When I was in college I majored in Speech Communication and Drama (the first time around) and had to participate in one-act plays and stage productions. One of the big productions put on was Alice in Wonderland. So, my good friend and roommate, Jeri, and I went to try out. When the parts came out, we looked down the list to see what parts we got. We knew we would get a part, because it was a pretty big cast. We were hoping for a big part. Jeri won the role of the Red Queen. I was very happy for her. I secretly wanted to be Alice. I looked for my name. Yeah, there it was………….Vickie Mendenhall…………..Duck/card
I was a duck. Yeah, a duck. And a card. Like in a deck of cards. Wow. This was….such great news. (I am being extremely sarcastic, in case you can’t tell.) I mean, what the hell? A duck? And then, I had to change out of my duck costume, and don a card costume, and then back into the duck costume. Oh, and it gets better.
Our director wanted to use a real baby pig for the part where the baby turns into a pig. She said that she had made arrangements for a farmer to lend us a baby pig, but needed someone to be in charge of doing the switch behind the curtain when it was time. She called out people who were free during that time, and my name was called. Well, I loved baby pigs. I had a pig collection in high school. Some people collect Pez and baseball cards. I collected pigs..Go figure..
Anywho, I raised my hand and said that I would be willing to do the pig switch, despite the fact that I had to be a duck, then a card, and then a duck. I would try to find the time. But, oh my God, there were problems.
After my initial disappointment, of you know, being a duck in a play…in college, I decided to embrace it and be the best damn duck anyone had ever seen…because, I was a professional, damnit…sigh
I had to have a costume made for me. A duck costume. At least my face would show and I wouldn’t be hidden behind a duck head. I did look like a duck, with yellow chicken legs and big feet. The feet would pose a problem in every performance. Meanwhile, the director couldn’t find anyone to take the little piggie home each evening. She didn’t think about that. So, she decided to keep it in her office. Yeah, real smart. Her office smelled like hay and piggie poop.
So, the night of dress rehearsal went smoothly. I decided to ad lib something while on stage both times I was on as the duck and I thought the director would stop everything and yell at me, but I heard her laughing in the seats. Someone who was sitting by her told me she was crying she was laughing so hard. I had to be in a scene with a jury of animals, like a mouse, and I don’t know what other animals were jury members. Some one used pepper somehow and we all had to sneeze, just a little sneeze. But, I made mine last forever, like I was trying to sneeze, over and over, and sounding like a munchkin from munchkinland at the same time. (I really could have been a voice-over for cartoons.)
Another time Alice was passing out candy to animals for some stupid reason and we were just supposed to take the candy and go stand back in the line. Well, I decided to stand there, fidgeting, holding out my hand each time , even though we were in a line, and then I looked at Alice with my eyes crossed and said thank you in my munchkin voice, and the girl playing Alice burst out laughing. Uh, Oh, I was going to get yelled at. But, the director told me to leave it in there for the performances. I was going to be a duck hit.
Well, the performance the next night was filled with some problems. Everything ran smoothly, but only because I am a professional, damnit. After I was onstage as a duck, I had to run downstairs and get the pig, in my duck outfit. And carry the thing upstairs. The farmer had showed me to hold the pig by its back feet with one hand and to put my other hand on its chest. He said hanging it upside down like that would pull on its vocal cords and it couldn’t squeal. Well, that part was true, and the pig did great. We made the exchange each time without a squealing pig behind stage before it was time. But, each time the pig had to run off stage and Vickie the duck had to run after it each time, catch it and take it back downstairs. Then I had to run back upstairs, and change into my card outfit.
Well, I tripped going up the stairs in my duck outfit and landed on my knee. The pain was unbelievable. It hurt so badly and I still had to be a card and a duck again. I was crying some real duck tears. Well, some older guy who was a community member who was some animal (I can’t remember), told me he had a pain pill and that I should take it. So, I did. Yeah, I am a stupid duck. I only weighed 100 pounds and I was loopy for the rest of the performance. I mean, very loopy. I didn’t really know what was going on. He probably gave me some LSD or something….Pyschedelic Duck….perhaps a Disco Duck…
The audience cracked up at my scene-stealing, but I was soo messed up. Then, Mr. Wallman, the old man that our theater building was named after, Wallman Hall, came looking for me. “Where’s that little girl duck?” he asked frantically. “I opened the door to Ms. Lough’s office, and the pig ran out.” Yeah, the pig was on the loose. We didn’t need the piglet anymore that night, and I had to change into a card, so poor Mr. Wallman had to hunt for the piggie on his own.
Well, they didn’t find the piglet for hours afterwards. They thought maybe someone stole it, but they found it sleeping in the costume room, all curled up in a hat. Weird, but not as weird as how I was feeling. I had no pain in my knee until I woke up the next morning. I woke up wearing a robe. I don’t even remember how I got home or how I got undressed. But, when I woke up, my leg was swollen and I was in pain. So, yeah, I took another pill that next performance, but cut it in half. I mean, no one else could fit in the outfit. I had the duck voice going on and people asking me afterwards what I had in my mouth to make me sound the way I did. I was like a Peter Frampton “How do you Feel?” voice changer duck..I had to perform. The show had to go on!
Some one filmed Alice in Wonderland and I wish I would have purchased a copy of it. My kids would see a high duck with ripped yellow hose (which the director loved) parading around on stage looking like….a duck.
I realized after that last performance that I could be an actress if I really wanted to. But, no, I decided to stay in Fairmont, West Virginia, and become a dental assistant for the next four years. Yeah, that sounds much better.
What a lucky duck!