Wednesday, September 29, 2010
many moons ago
I had just finished college
and I was determined that I would make a living as an actor,
so I was performing in just about anything I could find:
You name it.
And there was this one gig I had
which was an improvisational murder mystery.
It was about this boozy female cabaret singer,
and her smarmy agent
(which was the part I played).
And the singer gets murdered,
and the audience had to figure out “who-dun nit” by solving various clues
and we would travel to different places
and perform at office parties
and people’s birthdays
and things like that.
and it was a lot of fun.
and helped pay the rent.
So one day I get a call from the murder mystery people
and they ask me if I could perform the show that afternoon.
I said “sure”.
and then they told me that it wasn’t the agent that they wanted me to play.
They wanted me to play the cabaret singer.
Apparently what had happened was the actress who was supposed to play the role had suddenly fallen ill and they had gone thru the entire pool of actresses and no one was available.
and then they thought of me.
And could I just jump in?
They would pay me double, they said.
and I said, well, all right.
So they give me a sequin dress
and some heels
and a Dolly Parton wig
and I meet my friend Julie, who was playing my rival,
and we drive to the location,
which was in New Hampshire.
On a moving sight-seeing train.
So we get there, and it’s a bit unusual, because usually we aren’t performing on a train,
And there's no place to change.
so we change in Julie’s Honda Civic.
and then I’m walking around in drag at this train station,
in New Hampshire
and people are staring at me,
and wondering what’s up,
and I just say “Oh, I’m doing a show”.
So we get on the car where the performance is supposed to take place
and it’s for a group to senior citizens
who didn’t know they were watching a show.
They just thought they were there to look at the foliage.
So it was a surprise for them.
but since they are so very old,
they are very confused
and slightly horrified
when I come out in drag
and start to sing.
for some of them,
it was actually really happening,
that there had been a murder.
That their lives were in danger.
or else they were planning to call their doctors to adjust their medications.
I immediately learn that it’s hard to sing, act and walk in high heels on a moving train.
Meanwhile, the only place to perform our scenes in the train car was in this tiny aisle in the middle, which we had to share with a woman serving prepared turkey dinners
out of a little cart.
Also, when we had to “exit” the stage, we did so by entering the car in front of us,
which was filled with regular leaf peepers who had nothing to do with our show.
I would stand there in my sequin dress and smile benignly,
holding the prop gun from my earlier scene,
and mouth “I’m doing a show!” at them.
The senior citizens really found us profoundly annoying.
At one point in the middle of a scene I heard this awful “SSSSSSSS! SSSSSSS!”
and I turned to the guy playing the agent and said:
“Oh my god, they hate us! They’re hissing at us!”
To which the woman in charge of the group said:
“Oh, no, don’t worry.
That’s just their oxygen tanks releasing air.”
When the show was finally over, we took our cramped little bows
and I changed into my boy clothes in the tiny bathroom.
The caterer, feeling sorry for us, gave us the leftovers from the dinner,
and Julie and I sat in the caboose of the (still) moving train,
eating cranberry sauce and stuffing.
The train turned a corner,
staring at as with serene boredom,
was a moose.
I had never seen a moose before.
And somehow it made sense
that I would
at that moment.