Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stage Dirt

Photo by Ivan Phillips
This past weekend I have come to realize the importance of Tamora's dirt. 

I put her on in stages, donning the dingy layers of her costume, slipping my hands into her ragged gloves, stretching her massive hat over my dreadlocks so it towers lazily above me like a deflating hot air balloon. But I don't feel like her yet. Every faire day I put the garb on, and before I complete the look, I get comments from fellow performers about how weird it is to see her fresh faced. I look in my feather fan mirror and I don't see Tamora yet either. I see myself with odd clothing. 

It's only when I line my eyes with smeary eyeliner and apply my beloved stage dirt that she really comes forth. She smiles through the filth and dirt (made up of "the cleanest dirt you'll ever find", lovingly handmade by the town's "Rat Catcher") and suddenly I feel like her again.

No one told me Tamora's face needed to be dirty. I was fascinated by the Rat Catcher's stage dirt and on a whim decided I would try it out. I started with a small amount and as time goes on she has gotten grubbier and dirtier and by now it is one of the major and defining features of Tamora. 

How odd was it then to take it all off in the middle of the day.
I decided to take a half day off on Sunday and patron the faire. I cleaned my face, put my glasses back on and changed  into street clothes. This experience was unreal to me, walking faceless through the crowd as the other patrons looked right past me. The rest of the entire summer season had been spent as a larger than life individual who gets stopped by strangers to have their picture taken with this odd woman. I felt invisible then, wandering around as myself. I was an observer, watching these other larger than life characters who did double takes when they saw me and tossed out side comments like "You look wrong!" 

That invisible feeling was somewhat liberating as I could step outside of the world of performing and appreciate the hard work and efforts of the other big and cartoony folks that roam the Streets. I had come to know these loud and hilarious characters as actual people and I enjoyed being able to take in their shows and antics as an outsider for the afternoon. 

But as much fun as it was to play the role of the patron, the entire time I kept feeling the urge to fall back into the dialect, to spin my modern umbrella the way Tamora spins her parasol, to let my hands float around me the way Tamora lets hers. She won't be kept at bay for long. I both long for and dread this coming weekend.   Being the final weekend, I can't imagine how much it will hurt to say goodbye. 

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