Monday, January 23, 2012

Pieces of Tartan (Part Four): Parade of Fools

Check out the wayyyy coooool jean jacket! I tell you, was I the height of fashion back in the eighties, or what? NOTE: "Or what" is a perfectly acceptable answer.

Sunday, August 12, 1989
Today was a total disaster, from start to finish.

It started out with one of my first actual assignments in Scotland as “assistant producer.” Bill was stuck with opening all the trunks that had finally arrived from the States, containing the costumes and props for the show. It was a time-consuming task, so he instructed me to get thee to the Performer’s Center at eight in the morning, and attend a conference held by the Parade Committee, to “educate” all of the groups that were appearing in the Festival regarding what the parade would consist of.

“Educate”...what a joke. What that basically meant is that I spent half an hour standing around with a bunch of similarly-clueless gophers.

To my right, I stood next to a girl from a punk rock group that’s performing in a play about Ophelia. I think it was called "Something about Ophelia." To my left, there are two girls from an American high school troupe performing a play called “Is There Life After High School?”

After the first fifteen minutes, an 18-year-old guy came over, whispered to the two girls next to me, and then left. So did they.

The punk rocker turned to me. “Are you waiting for the parade committee?” she asked, chewing gum, her dark eyes surrounded by eye liner. I resisted the impulse to give a snappy answer to a stupid question.

“Sure am,” I said.

“It’s almost been an hour,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. “Maybe we should look around for Happy Harold?”

And so, the two of us start to comb through the crowd. We finally spotted Harold standing by the front of the building, his nose stuck in a clipboard. We walked right up and asked him about the Parade Committee.

He looked up from his clipboard and pushed his glasses up to his face. “Oh, didn’t you talk to my Parade assistant?” he asked.

We shook our heads. He scratched his thinning hair and looked around. “Oh, there he is!” he said, and pointed to the 18-year-old boy who had been so eager to assist the two girls from “Is There Life After High School?” Apparently, there certainly was...

Hal signaled for the kid to come over, and he ambled toward us, reluctantly. “Be a good chap and tell these people what they’re expected to do for the parade, would you?” asked Harold, and then ambled off.

The kid sighed, having been forced to actually DO HIS JOB. “Here’s the deal,” he said. “Get your group to meet at 10 o’clock. They'll need to decorate their float for a 2:00 take off.”

“Wait a minute,” said my punk rock friend. “A float?”

“Yeah. Or whatever you can put together, yeah,” said the kid, as though we should have known about putting together a float, and were idiots for not knowing.

“But what kind of float?” I asked, trying not to panic.

“Up to you, mate,” he said. “But Harold wants you to dress up as fifties greasers. Says the theme is, ‘Happy Days.’”

Ophelia looked as though her gum had turned to barbed wire. “Ummmm…I don’t think my actors are going to understand Happy Days...”

“Even by Samuel Beckett?” I asked. Ophelia looked at me as though I had two heads.

“Well, can we at least promote our show with flyers?” I asked. “No one’s going to know who we are if we’re dressed as greasers.”

“No flyers,” says the kid, firmly. “We don’t want people passing out paper everywhere.”

Glumly, I trudged back to the flat, to bring the news of the parade to my friends. I knew that it’s not going to be met with much enthusiasm.


“Happy Days?” asked Doug, as I gathered everyone together in the living room—everyone, that is, except for Doc and Jeri, who were nowhere to be found. Doug raised left eyebrow, amused by the thought. “Are you sure you heard correctly?”

“Yes,” I said. “Positive. Fifties greasers. That's what I was told.”

There was a collective groan out of everyone. Everyone, that is, except...Miss Tallulah.

“Yes, greasers!” she said. “This will be fun! Doug, you can be the Fonz.”

Doug fixed her with a look. “And Tallulah dear, you can be Pinky Tuscadero. No, I don’t think I’ll be playing the Fonz. Alas, I left my leather jacket back in Providence.”

“Well, hmmm...” said Tallulah, playing with the top of her upper lip. “Hmmm...well, maybe we could just show up in costumes from our show! That might be a good idea, don’t you think?”

Doug snorted. “Tallulah, I play Adam from the Bible and Socrates. Either way I’ll be a bit overexposed, don’t you think?”

Melissa shrugged. “Well, that might sell some tickets...”

Doug stared down, less than innocently, at her pendulous breasts. “Only if you dress as Eve, and show off your apples.” She let out a snort, and the two of them burst into laughter.

“Well, you don’t have to wear your skintight outfit,” says Tallulah, still scheming. “But you could wear your toga!”

Reo cleared her throat. “Tallulah, don’t you think we should wait until Doc gets here, to make these decisions?”

“Why wait?” Tallulah said, imperiously. “This whole event has been entirely too disorganized, if you ask me. We need to strike while the iron’s hot! We need to show the world the BEST that Rhode Island has to offer! So, Doug, you’ll wear your toga...and...and...maybe a silly hat...I’m certain we have some silly hats in the costume trunk...”

“No, I won’t be wearing any silly hat,” Doug said, firmly, flipping back his long red hair. “But I’ll be happy to march in the parade, to support the show. See you at two!” And with that, he got up and left the room. Melissa followed closely behind him, before she was told to wear the funny hat.

Tallulah looked as though she had been slapped across the face. “Those two are pimples,” she hissed, after they had left the room. Somehow, she had suddenly forgotten the fact that Melissa held her hand all the away across the Atlantic. “Pimples! What do you think, Margot?” she asked, turning to her fellow thespian from Trinity.

Margot had so far kept a distance from the conversation, but was now forced to jump in head first. “Well, of course. I’d be happy to appear in costume...although as a character from the play, not as a...” And she shuddered. “Greaser. Maybe something from our play, ‘Ape God’?”

“And we need a banner!” shouted Tallulah, totally out of nowhere, shooting an arm up into the air like a rocket. Suddenly, she turned upon Viola and myself, almost childlike. “You two...we need your help...we need to promote our little troupe! I want both of you to work like the dickens and put together a banner for us! Something wonderful and eye-catching!”

Viola and I looked at each other. “With what?”

Tallulah waved us away. “I’m sure you’ll think of something." Her mind had moved on to another subject. "And I...I shall dress in the regal persona of Queenie! The audience will love it. Only...” she looked aggravated. “I left my costume in the shipment box. Reo, will you be a dear and escort me back to the Center, to fetch my outfit, and perhaps a funny hat for Douglas?”

And with that, Tallulah dragged Reo, our stage manager and the only one of us with any real technical expertise, off, to “fetch” a costume. That left Viola, Margot, and I all alone, saddled with the task of making...

“A banner,” I said.

“What in the hell can we make a banner with?” asked Viola, glumly.

“Well, there is a broom in the kitchen,” suggested Margot. “We could use that.”

“That, and what else?” I asked.

“Reo’s the stage manager,” said Vi. “You think she has anything in her suitcase?”


Reo stood before Viola and myself, at the start of the parade route, staring at our banner as though she were a priest and it was a pagan idol. “You used up all my duct tape,” she said, gritting her teeth.

“Not all,” I said, trying desperately to avoid having my head ripped off. “Only that cool green tape. You still have a lot of other duct tape left.”

“The ‘cool green tape,’ huh?” she said, her eyes becoming tiny slits. “You mean, my glow tape. Do you know how much that shit cost me?”

We heard a voice behind us. I flinched, recognizing the voice instantly.

“Oh, what a LOVELY day for a parade!”

Viola and I turned around to face Tallulah, as Reo moved past us, muttering furiously under her breath.

As promised, Tallulah was dressed as Queenie. Apparently, Queenie was a bizarre woman from the Old South wearing a moth-eaten blue petticoat. All she needed was a price tag hanging from her matching blue hat and she could have been the Confederacy’s answer to Minnie Pearl. “What do you think?” she asked, bowing low.

“Quite nice!” I lied. “And what do you, er, think of our banner?” The minute I said it, I felt Viola hit me in the side, as if to say, ‘don’t call attention to it.’

Tallulah looked at our banner, and instantly, her smile started to drop a few notches. “Oh. I see you used a broom handle.”

“Well, we used what we had,” I said.

“Very true,” she said. “But couldn’t you have removed the BROOM from the handle, at the very least?”

“Well, we couldn’t get it to come off,” said Viola, “And we didn't want to break the broom in half. We didn’t want to get the owner of the flat mad at us.”

“But didn’t you staple his bedsheets to the broom?” asked Tallulah. “He might not take kindly to THAT.”

“We wanted something pretty,” I said. “Something that looked good with the glow tape.”

WHAM! I looked over, and saw Reo, over by the sidewalk, slamming her foot against the curb and cursing to herself.

As I moved my eyes away from Reo, I saw Doc approaching us, dressed as Thomas Jefferson, accompanied by Margot. Or at least, I assumed it was Margot.

She was dressed as a giant black ape.

Suddenly, the absurdity of the entire situation started to hit me. It was all I could do to maintain control. Here we were, one highly dysfunctional acting troupe, ready to go out and, in Tallulah's words, show to the world the best that Rhode Island had to offer.

Apparently, the best that Rhode Island had to offer consisted of Thomas Jefferson, Socrates, a crazy Southern belle, and a giant hairy ape, all marching behind a banner constructed of a broom (dust balls and all), bedsheets, and glowing duct tape.

No wonder we were the smallest state in the union.

To make matters worse, Melissa, Viola and I manage to get lost from the others, and ended up watching the parade from the sidelines.

Well, at least we stood next to Emo Phillips. That was pretty cool.


“No flyers,” said Doc, later in the evening, after the parade was but a distant memory and our last rehearsal had ended. We were back at our favorite dingy Italian restaurant, just the two of us and Reo. “Everyone else had flyers, except us.”

“Well, we were told not to bring flyers,” I said.

“Wouldn’t matter,” he said, gulping down a glass of ale. “We don’t have flyers, anyway, do we?”

“No duct tape, now, either...” grumbled Reo.

“I swear, this was deliberate,” said Doc. “They’re trying to sabotage us!”

”Oh, Doc, I don’t think they’re trying to,” I protested. “I mean, why would you think that?”

“Listen, the show’s opening night tomorrow,” said Reo, putting a hand on Doc’s shoulders. Even stripped of her beloved duct tape, she took control of the situation, as a good stage manager should. “We’re going to do just fine. Don’t let this get you down. No one’s trying to sabotage anything. But I suggest we get to sleep and get ready for tomorrow.”

“Doc, if you’d like,” I said. “I can take care of flyers, for you.”

“Good man,” said Doc. “You’re elected.”

“Do we know how big an audience we have?” I asked.

“Oh,” said Doc, cheering up at the thought of opening night. “I’m certain it will be small...but appreciative.”

Monday, August 14, 1989

Three people showed up for opening night. The audience count included Jeri.

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