Some acting clubs might have ti over the Thessalian Artists for fancy stuff, but when it comes to straight acting, no fakes not hitting in the clinches, we took the celluloid fryig pan. Hipurbilee Jones was our manager and the old fellow was as slick as any in the country. We put on a few performances at Millford and then started on a tour of theatrical engagements. It was high class stuff, no second rate vaudeville; we played Shakespeare, Marlowe, Goethe, and some of the moderns. Also we put on some original plays designed by our leading lady, Miss Arimenta Gepps. Two of these, “Was it Love?” and “The Crimson Red Scarlet,” always went over big and we used one of them for our last night’s performance.
Things didn’t always run so smooth though, and just now I’m thinking about a performance we gave in a bush league town in Nevada. “One Night Only” it was billed, and it was a good thing for us. We were playing “The Woman of the Mask” an original play of four acts, written by Ephraim Jube, our poetical “heavy.” It was a hot sketch, full of mystic doings, secret loves and sudden murders, all about kings and lords, with countesses and princesses mixed in with reckless profusion.
The town “Opery House” as the yokels called it, was filled to the guards. Everything was going fine except that some windows were out and the wind kept whistling through and blowing the false whiskers off Alonzo Chub who was the King of Keramusa in the play. But altogether the play was a success with the exception of a scene in the second act when Chub’s crown accidentally fell off and landing on the leading lady’s toe, caused her to male some remarks that weren’t a part of the dialogue.
As the fourth act commenced, old Hipurbilee Jones came bustling up behind the scenes, saying that we’d have to make a night run, as the town had only one train a week and that left just twelve minutes after our performance was concluded. He’d had all the luggage loaded on except what we were using and as soon as the curtain fell, we were to hurry up to change out costumes and beat it for the station. We never liked to stay in a town any longer after a show than we had to, owing to the short-changing proclivities of Hank Jepson the ticket seller, and also to habits of Somolia States, the property man, who had a way of collecting pocket books when the owners weren’t looking. So we told Belle Jimsonwee, our star dancer, to quit taking so many encores between acts, and Hipurbilee went off saying he’d have the critters put on the train. The company had a small menagerie which was used sometimes in light comedies, including a rattlesnake, a couple of pink mice, some guinea pigs and Aurelious, the scentless skunk.
Came the dawn of a new act; the fourth to be exact. Now in this act a little light comedy was to be instilled by the king’s jester soaking the villain with a stuffed shillaily. Naturally, the aforesaid shillaily had been misplaced, and as time approached, we were forced to find some substitute. The jester wanted to use a section of curtain pole, but Ephraim waxed oratorical on the subject and as usual, Somolia States rose to heights of ingeniousness and procured a three foot length of bologna sausage. It was to be concealed behind a screen and at the moment of use, the jester would reach back, seize it and massage Ephraim Jube’s poetic cranium with it. Meanwhile the rest of use were scurrying hither and yon, mostly yon behind the scenes, packing used costumes and so on. The moment came, the audience leaned forward expectantly, scenting amusement the jester made a grab for the bologna and swung for Ephraim’s jaw—a cat had wandered in and was nibbling at the sausage and when the jester brought it forth, she was clinging to the other end. As the bologna described the arc intended, she lost her hold and with the screech of a lost soul, went sailing through the air, completing her flight in the mayor’s face, who sat on the front row. A pitched battle ensued, from which the cat fled, routed but victorious and the mayor got up and used language and made some wise cracks about law suits. However, we stopped the play long enough for the leading lady to apologize in her most bewitching manner and the old coot smirked and bowed and sat down again, whereupon we went on with the play. But Alonzo Chub made it a point of honor never to let a play go without pulling some bonehead. This time he was helping Somolia do up a stage carpet behind the scenes, and he backed out onto the stage into an impassioned love scene. Unknowing, he stood there like a yap, with his back to the audience, engrossed in his task, and totally unaware that he was out on the stage. Somolia started to roast him, when a budding genius in the audience put a hornet in a nigger-shooter and let ‘er go. The hornet buzzed through the air a lot faster than he’d ever flown, he hit Alonzo’s pants and hit end-on. Alonzo let out a squeal, climbed halfway up the screens, made a few impassioned gestures and left via the window. His shouts of “Fire!” came floating back for seven blocks. The audience rose as one man and applauded generously, and about that time a masked figure came running out on the stage. “Holy cat!” said Algernon Repples, the hero, “What does she mean? This ain’t the time for unmasking?” For the great scene that revealed the masked lady came just before the curtain fell.
“You gotta, now.” say Somolia, so Algernon, rushes forward, jerks off the mask and reveals the bibulous and hilarious countenance of Augustus Buff, scene shifter, who was lit like a power-plant. Just at that moment a feminine yowl from behind the screen announced that Miss Arimenta Gepps had discovered that she had been euchred out of an act, and was letting her artistic temperament go on the rampage.
Somolia likewise gives a yell and Algernon swings on Augustus who takes a nose dive into the orchestra, completely ruining two fiddles and a mouth organ.
And amidst the confusion a small demure critter saunters in the door and starts promenading up the aisles.
Somolia allows that it’s Aurelious, the violet scented skunk and goes burning the breeze down the aisle to chase him out. But a few feet away, he stops with a most curious expression on his face. Then he ‘bout-faces and heads the other way. For it wasn’t Aurelious, no, it wasn’t.
The town people had bragged that the opera house could be emptied in three minutes but this time the record was broken by two minutes and thirty seconds.
And any one who;d been on the streets, might have been edified by the sight of a company of high-class actors breaking Nurmi’s best records three jumps ahead of a ravening mob that wanted to lynch us, or such absurdity.
The train pulled out just as we climbed aboard and I doubt if any of us ever go back there. In fact, I think it very improbably, Very.