I spent four nights in the lighting booth in the Bill Heard Theatre in RiverCenter for the Performing Arts last week. The first year I had to cover the Miss Georgia Scholarship Pageant, my friend Janet Roddy was the director/producer.
She had me in one of the boxes with the pageant's videographer. The woman had commandeered all of the power outlets. I really didn't need the outlet, but I did need light. But the box was really dark and I'm afraid I did not do a good job that night.
I'm old and my eyesight is really bad. And I really, truly couldn't see anything.
The next night, Janet said I could sit next to the judges in the orchestra pit.
The judges said no. I could not sit next to them. So she said she'd put me next to the auditors. They said no.
I guess they thought I would look over their paperwork and release the Top 10 and winners before they were announced.
Finally, someone suggested I go to the light booth.
It was perfect. The lighting is low, but enough for me to see.
It's soundproof so when one of the RiverCenter's technical folks says something a little profane but funny, no one can hear us laughing.
I've been in that lighting booth ever since. And now, I'm one of the gang.
The thing I want to talk about is talent choices.
Even long-time Miss Georgia people will admit that the talent this year was weak. Leighton Jordan, Miss Capital City, who won the pageant, is a ballerina. Even with what she says are weak ankles, she was clearly the best of the dancers. I have to admit I didn't really watch the pageant. I listened and every now and then, I'd watch.
It's kind of hard posting entries and tweeting at the same time.
Cherwanda Jones, who is RiverCenter's lighting coordinator, was absolutely the best. She was very helpful and made sure that I was comfortable and had everything I needed.
We also talked about the talent.
If you can't sing, dance. If you can't dance, learn to play an instrument. If you can't do that, you're screwed.
That's when you have a beauty queen doing a monologue and another doing aerial acrobatics.
I knew that Brittany Parks would never win the pageant. She is very pretty, and I'm sure she's well-spoken. But to do her talent, she had to hire a rigger to put up the equipment she needed to do her aerial act.
If she became Miss Georgia, she'd have to make appearances and would probably be asked to sing. I don't know, she may be able to sing. But she wouldn't be able to have that rigger with her for a year, putting up the equipment for her to wrap herself with the two long pieces of fabric and swing around.
And I doubt that a local Rotary or Exchange club would fit the bill.
Say you can't sing. Or you can carry a tune. Then find at least three songs that are in your key and you get a vocal coach and learn to sing those songs well. Make sure that the songs are not to difficult to sing.
And don't do a song by a a wildly popular singer. There was one contestant who sang Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." OK, she was all right, but no matter what, she wasn't as good as Adele.
So you don't sing that well. Learn a dance.
Find a dance teacher and learn a routine. It's only two minutes. Just learn to do it well.
We can tell when you learn something just so you'd have a "talent."
With talent counting for 35 percent of the judging, it's important. Yes, you have to wear a swimsuit, that is only 5 percent of the judging. So as long as you're confident when parading across the stage, you'll be OK. The private interview is 25 percent and the onstage question is 5 percent. Evening wear is 20 percent.
See, you need to score high in talent to make the Top 10. And the interview part is also important.
I'd recommend you read every newspaper you can get your hands on every day. If you don't want to read a paper, go online and read the newspapers. Read the news magazines like Newsweek and Time instead of supermarket tabloids and entertainment magazines.
One young woman sounded like she was blithering. I had no idea what she said. I looked around the room and Cherwanda was shaking her head. She said she had no idea what the girl said.
Bill Rich said she was wearing nice shoes. His mother taught him right: if you can't say anything nice about one thing, say something nice about one other thing or keep your mouth shut. So whenever he said, "Nice dress," it may have been a bad answer to a question or bad singing or dancing.
Bill owns RSL Theatrical, which put the set up and designed the lighting plan.
I've been to other Miss Georgia pageants where the talent was so good that it was tough to see which one would win.
Leighton was the one Cherwanda picked before the pageant began. But Cherwanda had an advantage. She had to be at every rehearsal to make sure the lighting was right.
And she would say, "She sang that song so much better at rehearsal," whenever I would wince at a bad note.
I'd chalk that up to nerves.
But if you're considering entering a local pageant and hope to go to Miss Georgia, pick your talent wisely and make sure you're perfect.