Muddy Pants Can Spark by Thomas Putnam
I was able to sit in on a rehearsal of the upcoming production of Foolish Fishgirls and the Pearl the other night. I sat there wondering what this playwright does in her spare time and what was the event or thought or item that might lead a person to come up with the idea of three women of a certain age...who just happen to be mermaids. We've read that “there's nothing new under the sun,” but I think maybe there is something new here.
Besides my curiosity about what sparked the idea for such a story (Remember Faulkner's spark for The Sound and the Fury was in one of his short stories, "Twilight." He had created the character of a little girl, Caddy, in this story. In a scene where Caddy has climbed a pear tree to look into the window where her grandmother's funeral is being held, her brothers are looking up at her and they see her muddy pants. Faulkner claimed he loved the character of Caddy so much that he felt she deserved more than a short story. And that lead to The Sound and the Fury!) I thought about the two main characters and the women who were playing them. It's one of the great perks of being involved in a small-ish community theatre to not only see the wide variety of sets that appear on the same stage, but even more to see people playing completely different characters in completely different plays.
Pat Balon and Anne Acker inhabit the little inn in which the story takes place. They're sisters. I wondered when the HGWP decided to produce this play who might show up for auditions and who might be cast in these roles. I was delighted upon discovering that these two had auditioned and were cast.
I first worked with Pat in a play called Wedding Belles. She had auditioned for Driving Miss Daisy, along with a number of other women, but we couldn't produce that one because we could not find a Hoke. So we substituted Wedding Belles and were able to cast nearly everyone who auditioned for Daisy, which has only one woman character. Pat was great in the play and my admiration for her dedication and talent began. A few years later we took the risk of scheduling a two person play, one man and one woman, and Pat auditioned and once again demonstrated her talent and commitment in a role in which she never leaves the stage. And did I mention that she's fun? She played in two of our short plays we produced during a Covid summer and again was delightful to work with in two very different roles.
I had heard about Anne for years before actually finally meeting her. She was in a number of productions in Coudersport where she then lived and I kept hearing about this talented singer and actor. She ended up moving to Wellsboro and I'm sure she did so she could be in HG plays! In The Last Romance she played an elderly bossy, hovering sister to her even more elderly brother. Every time she walked on stage one could sense the audience ready to welcome her, this lovable, funny old woman. You may have heard Anne sing in a variety of venues around the area, too!
Both of these women had never worked together, but it's clear they are working together in this play. It's great fun to see them in these roles. I wonder if the playwright had two aunts or two neighbor ladies who talked and yelled and loved and were just plain funny. And they probably had funny names...and maybe muddy pants... and they were endearing. and needed more than a short story. Sounds like a spark to me.