I love being on stage, I really, really do! But I have a performer’s Achilles Heel. I’m talking about hair.
Ideally, any role I might play would involve a hat. This is definitely true for my Living History presentations. Straw boater? Excellent! Beribboned cloche? Perfect!
But this week the subject is ballet. Dance Center of Walla Walla’s production of The Nutcracker, to be specific. The show is set in the Victorian Era; my hair is definitely a product of the 21st Century.
I play the grandmother in Act One, the Party Scene. Ladies are in floor-sweeping gowns and require the crowning glory of fanciful hair to go with them.
I would set my hair on pink sponge rollers.
Which would work beautifully, Lily, as you have waist-length hair. This will change for us, more or less permanently, from age sixteen forward when I get that first Dorothy Hamill wedge-cut.
But we digress. When faced with a fancy hair demand and a short hair “do” the solution is simple: buy a clip-on hairpiece. But I hemmed and I hawed and I obsessed about selecting the right color from the online color chart at paulayoung.com . Paula Young was my go-to hair solution in hardcore theater days, a time filled first with melodrama heroines and French maids, and later with vintage mothers/wives and the occasional big-haired bimbo. The role that best suited my natural hair was Suzy in Wait Until Dark. That play is set in the 1960s and Suzy is blind, so complicated hair is not in the picture.
Finally I ordered the clip-on hair, a cascade of curls in the shade of blonde that I nervously decided was the best match for my highlights. A blonde Victorian grandmother, you may ask? Surprisingly, there is precedent for this in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, first performed in 1895:
LADY BRACKNELL: I had some crumpets with Lady Harbury, who seems to me to be living entirely for pleasure now.
ALGERNON: I hear her hair has turned quite gold from grief.
Me being an adult many times over, you would think I’d order the clip-on well in advance of the Christmas online shopping frenzy and the now-regular shipping delays we started experiencing a couple of years ago. Nope. I finally committed on December 26. I mean, what the heck, regular shipping was 5 to 7 business days. Of course, there were postal holidays on two consecutive Mondays.
I don’t know much about the post office, but it sounds like you were kind of stupid to wait so long?
That is an apt observation, 9, and thank you for keeping me humble. I knew it would be tight but also trusted the gods of online retail and shipping to assist me, particularly as I’d been foolish. The hair started in New Jersey, spent an agonizing (for me) few days in Indiana, arrived in Sparks, NV, earlier this week, then on the Sacramento, CA, (please don’t get held up by the atmospheric river!) and, at long last, to Spokane, WA. It arrived on my Walla Walla doorstep yesterday, hours in advance of final dress rehearsal.
So the gods were kind once more.
They were, indeed, Lily, and, with the assistance of a decorative band to break up the mild color clash where the clip-on meets the real hair, it looks lovely from the audience.
The Nutcracker opens tonight, with performances at Cordiner Hall at 7 P tonight and tomorrow (January 6 and 7). I am in awe of the beauty of this live performance, the dozens of people and thousands of hours that make it happen, the dedication of all of us to “get it right.” Hopefully I will have some pictures to share next week. For ticket information go here:
I watched Act Two from the audience last night and it is truly a beautiful production. If you’re in Walla Walla, I strongly encourage you to attend!
I will definitely be there.
Thanks, you two, and thanks also for seeing me through this latest hair-raising adventure.
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