after quick change after quick change.  The carpentry shop made custom racks to facilitate the 289 costume pieces and 115 props in the show. On average, each actor has at least 30 costume pieces that they throw on and off to create dozens of characters. They make it seem so effortless.

The show is so funny and full of clever little moments that are over in the blink of an eye! One of my favourite bits in Window is when Trish Lindström leaps into Brendan Wall’s arms, kisses him passionately, and exclaims how much she missed him. Brendan mouths to the audience that he doesn’t know who she is and they quickly move out of view. The show continues with new customers in the window, but mere seconds later, a slap is heard, and Brendan walks by in the background, rubbing his cheek. I often wonder how many audience members will catch that brilliant little moment. I hope they all do! And I get to witness it from atop a ladder.

Window is possibly the hardest show I’ve ever had to run backstage. Due to sightlines, I have to do a lot of crawling to do handoffs and receives, to mop up water or pick up newspapers & bags and my knees are bruised and achy – and I have a new first: wearing kneepads to run my track. I admit, I do some complaining, but I wouldn’t trade working on this show for anything. You put up with a lot for shows & casts that you fall in love with.

I leave rehearsal humming “Lily Has A Rose.” There is snow in my hair.