By Rick Curtiss, dramaturg
—is the name of a 1993 RuPual dance anthem. You might know it better as Cover Girl, or its parenthetical title: You Better Work; and work it does. Out of the 213 words in Supermodel 17 of them are work, seven percent, almost every other line.
I like the sentiment.
It takes the fantasy world of supermodels: champagne, caviar, vapidity; and grounds it with the idea that fundamentally, it’s work,
Turn to the left
A supermodel didn’t wake up one morning with a Cartier watch and a penchant for tartlets. They knocked doors, they starved bodies, they waded and sometimes drowned in the unsavory. Genetics played it’s part, but if you want to become the best and stay they best, it’s work,
Now turn to the right
(and maybe a tiny bit of botulism)
At the end of November the cast of The Winter’s Tale had a first read through. In all of theater, nothing highlights the non-glamorous drudgery of work like a first read through. It’s a rough draft written in the dark. It’s the worst the show is ever going to be.
And that’s what makes it exciting. Hours of preparation had already gone into the show. Months of planning and dreaming, preparing, and failing. This read through is the first time the words come off the page, however pitiful. A gardener watching the first tendrils breaking out of the earth is excited for the potential they carry.
After the read through, the director; Lindsay Livingston, went over her goals for the show. Not what she wanted, but what she didn’t want–
Not bad theater, although they are cousins,
Not unpopular theater a more distant relative,
–she didn’t want weak theater.
Weak theater is sloppy, incohesive. The words and movement blur together unintentionally, unintelligibly. There are gaps in themes and in lines. It’s uninspired, been there done that. It’s going through the motions. It’s a paycheck at the end of the day. Weak theater is easy jokes; a net cast on the audience, only yielding a few nervous giggles.
It can be successful through a display of baser interest or curious spectacle. It can be a fun time with hours of side comment one-upmanship. It can be therapeutic as a community comes together and they are like a family now and they’ll never forget each other. It’s an appealing trap, because at the end of the day you had a good time didn’t you?
Lindsay’s expectation is hard work. Work makes weak things strong. Use time wisely. Stay on task. It won’t always be nice, fun, or therapeutic. Those may be byproducts, but the goal is a strong show.
It is a grind; great things always are.
It will take sacrifice; great things always do.
You can tell you’ve made a great fence if you never want to see a fence again.
(You Better Work)