We train our bodies for years and years to obey whatever challenging, sometimes dangerous instructions we give them. We fight to make things happen that should be reserved for other bodies, like those of cheetah or gazelles for example, or perhaps a snake/elephant hybrid, all so that we can manage simple and impossible things on stage for the delight and transformation of a person’s life/soul/spirit.
Unfortunately, props don’t invest in the same training. They do what they want, behave as they feel, mis-listen to our needs, fold their arms in defiance. Investigations of how they work do not prove lucrative—for those of us not blessed with the good karma of prop handling magic, things go wrong.
I am one of those people.
I’m not sure if Sumayah is hostage to my bad prop karma or sabotaged by her own, but what’s clear is that umbrellas are not her friend.
The first time it went wrong in “Burlesque” during tech rehearsal, her prop umbrella, which is rigged to not close shut all the way (since there is no time in the choreography to fiddle with the sharp button on its stem), wouldn’t open either. We both rendezvous off-stage right near the stairs, me to make an entrance, her to grab her umbrella and re-enter. During the tech, she couldn’t find her umbrella because someone we have yet to identify moved it to a position on the stairs.
As planned, I had grabbed the other umbrella to give to Ryan as I enter, since she has less time, and I watched Sumayah in horror search for her prop.
“Where is my—I set it right here before this run!”
“It’s right there,” I said, mid Fosse step fluttering my hand toward the stairs.
This helped her none, of course.
Determined to be a better friend during the actual show in front of people (18,000 of them in Phoenix, to be specific), I grabbed both umbrellas out of the holster and handed one to her when she ran to get it.
In the hasty world of quick entrances and exits and props, there is little time for "Thank you." So I accepted the general smile of her aura about this consideration.
The split second was decimated by the revelation that her umbrella stem was broken. When it got broken, how it broke, whether it tried hara kiri because it was done with us, we don’t know. Just that it was broken. And that when she pulled the handle, it detached from the rest of the stem.
Sumayah then proceeded to go out with her very abbreviated prop and work the short stem like a pro. She kicked her legs over it, pretended it could actually provide the kind of shade it was really meant for vs. the kind it was giving. She pushed it over her head as if it were “Wade in the Water” high vs. just off her ear...
I had to stop looking. Because you see this is when the demon of laughter commences to take you out of your show. All I could think of is how she had a shady umbrella. Ella. Ella. Eh, eh, eh.
But then, the next night, I picked her up and swung her down around my waist, and my hat fell off, and I thought she maybe caught it in her other hand perhaps (desperation)...
Karma. Prop Karma.
And an oversized hat with an attitude...