'One big, happy freak-show family,' Anne Gish '04, backstage manager

by Stacey Wilson '96

If you haven’t yet experienced Seattle’s dinner-theater-doused-in-absinthe adventure known as Teatro ZinZanni, no one is more qualified than Anne Gish to tempt your sense of adventure. Who better than one of the show’s backstage managers—and proud keeper of the contortionist’s candy stash—to serve up the inside scoop on the zaniest way to spend 100 bucks this side of Vegas?

“It’s fairly commonplace to see naked men and people riding unicycles around the tent before the show,” says Anne, 24, who honed her theater-geek tendencies at UPS running productions ranging from senior one-acts to Tartuffe.

“What happens backstage at Teatro ZinZanni is just about as crazy as what happens during the show,” she admits, chuckling, “though it’s all become just part of my job, so I barely notice it anymore!”

Few of us are charmed enough to claim burlesque-ian nudity and circus stunts as part and parcel to a day at the office. But for Anne, Teatro ZinZanni, a show originally conceived in Seattle and intended to run in 1998 as a limited engagement, was the logical next venue for the Minneapolis native to prove her mettle as the lady behind the curtain.

Having grown weary of the piecemeal income proffered by Seattle’s fringe-theater scene, (“I made about $50 each on some of those small shows,” she says, wincing), Anne pursued a ZinZanni backstage-manager job advertised online last February. After a three-month, part-time stint, she was officially hired in May.

Six months into her post, Anne checks off the list of her daily duties under the enormous, can’t-miss-it white tent located at 6th Avenue and Battery in downtown Seattle: ready props and costumes for the mostly European cast and crew of 40, rig trapeze artists for safe flight, and feed the female contortionist lollipops to “make sure she’s happy in her box before she goes onstage.”

If these Wednesday through Sunday workday responsibilities have become a tad quotidian, Anne’s eyes light up when she mentions perks like picking up Russian from the trapeze duo, partaking in vodka pickle nights (“that’s the Russian version of tequila and lime,” she says), and breaking bread with the crew every night after the show. “The crew dinner is my favorite part of the day,” says Anne smiling. “Those meals really help us feel like a family. One big, happy freak-show family.”