In Part 1 and Part 2 we met Margy, the costumer for a local community theater. The costumes are cobbled together from previous productions, and she decides to make a new giraffe head after the old one falls apart. The show is an Animal Farm-like satire that seems baffling and inept, entitled Bronx Zoo. Crow is insisting on more feathers for his costume and Coyote is demanding her costume be cleaned before she’ll wear it again.
“It’s a Local Production”
Crow came by again. “Got those feathers yet?” he asked.
I bucked up and said, “You’re not getting any more feathers – there are more than enough already,” and when he frowned and started to say something else, I held up my giraffe head and said, “I’ve got work to do. And,” I added, “you’d better treat that costume right. It was professionally made -” Here he surprised me by chiming on the “professionally made” phrase, which, I admit, I had used once or twice before with him.
I gave him my best “costume-master” glare. “And don’t even think about adding your own feathers. In fact,” I said with a flourish and a growl, “that costume is staying right here. You can claim it at performances, or for dress rehearsal, but that’s it.”
“That’s not fair, Margy! Everyone else gets to keep their costumes,” Crow whined.
But I said, “Out! I’ve got work to do!” and I shooed him out, then shut the door on my little closet known euphemistically in the company as the Wardrobe.
I can dramatic when it’s called for, too.
I sat down with Giraffe’s head. Digging through my fabric stash, I pulled out the remnants of giraffe fabric. At first, I only found scraps too small to be anything. But at the bottom of the stash, under the Liza Doolittle Victorian lace and the Tevye apron fabric was a fair-sized print of giraffe fabric, neatly folded. Pay dirt.
Coyote got lucky; I gave the costume to a friend who cleans upholstery, and she steamed it for nothing – a bottle of inexpensive Chardonney I had picked up at Safeway on my way over to her place.
When I went back to Inez’s to pick up the newly-steam-cleaned Coyote costume a couple of days later I brought take-out Thai food – my favorite – and we sat in her living room and talked over old times. We’d gone to school together and there were mutual acquaintances to catch up on. She stayed in touch with the old crowd more than I did, since I’d shut down my account on Facebook ever since an ex had dumped me and then crowed about it to all “our” Facebook “friends” a couple of years ago.
Inez – “it’s my grandmother’s name, so don’t say a word,” she’d said when I first met her in ninth grade – started asking about my career.
“Don’t even ask,” I said, between spoonfuls of Tom Kha soup. It was tangy and coconut-y, with big cubes of crunchy tofu and small rings of lemongrass in the broth.
“I thought you were going to be a playwright,” Inez went on. “Remember Mr. Ketterer’s Drama class? You wrote all those one-act plays.”
Mr. Ketterer. He’d thought I had something worth writing about. I remembered long afternoons at home at the keyboard, tapping out funny dialog and stage directions and little asides between characters and big scenes with a whole family around a holiday table . . . I’d saved those somewhere. Hadn’t I?
“I don’t know . . .” I finished the Tom Kha and started on the chicken satay. “They needed a person to sort out costumes, and I figured it’d be a good place to learn about the stage firsthand.”
“And then you got stuck in the costume ghetto,” Inez said. She shook her head with its mass of black curls. “Girl, when are you going to start living your life? Not someone else’s idea of theater. Your ideas.”
I dipped the satay liberally in the peanut sauce. My ex had been an actor. I suppose that was part of the reason I hadn’t done anything script-like in a long time.
“Listen,” Inez said, across the coffee table in her overstuffed chair, “just do an adaptation. Find a good short story and make it into a play. – What about ‘The White Snake’? Maybe Seetha will give it a look.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Seetha’s got her eye on social justice stuff these days. That’s how this new playwright got a shot.”
“Mr. Brooding-Face?” Inez laughed. That had been our pet name for the sullen playwright of Bronx Zoo. “Look, Seetha knows you. Just try it. ‘White Snake’ is a Chinese story, anyway – it’s got built-in multiculturalism.”
“Is that even a phrase?” I asked.
She ignored my question. “And I’m sure you could pull out some kind of social justice theme without even trying too hard. Remember your adaptation of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’?”
That had been good. I’d set it in the McCarthy era, with rabbits and foxes for major characters. The Emperor was an orangutan.
I settled back into the couch. “Yeah. Mr. Shawn was hilarious as the main character, wasn’t he?”
“He totally killed it.” The drama faculty had generously put on my play – skit, really – for the faculty talent show that year. Mr. Shawn was a well-liked history teacher who had stolen the show.
“You can’t hide behind costumes forever,” Inez said.
I shifted on the couch. “What about you? Steam cleaning furniture for a living?”
“You know that’s only a sideline,” Inez said good-naturedly. “I’m already putting together sketches for a design show next year.” She had a point; she was working toward her master’s in design and her specialty was furniture. She had a love affair with mid-century – 20th century – furniture – all blonde wood and smooth, clean lines. She sometimes said, it if had worked for Eames, it would work for her.
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll try it.” “White Snake” was a good idea. I was already thinking about the tie-in between the female lead and today’s anti-Muslim trends.
“That’s better,” Inez said. “I’ll expect a report in a week.”
“One week? – That’s harsh.”
“One week,” she said, laughing again. “You can totally do it. C’mon. Just think of how you’ll show up Mr. Brooding-Face.”
I left Inez’s apartment with the salvaged coyote costume. It was raining – a June shower – and I was already thinking about where to set the play. On a farm? In the ’30s? On the bus ride home I started sketching plot points in my mind. Perhaps a coyote would figure in the cast. Or a crow . . . or both!
(to be continued!)
Margy stood up to Crow, but now she’s got her eye on something bigger. Will she be up to it? Can she get Seetha to take notice?