LA Opera

Ghosts of a Chance

I had this big plan that while I was making my triumphant return to the stage in Ghosts of Versailles at the LA Opera I would blog once a week to give you the low down of how it was going. Turns out it is difficult to be an international opera star and a Mom so that didn’t happen. So here is the wrap up – it was amazing. I was scared to death before the first rehearsal but once I had my dance bag over my shoulder and I walked through the Artist Entrance at The Dorothy Chandler it was like I was home. By the time I got to the rehearsal room my feet turned out, my back straightened and I was a a full four inches taller. It was so fun to hang around dancers and singers again. It’s like returning to a foreign country you used to live in – even if you haven’t visited in awhile you remember the language.

Patricia Racette and Me

Patricia Racette and Me

Patricia Racette, who is a big time opera star, was Marie Antoinette. I was her decapitated body in all white including white mesh covering my skin to give me the ghostly pallor that I actually almost have in real life and the piece de resistance- a black bag on my head. For the most part my job was to stand ramrod straight wearing a corset and about 500 pounds of dress until it was time to throw myself to the ground and then stand back up without using my hands. Patricia (Ms. Racette to you) was wonderful to work with. She embraced the entire concept and even had great ideas for me to do with her. My job would have gone very badly if she was a big old Diva who didn’t want me to do anything but she was lovely and made me feel like I was an important extension of her. It also worked because I’m not stupid and I know when to hold the fuck still and stay the hell out of her way.

Let me remind you I have not set foot on a stage in fourteen years. I was working with a couple of my old friends but the rest of the dancers are major younger ballerinas who are still working. So, of course, it was only logical that I was the soloist. What? Please! Everyone on that stage could dance rings around me. (Ironically I danced in a ring- see photo above). But, because Patricia Racette and I are almost exactly the same size I was Marie Antoinette. Take that you skinny little dancers! Besides, my arms still look graceful because it seems in ballet the arms are the last to go and the big hoop skirt covered a multitude of sins. It was the largest role I have ever done at the LA Opera in their biggest most expensive opera to date. It should not have happened but it did. Not only that, I worked with Darko Tresnjak the current Tony Award winner for Director of a Musical and my own Peggy Hickey who choreographed said Tony Award winning musical. Again, what? I know- crazy. And for a kicker Patty Lupone was also in it and I sat three feet away from her on stage during her number. Eva Peron right in front of me! It was a Master Class in acting every night. The entire experience from rehearsals to performances was a gift and I cherished every moment.

Speaking of moments, during one of the dress rehearsals Peggy came running up to me, grabbed me and dragged me off

stage. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to be so publicly fired. Turns out Laura, one of the dancers, had passed out because of the black bag on her head and they needed an EMT.

Company Manager- We need to call an EMT!

Peggy- DeAnne’s an EMT but she is on stage!

Company Manager- Go get her!

When I got to Laura I ripped off my mesh death gloves so I could take her pulse. I was a bit nervous because in EMT school I could never find anyones pulse and I pronounced them all dead. But Bam! Right to it ! It helped that her pulse was racing but I found it! Then I got to do all my EMT observation and stuff and watch her color come back and her pulse return to normal. It was all very exciting. Now I don’t like to use the word hero but you can go ahead. I basically saved Laura’s life. No need for thanks- it’s what I do.

Actually, doing this opera kind of saved my life, or at least the part of me that was dying from neglect. I was reminded of who I used to be and I am reassured that I am who I want to be now. I need to remember that just because I am no longer doing it for a living doesn’t mean I am not a dancer anymore. I thought I had to put that part away like it never happened but I don’t. I will always be a dancer- even if it’s just in my living room or in my soul – it’s what I do.

Perfectly Scary

Every year I try to do something that scares me or challenges me.  One year it was the Avon Walk, two years ago I went back to school and became an EMT. I didn’t really do anything last year so with just days to spare I decided I would zip line through the Mayan Jungle while on vacation with my family.  Not sure which was scarier the zip line or spending the day with my family but either way it counts.  This year I am getting it out of the way immediately.  In just over a week I, DeAnne Spicer Todd, will heed the call of my many fans and return to the stage at the Los Angeles Opera.  I will be Marie Antoinette’s body to Patricia Racette’s Marie Antoinette head and voice in The Ghosts of Versailles. My friend Peggy is the choreographer and she presented the idea to me and two other old dancer best friends last year. She told us she had a gig to put together all the old gang for one last time at the opera and it was perfect for us because we had to wear bags over our heads.  I wasn’t even offended. Now before you say to yourself, “Well that makes sense now that you tell me you have a bag over your head but what about the fact that you haven’t danced in years and you no longer have a dancer’s body?”  The answer to that is I am wearing a big dress, it is more movement and “emoting” and I got the job because I was a perfect match for the singer.

Even when you are at the top of your game and in incredibly great shape, costume fittings are horrible – at least they were for me.  When I went in to the LA Opera costume shop for measurements last June I was fairly certain it would be the most humiliating moment of my life.  However,  I completely forgot at the opera you are treated like you matter, like you are an important artist.  To let the costume shop know I was there they announced over a loud speaker, “Miss Spicer is here for her fitting.”  I yelled, “Find the biggest measuring tape you have and meet me in Room One!”  During the fitting, I was told over and over I was perfect.  I was told so many times I was perfect I almost believed it.  It was kind of nice considering I never even feel close to perfect in my current job as wife and mother.  I was feeling so good about it didn’t even bother me when they were asking me questions to update my old information.

Opera- Is your bra size still 34B?

Me- No, it’s 36D.

Opera-Well, that is different.  Do you still weigh 115 pounds?

Me- I didn’t weigh 115 pound when I told you that 14 years ago

I have had two costume fittings since then and I have to say having the current Tony Award winning costume designer along with nine of her minions stare at you approvingly in a room with a spotlight on you is pretty damn cool.  Even with a bag over your head.

Now for the scary part.  Rehearsals start next week and I haven’t done this in a long time.  What if my hormonal memory problems make it so I can’t remember my choreography?  What if the other dancers make fun of me because I am so fat?  What if when I walk in the room the staff says, “Oh my God what happened to her? Quick put the bag over her head!”  What if the director fires me because he thinks I suck?  What if Patricia Racette hates me because she also thinks I suck and make her look bad? What if I am not perfect?

The saying is you can’t go back again or you can’t go back home again or something like that. Whatever the saying is I am facing my fears and doing it anyway.  How often are you offered a chance to step back into a world you loved not because of how you were then but because you are perfect right now?  I don’t really think I will suck and it will be fun to be with my friends creating art once more.  I will get to be  a dancer again for just a little while and then I will go back to my real life. Perfect.

DeAnne Todd
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