A new acquaintance once asked me what kinds of roles I play. My friend Holly came to the rescue: "Jackie tends to play quirky characters," she said. Yeah, I thought. That and moms. Helga "I am psychic" Ten Dorp, my delicious current role in the production of Deathtrap now playing at Barksdale Hanover Tavern, definitely falls into the quirky category.
At Barksdale’s Hanover home, the cast dressing room is affectionately known as "the Pat Carroll Room" because it was the bedroom Ms Carroll occupied during her earliest runs of Nunsense. It shares the Tavern’s third floor with the business office of Michelle's Restaurant, and in this upper sanctum, actors and culinary artisans co-exist side by side.
About a year ago, Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap was my first show back at the Tavern since its renovation. During the run, we actors had been instructed not to open the windows because of the new alarm system. Till last week, I had never been tempted to disobey.
But on the Thursday evening of Deathtrap's Invitational Dress Rehearsal, I climbed the crooked “servant” stairs at the Tavern’s southwestern corner and entered the long and winding hallway that leads to our northwestern dressing room. Was it my imagination? A pigeon flew overhead. “There’s a bird up here!” I shouted.
Back and forth my new feathered friend frantically flew, seeking escape. That's when I noticed a broom-wielding bartender rushing forward from the other end of the hall, holding his “weapon” aloft like Sweeney Todd. And an arm-flapping waitress (Mrs. Lovett?) began squawking at my back. The pigeon, knowing an animal lover when he saw one, assessed the situation and headed straight toward me.
Quick as a bunny, I turned to the eastern windows looking out toward the historic Hanover Courthouse, hastily removed the "security nail" and tapped with all my might until the top window dropped. The bird, knowing a good thing when he saw one, circled my head like a plane attempting to land at JFK and then whizzed past my ear and out the window into the freedom of beautiful Hanover County.
“Give me liberty,” I thought. Patrick Henry tended bar in the original Hanover Tavern, you know. And his immortal words seemed to be working just as well for pigeons in 2007 as they had for patriots in 1775.
The restaurant staff, relieved by the speedy departure of our uninvited guest, headed back to their stations as I sauntered into the dressing room. My fellow actors were oblivious to all the excitement.
Soon the show began, and I headed downstairs in all my theatrical regalia to prepare for my first entrance. Except for a brief introduction the previous evening (and our Hitchcock moment a half hour earlier in the upstairs hall), Michelle’s new bartender and I had never met. Even if he were able to recognize me in street clothes, he'd never seen me all done up for the play in Helga's Little Dutch Boy wig and blue beret. Perhaps that explains the very curious look he gave as I strode past the bar on my way to the stage door and whispered, "You really didn’t need the broom, you know. It's good luck to have bird-poop on your head."
Oh, those crazy theatre people, I’m sure he thought, probably not identifying me with the pigeon rescuer from the upstairs hall. I smiled. Pete and Nancy Kilgore (animal lovers extraordinaire) would have been so proud.
--Jacqueline “Jackie” Jones