Eyre Affairs

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

"I wanted to tease you a little..." ~ Jane Eyre

As a sophomore in high school, I played "Pat Divine" in our drama production of Stage Door.

I remember being completely mortified when I saw my name next to hers on the cast list which hung on the door of the main office.

Pat was the "hoofer" amongst the group of young women living together in a house, hoping to make it as a big star on Broadway. One of her greetings throughout the play to the other characters was "Hi Ya Baby." I was fine with all of her dancing scenes, except for one. She was a tap dancer by trade, but one of the scenes was a tad burlesque.

Trying to impress a director who visits the house, she sneaks downstairs in a bathrobe, pretending that she is looking for a book, all the while planning subterfuge. The minute she is alone in the living room with him, she takes the robe off and does a "number", hoping that the director will "discover" her and cast her in his next show on Broadway.

Thankfully, MY director changed the "provocative" burlesque dance to one that was a tap dance, complete with wings, time steps, and buffalo shuffles. It registered cute, not sexy, and during rehearsals I felt a great deal of relief when the dance was changed. The script said that the character was wearing a black sleeveless leotard and long wide pants, sort of like the style of sweats that was in this past winter. Again, I was very relieved to know that not only would I not have to show any skin to my entire community, grandparents of friends included.

Unfortunately, MY director ignored the script directions. I will never forget the week of production when the costumes arrived for our first dress rehearsal. My friend, Taya, walked in the dressing room and handed me a black garment bag with my costumes; at that time I was no more than a size two. I unzipped the bag and my eyes unzipped from their sockets.

A Sailor Costume.

Except...well, there was no skirt.

The "costume" (and I use that term loosely) was a bathing suit made into a sailor-type costume. Just blue nylon with blue sequined spaghetti straps which stretched out onto the bustline and a white nylon belt around the waist. Oh, and a hat with a bow to match. BYO fishnets and tap shoes.

Long story short, none of my protests were heard.

Each night I would muster up the courage to take off the bathrobe on stage and tap dance in my sailor costume. I smiled as big as I possible could, hoping to draw attention away from my garish bathing suit of an outfit. The audience always clapped after my routine was over, just as I dipped on the stairs to grab the bathrobe I had taken off moments before to reveal the little number I was wearing. It was like "Singing in the Rain" meets "Big Spender."

Years later, here I am flipping channels and I come across a documentary on HBO called Pretty Things. http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/prettythings/index.html

This documentary is quite intriguing. It was about a young filmmaker who was fascinated by the Burlesque of the 1940's - 1960's. The project was twofold for Linda Goldwyn: to interview and learn from the women who danced (now well into their 70's and 80's) and to finally perform her own burlesque routine. I completely understand the first part of the project.

The second part is beyond me.


Blogger Steph said...

What a vivid memory! Great post. I was in a musical drama in Jr. High and had to sing in front of everyone and I'll never forget how embarrassed I was. To this day when I see the pictures, I cringe!
Ah...the good ol' days.. ;)

1:27 AM  
Blogger afromabq said...

i've always thought that anyone who gets on stage is brave. and then you go and do it in a bathing suit....double admiration!! :)

12:34 PM  

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