The naked truth

I love my sister, truly. But she is hard on the wardrobe. Last Saturday, for instance, she and her two dogs dropped in unexpectedly. One of them is a hairy golden retriever who, though large, is loving and likes to sit in my lap, where he feels free to shed liberally. Last Saturday, I was wearing a black skirt. Oh well. He’s a nice old dog.

Chase is a good dog too, and black, so he is allowed to shed on me if he likes. But he has a different character flaw. He drools. Long, sticky strings of viscous slobber. I tried not to mind. After all, my skirt was already covered with fine golden hairs. Rise above it, I said to self. (Self’s reply was an inaudible mutter.)

My sister must have felt bad when she saw me with two 80-pound dogs more or less in my lap, because she leapt up to pour me a coffee. “Cream,” she asked politely. Unfortunately, just as I held out my cup, her attention was diverted, and the milky stream cascaded into my lap where it joined the dogs and put the finishing touches on my outfit. I fell off the chair laughing. Meg eventually departed with her canine friends, and I went to change my clothes.

Clothes. Now that I think of it, that’s the theme of the day. We at Linden House are progressing nicely with our production for this October. We have chosen a good play (The Circle by Somerset Maugham). We have also secured the rights, booked the theatre, had a preliminary production meeting, seen the first sketch of a set and purchased two antique tennis rackets for the princely sum of $7 (thank you, Marlene and the Glebe Garage Sale). We have read the actors and now – ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay! – we have a cast! They are a good cast, a handsome, lovable, talented cast, and we are set to go.

So what is it about costumes that is worrying me? Well, now that we have cast the play, the characters are no longer figments of the imagination. They are real now. They have shape and dimension. And if the costumes are going to work, they have to correspond more or less to those dimensions: and that means trial by measuring tape. I need measurements or at least dress and jacket sizes in order to start the Great Annual Costume Hunt.

To move things along, I sent off a note recently to the cast, asking for information – or rather, mass confession. It is probably no accident that the only one who has yet answered takes a size 2 dress. But no-one else replied. (If any members of the cast are reading this, they should take it personally and get busy with the tape measure. I am getting nervous.)

But wait. Maybe I am being too rigid. Maybe I lack daring and dash. Is it possible that we could dispense with costumes altogether? Remember the Emperor’s New Clothes. Given an audience sufficiently tolerant (or blind), maybe we could just pretend that we are dressed in dinner jackets and evening gowns when, in fact, we are prancing around naked.

Hmmmm. I think not (as Descartes said just before he vanished in a flash). It’s not that I am against nudity. I find it almost essential in the shower. But I remember seeing Diana Rigg in a play in London some decades ago, when the world was young, and she shocked the critics by walking naked across the stage. Now, Diana Rigg is a beautiful woman, but that did not stop the reviewers from pouncing on her, howling with laughter. She read the reviews, she says, and next day came slinking back to the theatre in a frenzy of mortification, hiding in doorways and hoping no-one would see her. If that was the fate of Diana Rigg, I wonder how the Ottawa critics would react to me, all of me and nothing but me? I shudder to think.

Back to costumes. I must try harder to get those measurements, and that means I have to persuade the cast to talk to me. To trust me. I understand their reticence. Speaking for myself, when someone asks me for my waist measurement, I blush and, if I can be persuaded to speak at all, it is only in a whisper. But that is not the way forward in theatre. In this business, we progress by inches, literally.

So I must appeal to the cast. Once again this year, we get to dress up à la 1930 – double-breasted dinner jackets and slinky evening gowns. We will also have tennis outfits. Lounge suits. Blazer and flannels, and I personally intend to wear a very odd hat. We are going to look so fine. But measurements are the sine qua non for all this splendour.

Cast shame to the winds, I will tell them. “Stiffen the sinews. Summon up the blood. Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage.” In other words, get out the measuring tape and send me word. You have nothing to fear but fear itself. And, of course, the prospect of imminent public nudity if those measurements are not forthcoming pdq.

LATE BREAKING NEWS
Just as I went to post this blog, a set of measurements arrived from another cast member. It appears then that all three female actors will have costumes in our production of The Circle. All the men will be naked. Interesting.