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Tuesday, 13 December
Do You Smell What I Smell?

This weekend, of course, I had to do the show, so I found myself once again down at good old Open Circle theater's decrepit space, preparing. That's when I heard the cry go up from J., who is also in the show.

"I found the rat!"

There's nothing that says Get ready for comedy! like that phrase, I've found. J.'s voiced called out again. "Aw, man. There's maggots." A pause. "And I'm the one who's been puking all day!" Someone else's voice joined this hellish chorus. "Oh no! Are you sick?" Pause. "Naw. Hung over."

I don't want you to get the idea, now, that this is in any way emblematic of pre-show activities at your local fringe theater company. I want to hammer this into you as forcefully as possible: this is entirely in keeping with your average night getting ready for a show in a converted loading dock with exposed nails everywhere and a thriving C.H.U.D. population living in the unseen basement, feeding from leaky sewage pipes and mutant rats.

The smell from one particular backstage area had been horrific for a few days. "Rat!" was the unquestioned opinion of all. Not in any surprised way. Nobody was really shocked that a rat had croaked somewhere in this dismal edifice. "Dead rat," people exclaimed, holding their stomachs. Nobody was spending a lot of time looking for it, either, which made some sense: you could either 1. deal with dead rat smell and maybe even walk away from it, or 2. you could go hunting for the dead rat, and find a dead rat. Let me again point out that fringe theater actors--well, the ones I hang out with anyway--find that smelling decomposing animals is sort of par for the course, or at least a bizarre form of penance to be exacted by the gods for choosing such an idiotic vocation in the first place. "Act! With passion!" I imagine Bacchus declaiming. "And also! Smell dead rats!"

But I guess J. couldn't stand it. He tracked down the rat, which I don't suppose was any kind of saga . . . Br'er Rat certainly wasn't running off, except in the sense that I suppose he was gradually liquefying. I happened to be onstage at the time, checking my setup, when J. appeared, wearing elbow-length powder blue kitchen gloves, and holding a plastic bag with an alarmingly large oblong object in it, shaped roughly like a loaf of peasant bread. He held it up, and it swayed hypnotically.

"Found the rat!" he said again. "Want to see it?" He shook the bag playfully.

"Get the fuck away from me!" I snarled.

"There were maggots," he said. I wondered if the horror of the situation had reduced his ruined mind to reciting the only salient facts about the past few minutes. I made violent warding gestures, and he walked towards the hall leading outside to where the dumpsters are; he then evidently encountered someone else, as I partially heard the exchange:

"Found the rat! Want to see it?"

(Inaudible, but unmistakeably horror-tinged reply.)

"Okay." (Pause.) "There were maggots!"

After some shaky laughter re: dead rat disposal, another member of the cast had a bit of a confession. One actress let it drop that she had figured that the incredible stench had been emanating not from a decomposing animal, but rather from a fellow actress. This was met with much hilarity, even from the offended party, to her credit, I suppose. I'm not sure I'd be so sanguine in her situation. "Oh ho ho! You just figured I smell like putrescine!" On the other hand, the mistaken party has to be credited as well. She sat there for at least one weekend, silent, yet thinking, "Oh, great. So I get to sit next to the person who smells like Love Canal. Or Courtney Love. Or Courtney's Love Canal."

There then followed a predictable number of douche jokes. Because theater is a serious art, people, practiced by serious people. Get ready for comedy!

So come on down to Open Circle Theater! We've been rat-free for . . . a few days! Well, dead rat-free. As far as we know. And those other fringe theaters? The ones who proudly trumpet their "zero tolerance" policies on dead rats? They're a bunch of lying sacks. I once did a show at Theater Schmeater, and they served a deli plate piled high with rat meat. And don't get me started on Book-It Theater. The reason they sell so much Dr Pepper? They dip a dead rat into each soda. It's their "flavor secret." Open Circle at least owns up to it. It's in their mission statement. "Fantastical theater for a daring audience that isn't afraid of some dead fucking rats." Plus, we can drink all those other nerds under the table. In fact, we drink before every show. We have to. Why?

We're still working on the maggots. Get ready for comedy!


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Comments

You forgot the Bathhouse, Kurruk. Those Greenlake rats will f*cking steal focus from you. They also show up late for fight call, jump their cues and always sing flat.

But they can out drink anyone and make the best douche jokes, so we put up with them.

Comment number: 005777   Posted by: rob on December 13, 2005 09:36 AM from IP: 207.141.19.81

Are you a writer too? Your style reminds me of Dave Eggers... He wrote Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. And for the record - yes that is a compliment, as he is one of my favorite authors. You are hilarious!

Comment number: 005781   Posted by: Brandy on December 14, 2005 01:32 PM from IP: 207.200.116.73

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