Friday, May 04, 2007

The Swamps of Home

Many moons ago in a far off place....

Ok, if you know the show, you'll know today's post title and that opening line are not from the same song.

But, many moons ago in a not so far off place, I was in a production of Once Upon a Mattress, a musical based on The Princess and the Pea. The moon was May 1996 and I was a junior in high school. I was thinking about this show, you see, because I was going through the contents of a magnetic picture holder on my closet and came across this little gem.

That's yours truly as Lady Rowena with her beloved, Sir Eddie on opening night.

I have several stories about this show. The first is that most of my friends in high school were one year ahead of me, and in the drama club like myself, which means this was their last production. Well, now that I've said it, that was kind of sad. I miss them!

The director joked that I understudied the whole show. The thing is, I did! During one point or another of the production, there was always someone who was thinking of not doing it, or close to being cut from the cast because they didn't come to rehearsals, and there I was, ready to step in, fill in, and maybe get a bigger part. (Whoever said "there are no small parts, only small actors" was lying!) I didn't get any of those parts, because everyone who was on the verge of not being involved 'really wanted to do it' and so were allowed to do so. These were fairly good parts too, in the grand scheme of things: the Jester and Princess #12 to name two. Definitely a step up from a lowly lady in waiting.

I complained to the director about this, actually. She let them keep their parts even though they missed a lot of rehearsals and caused a lot of re-blocking. I was always there, I always knew my part and everyone else's, blocking and choreography too, I was always ready to step in and fill in. You know what she said to me? "You'll get the lead role next year." To which I said "Right." To which she replied, "you'll be a senior!" Like that's the reason someone gets a good part. I don't want a part because it's the end of my run, I want a part because they think I can do it. (As it turns out, my circumstances changed and I didn't want a lead role my last year, but that's another story for another time.) She gave us all cards at the end of the year. Mine read "I can't wait to see the one-woman show of Mattress!" You know, that bit part I had in The Miser may have been small, but it was earned. That's a story for another time too.

In this show, I was a lady in waiting. Well, I was a klutzy lady in waiting. In every scene, I stumbled or tripped or fell or was pushed over or fell asleep. And every time, no one laughed. Except the security guard, who had seen us rehearse and knew I was acting. He told me he got the nastiest looks from people in the audience when I did some comical "WHOOP!" as I fell over and no one but him was laughing. The grandmother of the girl who played the queen told her "How nice of the director to hire that poor handicapped girl. She must be so hard to work with in rehearsals. What does she have, a palsy?" "No, grandma, she's acting!" I milked it for all it was worth on closing night and got results. SO THERE! There was this scene near the end where the queen gives Princess Fred a sleeping draught (to make her sleep through the night and not notice the pea, right?). She didn't drink it all, so I finished it off. "GLUG, GLUG, GLUG!" And stood there, yawning. Suddenly snapping awake. Yawning some more. Before I just couldn't keep my eyes open and fell over (to show how powerful the draught was, get it?). They had to drag me off-stage, don't worry, it's in the script. Yeah, even that part didn't get noticed much until the end of the run. But I had them the last night!

I think that means the one woman show of Mattress would be something to see indeed!


Willow Goldentree said...

You brought back so many memories with that title and then your post! I played the Queen in our rendition of "Once Upon a Mattress" and just LOVED that show. Wouldn't it have been so cool to be in the production together?! Thank you so much for that, dear friend!!

Willow Goldentree said...

P.S. I LOVE your picture! You look so happy. :)

Anann said...

Oh, you look GORGEOUS in that picture!!! And I love that show! :D

Fyrecreek said...

Thank you! I wish I looked like that still!

Anonymous said...

my aunt was in a production of "Once Upon A Mattress." She was the princess (I can't remember the name anymore), and she had to lie down on a mattress stuffed with armour and other pointy objects. After the show she was COVERED in bruises. Your post reminded me of all the stories she has told us about that show (she's 54 now).