"D'you like it? I got it at the Rummage Room for a dollar. Look! It's the only thing I have that isn't stained."
"Does someone have one of those curling irons? My hair. Can someone help?"
"I don't really need makeup for the play. I do?"
The Merc's dressing room bustled with eager and ecsatic women. We were warmed up and ready to give the performance of...well, the week. In a small town we all take turns entertaining folks, and it was our turn to take a shift.
The week's entertainment was a readers' theatre performance of "The Women," a play written in the mid 1930's by Clare Booth Luce. "The Women," as Wikipedia notes is "an acidic commentary on the pampered lives and power struggles of various wealthy Manhattan socialites and the up-and-comers and the gossip that propels and damages their relationships."
It's true: Manhattan socialites took over the Methow Valley. We all tromped into the theatre at 6 pm wearing clunky snow boots, down coats, wool hats and gloves and no makeup, but by the 7 o'clock curtain the industrious women miraculously emerged as glamorous (almost) Park Avenue divas.
A week before the show, however, I had my doubts. I received my script and my character and looked up at the director. I sighed. "You gotta lot of balls to put me in a part like this," I said to her. "You've never seen me act."
I was given the honor of playing Sylvia, the lead antagonist whose rumors and gossip instigated chaos for many of the other characters. Yes, I was the lead bitch. The kibitzer. The hellcat. I was involved in two catfights in the play. The 1939 film featured Rosalind Russell (of His Girl Friday fame) as Sylvia. She's a minx.
I had no idea how the hell I was going to pull it off, or to that matter, how any of us could pull it off. We aren't exactly Manhattan socialites. We are Methow socialites, which is, a far cry from the aristocratic air of New York.
But I was fortunate enough to be side by side with some of the most wonderful artists and teachers and writers and acters that this fair valley has to offer. And they were all sassy as hell to boot.
On the final night of the performance, after I had taken my final scene in act one, I went back into the dressing room to a party--a quiet party. Wine wafted through the room. Ten women sat and laughed silently and whispered.
"What's going on?" I asked.
Paper cups were passed. Bottles were opened (thanks to a found Swiss Army, we didn't have to resort to a knife, though we were prepared) and giggles were had. We talked about kids and the cold and the frozen pipes and the new marriages, divorces, pregnancies and deaths in the valley. We gossiped.
And in the whispered moments between pages 37 and 54 I began to feel connected to this little valley. This was not a Manhattan gathering of the vitriolic hellcats, but more a celebration of a sisterhood that I seemed to be welcomed into. These glorious women, all sugar and sass, all joined together for a lighthearted night of pretending to be something else yet still managed to maintain their selves. They pretended to be acters and did so amazingly well that it boggles the mind. Screw Broadway. I'll take the Methow limelight anytime.