I swear – every time I start to feel modestly proud of myself, I start to look nervously over my shoulder, because I know that life is about to narrow its eyes and take action. It’s fail-proof. Whenever there is a little modest improvement in internal stock prices for Janet Uren Inc., I can count on a sudden market adjustment. Just watch. Janet starts to glow with pride, and life whips out the old shillelagh. Whomp!
Take, for example, the Linden House Theatre poster for October 2012. We have a magical designer, young Karenna Boychuk, and she does great work. So it’s a beauty. Nevertheless, when I first saw it I was a little appalled at the sheer predominance (and youthful beauty) of my physiognomy. It looked to me like ego on the way to whomping. I shivered and, as said, looked over my shoulder.
I was right to worry. Members of the Linden House production team, when they beheld the poster, said with wonder. “Is that really you? It’s very flattering, isn’t it?” I winced, but really the blow to the amour proprewas a gentle one. The ego picked itself up and dusted itself off with an air of relief. You could almost hear it singing, “Is that all there is?”
Apparently not. What your friends can’t accomplish, your family can. After all, they have had practice. My sister, striding on to the scene shortly afterward and finding my ego bloodied but unbowed, didn’t hesitate to finish it off. She stared at the poster. “Is that you?” she asked. “What did they do, photo-shop you?”
That did it. What remained of my ego lay motionless, flat on the ground, with life apparently extinct. It was a good thing in the event, because if there had been any lingering flutter of a pulse in the corpse, my first attempt at a costume for this year’s play might have stung.
The initial design idea for costumes was an ambitious one – we wanted to re-create Downton Abbey in Rockcliffe Park. I scoured the Internet and found a dressmaker in Los Angeles who was willing to make an Edwardian suit, made to measure for my somewhat unfortunate figure, out of striped blue-and-white cotton.
Honestly, I am a cockeyed optimist. In studying the online image of this outfit, I had an impossible vision of myself, looking tall, thin and stately, because that was the rough outline of the woman modelling it on the website. Tragically, I am not tall and slender. Quite the opposite. Indeed, unless fashions in feminine beauty change radically and soon, I have no real future in the modelling industry. “Small” and “round” are the kindest words that can be applied with any accuracy to my corpus.
Momentarily blind to these facts, I flung caution to the wind. The suit was duly ordered, manufactured and posted north, where I waited in a state of quivering anticipation. (My life would really be quite sad, if it were not so ridiculous!)
The package arrived in due course and, as fate would have it, I was not allowed to face facts in decent privacy. A friend from the dog park dropped in just as the mail was delivered and witnessed the first unveiling of the Edwardian skirt and jacket. The blue-and-white material, I noted with some dismay, was coarser than I had expected, and the suit was heavy and thick with folds and layers. Fran the Friend shared my foreboding. “It looks like mattress ticking,” she said doubtfully.
I should, of course, have waited till she left to try on the suit and then only with the lights off and the mirrors covered. But I lack native caution. I simply couldn’t wait to try it on. Fortunately, my ego had died earlier in the week, because Fran looked at me with real horror. “You look like a mattress tied in the middle,” she said.
I laughed. You see, my sister brought me up to appreciate – well, not exactly “appreciate” – but at least to survive a certain amount of frank talk. So I laughed. I learned afterwards that Fran went home and wept with embarrassment, and she later turned up with a little present, just in case we needed to reconstruct our friendship. The truth is, I was grateful. Sometimes when you see a friend sailing into sartorial danger, you have a moral obligation to speak or, if words fail, to save your friend in whatever way strikes you as convenient – sitting on her head till the fit passes, perhaps, or calling 911. Whatever it takes.
Anyway, Fran’s comment worked. I packed the costume away, and Linden House addressed itself creating a completely new look for the play. I think you will like it. In doing so, we moved the action along the historical timeline from the beginning of the 1920s to the end of the decade, and we haven’t looked back.
Today we have a dress rehearsal – lots of tension in the air – and tomorrow it’s trial by audience in the first of several benefit performances. I am happy to say that the play has really come together. Yesterday, I was watching two of the performers blossom into their roles. I was so impressed, I actually forgot my cue to enter, and everyone clapped at the end of the scene. I never recall that happening before in rehearsal. A very special moment and one that augers well for the show.
So I cautiously recommend that you reserve tickets and join us this week or next for a performance of You Never Can Tell by G. Bernard Shaw (October 23-November 3). Tickets are available online at lindenpro.ca, at Books on Beechwood (35 Beechwood) or by calling 613-842-4913.
At Linden House, we believe in hospitality, so join us on Saturday and Sunday, October 27 and 28 for a glass of wine after the show. I really look forward to seeing you. As for me, don’t be afraid. Though I am not tall and thin, I am dressed to resemble a human being rather than a mattress. Cheers!