by Eliza Ohman
The women of King Kong on Broadway spend a lot of time together. Our show is spent either onstage or squeezed into a backstage dressing gondola that makes a cramped East Village studio seem palatial. There’s no escaping each other. Fortunately, we’re a silly bunch and we’ve really embraced the absurdity of our setup. On any given day you can expect to find one or more of us participating in very involved interpretative dances, incorporating lifts, props, and feedback from our audience (any girls not participating in that day’s events). We’re a bit of a mess, but it’s one of the happiest messes I’ve ever experienced. I’m continually grateful to our casting and creative team who brought this group of misfits together.
Now, almost six months into our run, our dynamic is old news. However, although we’ve always been silly, it took more than a second for us to really trust and know each other. Relationships like this don’t happen overnight and our rehearsal process didn’t naturally lend itself to cute, casual bonding.
Tech was an experience. Only five weeks into our rehearsal process, tech was the first time we were all together ten hours a day, six days a week. Up until that point, four women had spent most of the rehearsal week at the theatre learning to puppeteer a 2,400 pound gorilla while the other six were at New 42 learning the ensemble material. Those who learned ensemble material would then incorporate the puppeteers into the numbers during the one day a week our whole company was together. Rather than socializing, breaks were spent reviewing material with someone or rolling out our tired bodies. Suddenly we’re in tech spending four hours stuck backstage in the gondola while the boys worked on a section of the boat … again. Talk about forced bonding.
Generally, I equate those “bonding” situations with uncomfortably different personalities, awkward small talk, and stress. And all of those things happened. Theatre forces you into strange scenarios with people you might not necessarily get along with because you come from different backgrounds, perspectives, experiences. Yet that’s the coolest thing about these women. We’re all super different, but we communicated with each other. We asked questions. We laughed a lot. Then one day, we didn’t have to try to build a community because it had become our established dynamic.
These women are extraordinary, unapologetic, and inspiring to be around eight shows a week. Do we have individual insecurities? Of course. But each of us lives and leads from a place rooted in love. We freely celebrate others’ successes because we know better than to equate them with a personal loss. In a society and industry that pits people against each other, we can’t help but be forced into a game of comparison. If you don’t actively fight it, you passively participate in it; walking through life seeing other people for what they have and what you’re missing. That mindset is destructive and can break even the strongest person.
So how do we combat that? We speak truly. We celebrate instead of comparing; ask questions instead of making assumptions; find inspiration instead of getting overwhelmed with discouragement. I think we got really lucky at King Kong. We ended up with a group of women who naturally gravitate toward this kind of mindset. We also actively combat any energy in opposition to that. We’ve each acted out and then made ourselves vulnerable by taking the time to apologize and explain from where that action stemmed. We’ve accepted that we all have days when we’re not the best version of our self and forgiven each other (and ourselves) for those moments. We’re not perfect. Living in community is messy. Having honest conversations can suck, but it’s a lot easier to love people when you understand them. We’ve taken the time to make sense of and appreciate each of those beautiful, quirky, messy individualities.
I love these women. Simply put, they’re the best.