THIS FAT OLD LADY’S THEATER TUESDAY – ALLERGY SEASON

How does a performer get through allergy season? 

With a lot of careful planning.

The sneezing, coughing, runny nose season is not for the faint of heart when you are a performer. 

You can put those symptoms on hold while you are performing by popping a Benadryl – or three.

On the upside – no sneezing, coughing and (especially) runny nose.  On the downside – it makes you soooooo sleepy and while it’s drying up all that snot – it’s drying out everything else too.  Dry throat is not fun (or good for your throat). 

And sometimes, you don’t get to fend off the symptoms – sometimes that pollen, dust or whatever just sneaks up your nose mid-performance. 

Now, you have a problem.

In the good old days (which being a fat OLD lady, I remember clearly – okay, maybe fuzzily), we didn’t have to worry about body mics.  So if you had to suck down or snort up some snot, you just turned away from the audience, or waited for a loud bit and sucked and snorted away – you didn’t even have to turn away from the audience.  If you felt a cough coming on, you could clear your throat all you wanted or needed to – as long as there was other noise to cover you up.  If you had to sneeze (the worst), you could turn upstage and do your “business”, with the audience generally none the wiser.

Nowadays, you have body mics that pick up the sounds of your eyelash mites snoring. 

Now a good sound person will be on top of turning mics on and off for performers based on whether they need to be heard (and which is why you should always be nice to your sound people), but even the best sound person can’t tell when you have a nose or throat that needs clearing.  They’re not psychic (and if they were, they would be in Vegas making the big bucks, not running sound for your show). 

So nowadays, you strap on that body mic and you take your chances. 

One trick I learned is biting your tongue can fend off a sneeze – for a while; but bright light can bring on a sneeze – and when you are onstage you are pretty much constantly under bright lights.  So you got a 50/50 chance of making it offstage without an explosion.

If you are prone to allergies and it’s that time of year or day (a special thank you to night-blooming plants), keep a hanky or tissue in your costume or onstage within reach; and try to make it work with your character. 

The one thing you can’t do is try to ignore it.  If there is a runner of snot coming out of your nose, the audience is going to notice it and now you are in a show starring you as the person with the snot running out of your nose. 

Just remember, your character likely is subject to normal bodily functions (all of which, hopefully, occur somewhere off the written page of the play), so if your character has a bodily function insist on making an appearance onstage – try to normalize it as much as you can.  No need to make it a big deal (unless you can make it into a comic moment – that is appropriate to the performance (i.e., not suitable for the Scottish Play)). 

So good luck out there. 

Tis the season.

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