“The Way You Wear Your Hat…”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Express Yourself!.”

There’s a joke in our household.

Let me explain: I practically never go clothes shopping. Most of my wardrobe is hand-me-downs, with the occasional thrift store purchases. But the times when I do hit a Discovery Shop or Goodwill, this is a common conversation…

I hold up a piece of clothing, for my companion to appraise.

COMPANION: Would you ever wear that?

NATALIE: Yeah!

Doubtful look from companion.

NATALIE: I mean, you know, for a costume.

Even more doubtful look from companion.

NATALIE: But this would be so great for a costume!

To be fair, I think the reason my companion is doubtful is that the piece I choose is rarely something glamorous. It’s usually a little quirky, awkward, interesting. “Who would every wear this?” And that sparks ideas…

Hats, wigs, an interesting shirt or dress– all of these bring characters with them.                                                                  image (10)

The Mainstreet Theater Company presents the West Coast premiere of Roald Dahl's The Magic Finger, based on the book by Roald Dahl and adapted by David Wood. Directed by Abigail Deser at the Lewis Family Playhouse in Rancho Cucamonga.

The introverted accountant trying an open mic for the first time. An Italian poetry teacher. A Cockney washerwoman. A proud spinster who secretly hopes to be loved, though perhaps she doesn’t even acknowledge this to herself.

And so a little piece suggests a person, which suggests a world, and then I play.

Because people fascinate me. I have trouble with small talk because I’m always wondering deeper questions about people’s lives… what drives you right now? What is your biggest fear? Your biggest joy? What you hope for more than all else?

One of my favorite parts in the rehearsal process is when we finally get to wear our character’s costumes and shoes for the first time. Because then you are literally “in their shoes.” Do the clothes constrict, do they flow? How does this go with the character? And the shoes? Heels, flats? Big steps, small fluttery ones? Feminine, practical, athletic?

A couple years ago, I performed in a show called I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE.

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All four of us played about 10 characters each, exploring romantic relationships in all their stages and ages. We ran five months, but I never tired of the show. It was a non-stop show, you jumped in and you were going for two hours, with hurried costume changes, peeling off sweaty clothes after only minutes of wearing them, throwing on new ones and leaping back out for the next scene.

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It was fantastic. Not only were there new things to discover every night in the performance, but the audience was always different. They responded differently to things, laughs came in new places, sometimes guffaws. We got to know them a little bit, they got to know us a little bit. They’d come up to us afterwards, “Oh, we loved that part where you… that’s exactly what my husband/wife…”

Because somewhere we’d shared something. We’d connected. I might not know their name or career, but I know what touched their heart, what struck their funny bone. We have been intimate, we’ve had an exchange. We’ve affected each other. And maybe even discovered a little more about what it means to be human.

I love that.

So next time you see that odd piece at a thrift store… 😉

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