Recollections of a Small Town
THE JUNIOR FOLLIES
Within a few months after my wedding to the redoubtable Molly, she
convinced me that civic duty dictated a try-out for the Gastonia Junior
Woman’s Club’s annual fund raiser. The thing was billed as a lot of fun
and a way to meet and mingle with people who mattered in this culture starved
zone. The masses would shuck out for tickets to watch nominally respectable
townsmen make fools of themselves on stage.
Both of us won minor parts, possibly by demonstrating that we got
there and could carry a simple tune. I did the worst I could manage but
still made the cut.
A company which charged hefty fees for producing/directing such extravaganzas--
Cargill&Co or something was engaged, and I admit those guys were good
at acting interested in their task. Usually. Song and dance was the theme,
nothing heavy you know. The director was adept in cobbling together snippets
of this and that from failed Broadway shows, numbers that were cut from
hit plays and who knows where.
Stage props were scavenged from homes, schools, merchants. Trunks
of filthy costumes arrived just in time for dress rehearsal and left no
opportunity for a proper cleaning. The lights, we were assured, would make
them look great on stage. I cannot affirm or deny that, but I’m thankful
no one mentioned a suspicious stain on the seat of my pants.
But it was all fun, although much of my fascination lay in observing
the play outside the play. The performance did not rise to the level of
Folies Bergere, but the naughtiness may have exceeded expectations.
I don’t know how many dollars went for worthy causes espoused by
the sponsoring club, but it is doubtful that they topped legal costs for
settling marital conflicts which occurred in the course of long rehearsals,
post rehearsal parties, cast parties and so forth.
The three divorce cases would likely have occurred, play follies
or real, wouldn’t they? One seemed to turn on a husband complaining about
coming home for six weeks to leftovers or a note telling him to go buy
a burger for dinner. Another involved a wife, who while working for noble
causes, found her husband happily restoring relations with old girl friends.
One more surprised me. A member of the local publishing clan got into a
nasty dispute complete with fisticuffs over alienation of affection–aka
sordid sex. My surprise came from my assessment of ‘Garland A’ as
a dark, dour, taciturn–Heathcliff with his hair combed.
We heard whispers for months of other tensions, and I hope all came
to happy resolutions. At least there was no gun play in the script or offstage
Not until age fifty did I tread the boards again. Playing the lecherous
Senex in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was tiring. What
could I do beyond heading home, grateful for a place to rest!
28 Feb. 05
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