You wouldn't think that changing clothes could ever be that stressful (prep for proms and big job interviews notwithstanding). But of course, nothing simple in the outside world is ever that simple inside a theater (as illustrated with my last blog on the hoodie), and thus we have the quick change. These can be killer with characters changing entire cultures, times, or places in minutes. But when you have only one person in your show, and thus no one else to take the focus, it becomes imperative that you make that change as quickly as you possibly can.
Quick changes, although they happen backstage, can therefore be as choreographed as the dance numbers onstage. With mere seconds to change an entire outfit, every moment and movement is important. Like dance numbers, they get easier and easier the more you get to practice. But that doesn't mean they get any less stressful. There is always that one moment in a dance number that will make you nervous, no matter how much you practice; that one leap or turn that just makes your heart thump. For Matt's quick change in Clay that leap for me is the tongue of the red shoes.
One of my many responsibilities backstage is to help Matt with his quick change at the end of the show. It's always nice to get to check in with him during the show, but any words that are exchanged are done as he is ripping off his hoodie or tossing off his shoes. Next there is the small fight to pull his jacket over all of the sweat that has accumulated during the show. Then he slips on his red shoes and zips up his jacket. After he gets the shoes on I have to make sure that the tongue of the shoe is pulled out and that his jeans are tucked behind it. This is purely aesthetic. This change, the only costume change in the show, illustrates his transformation from Clifford the child into Clay, the cool artist. And everyone knows that cool people wear the tongues of their cool shoes on the outside of their pants. Okay, I'll admit that this is probably not the most important thing in the large picture of the quick change, but since it is the last thing that I have to do, it is the thing that has the most pressure on it. We have only had a few close calls in the very beginning of the run, but it still makes me nervous. So if you see a show where Matt's pants cover the tongue of his red shoes, you will know that somewhere backstage I am a little bit stressed.
Zoë Chapin is the Assistant Stage Manager for Clay.