After ten days of rehearsing at head office, it was time to move on board the ship and continue rehearsals in the theatre. It was a very exciting time as this was our first chance to witness the current cast perform the shows that we had been learning.
Experiencing the shows as an audience member brought a whole new perspective to our training as we watched the shows come to life with costumes, sound, scenery and lighting.
Yes, it was an exciting time but it was also exhausting. While we were rehearsing on land, we had set rehearsal hours in the studio during the day and then we could relax at night, but onboard we rehearsed by day and then watched the current cast perform by night.
Life on board the ship took some adjusting too. On land we were staying in a hotel, could buy our own food and eat when we wanted but on board we were sharing small cabins, sleeping on bunk beds and eating in the staff mess at set times. Climbing onto the top bunk when your body is aching from rehearsals is a struggle!
I was mentally & physically drained but I was having the time of my life!
Of course, this had nothing to do with the fact that I had just discovered the crew bar, but that’s a story for another day….
As cast change on board got underway, we couldn’t help but notice a change in the air. Suddenly Veronica was being cast in the routines that everyone was vying for and placed in the front as well! We were all quite puzzled as to why our supervisor had had a sudden change of heart. She certainly didn’t seem like the kind of woman to back down and Veronica’s behaviour hadn’t changed, so the cast were left feeling rather confused and somewhat annoyed that it seemed as though Veronica’s bad behaviour was now being rewarded. Veronica, on the other hand, was very smugly floating on cloud nine. She was over the moon that finally her talents were being recognised and she was getting the roles she felt she deserved. Little did we know this had all been part of a bigger plan….
When the ship arrived in our home port of Miami, we were called to the theatre for a meeting.
Veronica was missing. It was then that we were informed Veronica was no longer a member of our cast. Jaw drop! The rumours were that Veronica had received the dreaded ‘6 o’clock knock’. This is when security knocks on your door around 6 am (hence the nickname) and informs you, your contract has been terminated. You then have next to no time to pack your things and head to immigration to get clearance to disembark the vessel. You are then escorted to the airport, put on a plane and sent back to your home country. No one wants a 6 o’clock knock, least of all during rehearsals!
We discovered that the person who would be temporarily filling Veronica’s spot was a member of the current cast on board and suddenly the motivation for the shift in casting became crystal clear.
The dance supervisor hadn’t had a change of heart at all. Veronica had been cast in the current cast member’s track so that it would be as easy as possible to replace her.
That’s why Veronica was suddenly being placed in the front! This revelation opened my 19-year-old eyes to how brutal our industry could be. One minute Veronica was sitting pretty, believing she was finally getting the recognition she deserved and the next she was unemployed, on a plane back home.
As we began re-blocking the show without her, I couldn’t help but spare a thought for Veronica and how she must have felt on her journey home. It was a harsh way to be let go. Some less sympathetic folks felt that she deserved what she got but we all agreed on one thing, our cast WAS much better off without her. When it came to dancing, she stood out for all the wrong reasons but I believe it was the negative energy she brought to the group that was ultimately her downfall. Our supervisor said “It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch” and she deemed that Veronica was that bad apple. As soon as she was gone, the whole vibe shifted for the better. Veronica was not a team player and that is a characteristic that is crucial among cruise ship employees.
When you are at sea for 9 months, your fellow cast members are going to be right there with you through all the homesickness, the missed birthdays, weddings and holidays.
When you get sick or injured, they are the ones you will have to rely on to cover you. If there’s no camaraderie, trust or mutual respect, life gets pretty difficult.
As cast change was completed and we opened the shows, it was as if Veronica had never even been there. It was a stark reminder that you should never take anything for granted. Just because you are good enough to get the job, doesn’t always guarantee you will keep it.
Final tip (and moral of the story)
A little professionalism goes a long way. If you can’t show some common courtesy and respect to your fellow cast mates, production team, crew and everyone involved, chances are there is someone else out there, just as talented, who will.
*Disclaimer – Veronica’s name has been changed
Also on TheatreArtLife: