Earlier this month, I attended a murder mystery party. It was quite a lot of fun...between the costumes, meeting new people, excellent Mideastern/Mediterranean-style potluck, and the anise liquor, I really can't imagine a better way to spend a Saturday night.
And yes, that sleeve is as big as my head. I was surprised in spite of myself how easy it was to find a leg o'mutton style blouse with a high collar at the local goodwill. I'm kind of swimming in everything except the neck, which was actually fairly accurate, period wise. Though as a somewhat, err, eccentric lady Egyptologist, I could hardly think that my character would have cared.
For those of you curious to know my character's background, Ariadne was a very famous translator of hieroglyphs, and has been working with Egyptian culture and history for some time. Twenty years ago, she was engaged to a young man named Harry. Harry was working with another archeologist named Sir William at a dig when he was poisoned by a scorpion. The circumstances of his death were always quite mysterious to Ariadne, and she flung herself at Sir William in her grief, um, literally and figuratively. She found herself pregnant, and not knowing the father, gave up the child for adoption back in England. She found her way back to Egypt, living in the desert for many years, attending to her scholarly pursuits, all the while missing Harry. Given their mutual interests in Egyptian artifacts, Sir William and Ariadne ended up working together ("Never for Sir William, mind you. My years and expertise demand that my skills be taken seriously. I work for no one.").
In the course of the evening, she finds out that Sir William, as a young man, jealous of Harry's success and madly in love with her, killed his partner. She was not amused, but glad to have the truth at last. And then of course, during the evening, Sir William declares his love for her yet again, gets poisoned, and she rescue him.
"But why? Why would you let me live?"
Ever practical and self-assured, sensitive to the ills Sir William has done yet cognizant in her part in the whole story, "Because no one deserves to die in that way." Zing.
Besides the rash Sir William, other characters included fellow archeological teams from England and France, young interns, the head of the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Luxor, smugglers, dabblers---a whole slice of life, very nearly like an Agatha Christie novel (An Appointment with Death, which takes place in Syria, echoes this story slightly).
As I walked home, I finally came to the conclusion that the drama teachers at my middle and high schools were in fact, completely correct. I'm a terrible actress. I put far too much of me in the way I talk, in the way I walk, in the way I think. I'm too analytical in my feelings, inserting myself into characters that act so unlike me I can't reconcile the differences. Instead I have to justify their actions somehow based on who they're supposed to be in place of the simple reason that I can act like myself, and that's about it.
But that said---I love the pretty gowns, I love the fun costumes, and I do in fact have an imagination. Yet, it connects me immutably to a character and what I would do in their place. Recipe for an awful actress, oh yes. This is also why my dream is to be one of the extras in a period drama, preferably in a scene with dancing. That way, I can be absolutely completely myself, but in a beautiful gown. Perfect. Let's just say I'm glad that my biggest mentor in theater was not a director, but a costumer, one who always took time to explain things about hemming and cottons and muslins, and one who always went the extra mile to find the perfect piece for her actors to wear. I have one particular favorite --- a golden lingerie romper with a dressing gown decked out in blue feathers. I remember that one quite fondly. This one with me in my (gasp) 22 inch waist isn't bad either.
Though that hair, yikes. I have yet to find anyone who can really deal with my hair. It was in two really super lopsided rolls on my head, and I looked like a ridiculous doll from behind. And that's leaving out the whole having to fall in love with a kid I used to babysit onstage thing, ha. Poor Joey.
I do have to say, a slight triumph of the night was my ability to fool one of the guests that I was in fact from England. My English accent is quite poor, and out of practice. I don't really have occasion to go to the mall and pretend to be an exchange student anymore, and I haven't watched films for dialect practice in years. Let's just say after my dad threw the library's copy of "My Cousin Vinny" across the room for being "smut" I had to rely on other methods to learn diction. And apparently the only real Brit who was in attendance didn't think the accent was "too bad" which is high praise indeed for a ramshackle performance.
I also had the lucky chance to wear my great-great-grandmother Mary Windschitl's wedding ring. She lived in Tracy, Minnesota, near to the banks of Plum Creek of Laura Ingalls Wilder fame. It's this beautiful piece of jewelry that, well, I never get a chance to wear. So I did. It was a gift from Harry, you know.
On my regular Sunday phone call, I told my grandmother the stories of the night. To my surprise, she said they used to do this sort of thing rather frequently, going all around town to find clues in a scavenger hunt, or just having mystery parties just like the the one I had attended...I was flabbergasted. I should have expected they would have something wonderful like this to do, along with their Friday dances, Saturday socials and Sunday dinner parties. Where are those today, I ask? Gone the way of the lindy hop and the wiggle dress, alas. But I'm going to try my best to resurrect the latter, in the very least. The world would be a better place with more dinner parties.