1) I was delighted - and very surprised - to get an invitation from WGBH three weeks ago to give one of the "pop-up" talks at last night's Masquerade fund-raiser. So that's been one of the Big Deal Issues since then, researching and preparing the talk. My original Evolution of the Dinner Party covered the life of the Gibson family in the Gibson House, 1860-1954, but for this I'd have to use the years of Victoria's reign, 1837-1901, to keep with their theme. So all my material on smoking, Prohibition, and Dorothy Draper would have to get tossed.
1a) I picked up some fascinating tidbits along the way, though, which made this particular project a lot of fun.
2) Figuring out how to get to the remote fastnesses of the studios, deep in Brighton, was a wee bit frustrating. The T's trip planner first suggested going all the way out to Sullivan Square (almost the opposite end of the Ligne d'Orange!) and taking a bus to within a block of the studio - possibly the longest hairpin trip ever. Eventually I changed from the Ligne d'Orange to the Ligne Vert at Copley Square and caught the 57 bus at Kenmore to Union Square, Brighton, and then walked about 15 minutes. Much more reasonable.
2a) Besides, Sullivan Station is nothing more than a concrete dystopia fitted under a superhighway.
2b) Actually, if you set Waiting for Godot there, it'd be perfect. I wouldn't go see it, but it'd be perfect.
3) The studios are quite posh, and I was escorted to a large conference room being used as a green room for all the talent. Mostly that was a 22-piece brass band, some dancers in Victorian garb, and three speakers including me. Sandwiches and bottled water provided, so I could review my script while fighting off any possible anxiety with food.
4) Since it was billed as a masquerade, I brought my red half-mask from Venice. While I was fitting it on in the mens room, who should appear but my Lake Charles friend Paul Hart Miller, fitting on his mask! PHM volunteers frequently for the station, and I was very glad to see a familiar face.
5) Truly I expected to see no one I knew, but by the end of the night I'd run into the retired colleague of a friend of mine who remembered meeting me and reads the column, Miss Kitty who tends the bar for me at Repeal Day every December, and later in the night a friend of a friend who's engaged in community theatre costuming.
6) The event was laid out over three spaces: a large entrance hall fitted up with a light buffet and a bar, a larger room just off it with the 22-piece brass band, a bar, and a photo backdrop, and a smaller room where the talks would be given with a bar, light buffet, and some high top tables with high chairs. Plenty of room to move around made it a comfortable night.
7) ONE glass of red wine to start the night. To quote Auntie Mame, "I don't want to get overstimulated for Floyd." "Boyd." "Yes, Boyd and Emily."
8) The two speakers who spoke before me were a big hit, and seem to have brought friends or at least had a following from previous events; I couldn't quite tell. But they brought it talking about Victorian fashion. Fascinating. And tough acts to follow.
9) All of us were introduced by one of the station's Radio Personalities, and he said very nice things about me before I took the podium. Once there, I just did my thing, occasionally interjecting info not in the script, not always remembering to advance my slides, and realizing about halfway through that I'd never let my left hand leave its home base on the edge of the podium.
10) I managed to get a few good laughs, and once it was all over and I could celebrate with another glass of red wine, I ended up in a very convivial conversation with about six or eight people, most of whom belonged to the same family and some of whom play in the orchestra pits of the B'way shows that tour to Boston.
11) I must say, a LOT of people treated this as a true dress-up night, and I'm in awe of the ladies present who came in hoop skirts or gowns with bustles. (I overheard one of them say "As long as there's a handicapped stall, I'm OK.") All Victorian periods were represented (except the 1890s - I didn't see any leg o' muitton sleeves), and one couple even came in Victorian bathing costumes! I was glad I'd at least brought my mask, and really, I should've worn my black tie.
12) PHM very kindly lifted me home, as well as another event volunteer who lived in Somerville. Driving through bits of Brighton, I was struck by how placeless it seemed. At night, all these strip malls and what-have-you could have been anywhere in the nation. It reminded me of that Jim Jarmusch film Stranger Than Paradise.
13) Finally back home, I could collapse (my feet were killing me) and rejoice. The night really was a success.