Shannon McDowell on Dressing Rafiki & The Lion King Song She Cannot Escape

first_img Shannon McDowell became a dresser on the Great White Way when she worked on Ragtime in 1998. Since then she has worked on 42nd Street, Follies, Spamalot, Hair, Spider-Man, Turn off the Dark and on TV’s Peter Pan Live. She has dressed a wide range of performers, including Betty Garrett, Marge Champion, Carol Woods, Joan Roberts, Clay Aiken, Drew Lachey, Diana DeGarmo and more. McDowell is now a part of The Lion King’s backstage family. Here, she talks about her experiences working with the hit musical’s longtime cast member Tshidi Manye, who plays Rafiki.What was your first impression of what goes on backstage at The Lion King?My first impression of backstage is that it is a well-oiled machine. The choreography backstage is just as important as onstage. Being prepared for things that go wrong and recovering from them while the show is still going is a big challenge. The Lion King has lots of challenges that every department meets and conquers in a blink of an eye.What do you wish more people knew about dressers?The things that I wish people knew more about dressers are that we don’t just maintain costumes. We are also responsible for being very, very quick for quick changes. A quick change involves changing a performer out of one costume into another entirely different costume in less than a minute. If a performer goes out during a show, we have to put another performer on as fast as possible without stopping the show. Dressers are also responsible for repairing costumes on the spot during the show when they break. Sometimes it takes more than one dresser to repair a costume backstage if it breaks during the show. To be a dresser it is important to think fast on your feet and recover from costume malfunctions quickly without stopping the show.What’s your favorite part about dressing Tshidi Manye?My favorite thing about dressing Tshidi is the stories she tells. We can usually talk about almost anything and then there’re days where we don’t have to talk at all and it’s OK. Sometimes when we are talking, we forget that we are working and find ourselves rushing to get to our cues. Laughing the whole way to the stage. Tshidi is a great listener, backed with calm wisdom. She has a great laugh!What’s the most challenging part of dressing Tshidi?I have to say Tshidi is very easy to dress. Some challenges with dressing Tshidi may be the beads fall off of her costume. Some of the closures may need to be re-stitched. Removing red makeup off her hat is challenging. The biggest challenge with dressing the Rafiki track would be if the Rafiki performer became sick or injured and went out of the show. It would take several departments to get the understudy Rafiki ready to pick up where the other Rafiki left off so the show didn’t stop. This I have experienced with other Rafikis but not Tshidi.What are some items you like to have on hand backstage?As a dresser, it is always wise to keep a pair of scissors at hand. In my apron, I also keep thread and needles. I carry a light around my neck for seeing backstage. I have extra safety pins on my apron for closures that break. Elastic bands for broken shoes. Sticky back mole foam to cover broken wires and padding for hats. Gaffers tape is close by to repair puppets and stop beads from spilling off corsets last minute. Band-aids for boo-boos. Ricolas. Top-stitch tape for Rafiki gloves if broken. Knitting supplies, so I have something to do in between dressing cues. Over the years, I’ve collected quick-fix items from all the shows I’ve done, which I continue to carry even if I don’t ever use it. Hey, you never know when you might need it!What’s the best gift Tshidi has ever given you?The best gift that Tshidi has ever given me is probably advice. She’s great at reading people, and she has a pretty calm approach at handling issues that come up.What’s something she says all the time?Tshidi always says “darling” and “How are you, my love?”What is something you do that makes her laugh?When I forget things, which is quite often, Tshidi laughs. I like to tell her stories about things that may have happened to me that at the time made me crazy, but later I found it funny. Sometimes I tell her a funny story and I forget she’s in full makeup and she might try to stifle her laugh because it would make her makeup run. I start laughing at the sight of this, then she puts me on “vocal rest.” It’s a kind way of telling me to stop making her laugh.What’s the secret to your relationship?The key to a relationship between a dresser and a performer is patience, respect, and communication. Laughing is key.What’s The Lion King song you can never get out of your head?I am always singing “He Lives in You”. Also, the beginning of the show, the part Rafiki opens the show with. You hear it everywhere.What’s the best part about being part of Team Lion King?The Lion King is a great story. Still today, everyone talks about it. It’s great to work with so many talented people backstage, then I leave to go home and you overhear that excitement coming from everyone who just watched the show. It makes me proud to be a small part of a huge production. The Lion King View Comments Tshidi Manye Related Showscenter_img Star Files from $75.00 Tshidi Manye & Shannon McDowell(Photo: Caitlin McNaney)last_img read more

"Shannon McDowell on Dressing Rafiki & The Lion King Song She Cannot Escape"

N. Ireland set for first same-sex marriage

first_imgBritish MPs in London passed legislation last July, while Northern Ireland’s devolved government was suspended, to allow gay marriages and same-sex civil partnerships.The move, which brought the province into line with the rest of the UK, was opposed by a group of local lawmakers but they failed in a last-minute bid in October to block its implementation.London spent the intervening months drawing up new regulations to apply to the marriages and partnerships — with the first permitted to happen this week.In the meantime, Northern Ireland’s political parties also agreed to restart power sharing in Belfast.Activists, British MPs including Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smith, and others will celebrate the occasion at a parliamentary event in London later on Tuesday. Sara Canning, the partner of journalist Lyra McKee who was killed by dissident republicans in the Northern Irish city of Londonderry last year, helped to campaign for the change.”Of course, this historic moment is a little bitter-sweet. It had been our dream too. Lyra and I should have been an engaged couple now, planning our own wedding day,” she said in the statement. A Belfast couple were on Tuesday set to become the first same-sex couple to get married in Northern Ireland after a change in the law.Robyn Peoples, 26, and Sharni Edwards, 27, were due to wed at 2:00 pm (1400 GMT) in Carrickfergus, near Belfast, after the new legislation came into effect on Monday.It followed campaigning by Amnesty International and partner organizations in the “Love Equality” campaign, which hailed the occasion “a landmark moment for equality in Northern Ireland”. “We didn’t set out to make history — we just fell in love,” Edwards said ahead of the nuptials in a statement released by the campaign.”We are so grateful to the thousands of people who marched for our freedoms, to the Love Equality campaign who led the way, and the politicians who voted to change the law.”Without you, our wedding wouldn’t have been possible. We will be forever thankful.”Her soon-to-be wife Peoples added: “While this campaign ends with Sharni and I saying ‘I do’, it started with people saying ‘no’ to inequality. By standing together, we’ve made history.”center_img Topics :last_img read more

"N. Ireland set for first same-sex marriage"