Booze!- It's booze week here on the Fake-n-Bake blog! This week, I'll be pouring you a measure of what I know about getting people "drunk" onstage. Enjoy, and, as always, please throw in your two cents!
For obvious reasons it is rarely, if ever, a good idea to give performers alcoholic beverages to drink onstage. That said, it is incredibly common for shows to involve alcoholic beverages. Luckily for us, many different things can be substituted for alcoholic drinks.
Water- For any clear liquor (Vodka, Gin, Light Rum, etc.) water is the perfect substitute. Tasteless, odor free, non-staining, and it doesn't do anything to inhibit the voice of a performer. If you can't get a performer to drink water onstage, chances are, they won't be drinking anything.
The Diet Cola Cocktail- My boss, and famed Properties Director, Jim Guy swears by this concoction. Simply dilute flat diet cola with water, a good start is 1 part cola to 4 parts water. It gives a nice caramel liquor color, which works well for whiskey, bourbon, scotch, etc. There are no calories, and you can make it using caffeine-free diet cola if your performers prefer.
Colored Water- This one is pretty self explanatory, food coloring can be used to color water. Caramel-colored food coloring can be purchased at most places that sell cake decorating supplies. Keep in mind that most food colorings, especially red ones, can stain fabrics.
Tea- Lipton tea is very commonly used as liquor onstage, as it can be diluted easily with water. Beware though, the slight foamy ring that can give it away. Herbal teas can also work very well. Orange herbal teas have a nice red color that lends itself well to playing cognac or sherry. Hibiscus tea has an incredible red color, and is non-staining (test your fabric to be sure), but has a very tart flavor.
Juice- Grape juice, red or white, is a common substitute for wine onstage. Be careful, though, as some performers do not like the way that sugar affects their salivary glands, and thus, their voices. Also, beware that juices can stain. Sparkling juices can be a good substitute for champagne.
Ginger Ale (Regular or Diet)- This is a good substitute for beer or champagne, if your performers don't mind the taste/sugar content. If you can't get the "beer" to hold a head, a spoonful of foaming bar sugar preset in the glass before pouring should do the trick.
Non Alcoholic Beer- Yup, pretty much exactly what it says it is.
Some Things to Consider:
As props providers, it is part of our job to facilitate the performers. It can be very frustrating to find the right thing to give a picky actor, but imagine being onstage, trying to sing and dance in a heavy costume, under hot lights, with hundreds of people watching, and have your voice catch in your throat because you just had to guzzle down some syrupy fake champagne. Or imagine being asked to down 4 ginger ale "beers" a night- and still fit into that size 4 dress. Performers have real concerns about what goes into their bodies on and offstage, and we should do our best to accommodate those concerns. Of course, we are faced with budgetary and time limits, but some work up front can save money and frustration during tech. Have a conversation with your performers early on in the rehearsal process, giving them some options. Let them know that they can choose between colored water, tea, or diet soda, or whatever the prop calls for. Your stage manager should be able to facilitate this conversation- and it will make the performers more comfortable as well. There will always be some difficult performers, but heading them off at the pass should make everyone's job easier.
Some things that can make performers uncomfortable:
Calorie Content- Whatever they are consuming onstage, they may have to do it up to eight times per week.
Sugar- Sugary drinks can be hard on the voice, but some performers prefer to have a little blood sugar boost mid show.
Dairy- Dairy products turn mouths and throats into gooey messes, making it very hard to sing or speak well.
Caffeine-Some performers would like to get a good nights sleep after the show.
Artificial Sweeteners- Some performers prefer natural foods.
Quantity- In 'State of the Union' one actress had to down six cocktails in fifteen minutes- and then sit onstage for another half an hour with no bathroom break. In that case, we used a false bottom and a handful of fake ice to make her job easier. Finding glasses with thick bottoms and employing fake ice is way easier than asking the costume department for a catheter. ;)
The bottom line is, communicate with your performers. Everyone has different needs and preferences. Allergies, medical needs, and tastes should all be considered when deciding the right solution for your props.