TENT SHOW

Platea is two gas stations and a general store somewhere in the area of Erie, Pennsylvania. Not even a dot on the map. Hard to find-I know-I could never find the place again.
When I was in my middle teens, I was offered a job for the summer as ingénue with a traveling tent show whose owners lived in a small ramshackle house in Platea. Ready, willing and eager, I joined the troupe of seven that included a leading lady and leading man, a juvenile, two character actors and a utility man. We rehearsed for a week in a second and larger house that hadn’t seen tenants for a long while; we cooked on a kerosene stove and our personnel needs were taken care of in an outhouse in back where seven rats resided, or so our leading man claimed. He gave each rat a name; the names were originally ours alone.
We would present plays like Uncle Tom’s Cabin-I doubled playing Little Eve and Eliza. I would cross the ice with a doll-representing a baby-in my arms as I tried to escape the bloodhounds chasing us, race down the stairs, discard my bandana and the smock, that covered Little Eva’s white dress, place the doll on a table, pull on a blonde wig and return to the stage where I rested my dying body on a pallet.
One memorable performance the stairs weren’t in place and I stepped from the stage into space. I ignored the pain, quickly made the fast change and clambered back on stage. The lights came up. Uncle Tom began singing a hymn, looked at me and then began to stifle giggles. Blood seeped through the dress adding a bit of authenticity to my role and distressing the owners.
During intermissions, we would sell an orange drink concoction and bags of popcorn; twice a week, after the show-for an additional half-dollar-we would put on an afterpiece that included comedy sketches, songs and dances. The theme of one afterpiece was the roaring twenties; we’d dress ourselves in flapper costumes, dance the Charleston and sing a number that went
We’re working our way through college,
To get a lot of knowledge,
That we’ll probably never, ever use again.
There were six different plays-one for each night of the show week. Among them, The Cohens and The Kellys similar to a Broadway play titled Abie’s Irish Rose that defied critics and ran for years and Your Country Cousin about a bumpkin that outsmarts everyone. Saturday nights, we tore down the set after the performance-I was in charge of making sandwiches for the crew-then we drove to the next town. I sat next to the popcorn machine. The next morning, it was my job to walk through the streets, find strong teen-age boys and offer them free tickets to the show in exchange for help in putting up the tent and the benches. I thought of myself as the Pied Piper of Pennsylvania.
Just like Broadway, our motto was “The Show Must Go On” and go on it did no matter how sick we were. I came down with the flu in one town and spent several days in bed. Out leading lady was kind enough to iron my costumes but at night I trod the boards. One afternoon as I lay on the bed sleeping, a noise woke me up and I saw several children sneaking a quick look at me from the doorway. The enterprising young son of our boarding house owner had sold a few tickets at twenty-five cents apiece–for a chance to peep at the ingénue-to his friends.
On a road trip to Erie one year, my husband and I tried to find Platea; I wanted to show him the old house where we rehearsed, the general store where we bought chips, bologna and sodas, the outhouse I avoided as much as humanly possible. But Platea was changed or gone and-except in my memory-I couldn’t go back.

For more information about me, please log on to http://www.elisewarner.com My mystery titled SCENE STEALER is availbel at http://www.barnesandnoble.com, http://www.amazon.com, http://www.borders.com, http://www.carinapress.com
Carina Press: Your next great read!
and wherever eBooks are sold An audio version will be released by http://www.audible.com on Oct. 15.
.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: