Saturday, September 29, 2012
My First Flea or How I Bought an Oleanna Mug
Oh everyone remembers their first time...and I will mostly remember my first Broadway Flea market as where I met the dapper Jeremy Shamos as he strolled through the crowd (he even gave me an electronic shout-out), bought an Oleanna mug, and somehow missed the sale of trash can covers signed by the cast of One Man Two Guvnors.
Apparently you can't have a Flea without regret. And now I have my trash can regret. I was wandering back and forth throughout the market like a haunted woman whispering, "But where are the trash can covers. Where? I didn't see them. They were only $5. I waaaaaaaaaant one."
Seriously, where were they?! I was there starting at 11am and until 7pm. I never saw them on any of the tables. If you got one let me know. I will buy it from you....maybe.
No matter the time of day the frenzy at the flea market tables was intense. Combing through piles and piles of playbills I remembered shows I saw and loved and then I was filled with massive regret for all the shows I missed.
It was a strange walk down memory lane. I was reminded of my Claudia Shear obsession. Blown Sideways Through Life was my life bible in American Playhouse form from 1995-2000--I'm pretty sure I wore out my VHS watching it over and over again. There was the time my mother and I actually agreed on something and decided we both really wanted to see Bea Arthur on Broadway. Who knew that good old Bea was our common ground? Of course I came across a playbill from my favorite show Arcadia. I still have my Arcadia playbill from 1995...but now I've got a back up one! I did not think I would interested in playbills from shows I never saw but I purchased a 1974 playbill from a Peter Cook and Dudley Moore show called "Good Evening." They wrote bios for each other that were quite amusing and since I've had comedy on the brain lately it seemed like a reasonable purchase and a nice bit of British comedy paraphernalia.
You can pretty much convince yourself that anything at the Broadway Flea Market is a reasonable purchase which is the danger. Thankfully the items were all pretty cheap and it all goes to charity.
I bought a Rock 'n' Roll poster because I really loved that Stoppard show too. I saw it in London first, then Prague (in Czech!!!!) and then on Broadway. Even Rufus Sewell thought I was weird for seeing it in Czech so you'll have to get into a pretty special line to judge me on that point. But I wanted to see how the Czech audience would react to it. Would it be funny to them? Too close to the bone? Well I won't tell you how they reacted because you got all judgy-pants on me.
We saw a lot of Shrek the Musical and The Last Night of Ballyhoo merchandise for sale. Ballyhoo was particularly strange. That was last on Broadway in 1997. I guess maybe those folks who were hoping to capitalize on Paul Rudd being back on Broadway thought this was an opportune time to break out that box of Ballyhoo goodness from their basements. But who in 1997 said, "You know what will be a good investment...this box of mugs from an Alfred Urhy play. Kids. This will pay for your college." No one. No one said that. And yet...a massive amount of mugs were for sale. I'm sorry if you missed one but I have high hopes they will be back next year.
Now let's talk about the Oleanna mug. My recollection of Oleanna was reading it back when it was first published, underlining a lot of it, and mostly wanting to set it on fire. So buying the mug was not really an act of celebrating the play but more about the complete outrage I felt that anyone would go to that play and then think, "Dear, let's take home a little reminder of that play so that when we drink our morning coffee we can think about misogyny." "Absolutely honey. Make sure to get more than one so we can have a set when guests come over." "Nothing tastes as good as misogyny feels, but a cup of coffee in this mug might come close."
Ok let's all remember I read it as a teenager and not since then. Maybe it is a wonderful play, though I doubt it.
Anyway, I bought it for $1. I'm contemplating a performance art piece where I smash it into pieces. Or use it to drink my tea and laugh at myself for being totally ridiculous about Mamet, mugs and misogyny. Same difference.
The Oleanna mug did make me think about the generally boring merchandise most shows sell. I'm not sure who buys this stuff. I'm an avid theater-goer but I rarely buy any merchandise. Maybe I'll buy an emergency beverage sippy cup but rarely do I actually see something even from shows that I love that I want to own. Either I love the show but the merchandise or design work is kind of lame or I don't love the show and don't need a souvenir. I guess owning the play and playbill are usually enough for me. I'm a terrible capitalist.
But I did spend lots of dough at the Flea Market. Best buy for me was this Superior Donuts mug. I recently re-read the play after having seen it during its closing week in 2010. It's beautiful play that still makes me cry. I'm often moved by plays about lost promise, dreams deferred, opportunities squelched--because I am all about joy people. The specificity of the characters, the understanding of American class issues, and the heartbreaking stories within that play make it a must read. Michael McKean and Jon Michael Hill were utterly perfect.
So I bought a mug to remind me of that. And it's kinda cute too.