20 September 2012

Sherpa Plays Show-and-Tell on Stage

Editor's note: This posted originally appeared as "Look, I Made a Hat!" on the Telling: Des Moines blog, where I'm chronicling a November 2012 production of The Telling Project in Central Iowa.

You can also follow "Telling: Des Moines" developments on Facebook here.

The cast of "Telling: Des Moines" continues to meet weekly on the Ankeny campus of Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), getting a feel for basic acting techniques, tricks, and terms, as well as each other. We're on our third week of rehearsals.

Meanwhile, our writer-producer (producer-writer?) Jonathan Wei is banging away at a script somewhere down in Texas, transcribing our initial interviews and weaving them together into a larger work. Many of us were interviewed back in January 2012. A few of us have even wondered aloud as to whether we're still the same people we were back then. It's funny, but not a joke. Life is a moving target. A few of us have encountered significant decisions and events since last winter.

We're looking forward to meeting our former selves, and hearing what we have to say.

I missed last week's rehearsal in order to attend a "military writers' conference" in Denver, Colo. Week No. 2's assignment had been to present an object to our fellow cast members, something connected to our respective military experiences. I was sorry to have missed the opportunity to participate in the show-and-tell exercise. Director Jennifer Fawcett allowed me to share my object at this week's rehearsal. Sort of make-up homework.

I chose my burnt-orange floppy hat from the Multinational Force and Observers (M.F.O.) mission in Sinai, Egypt. "I got my combat patch for peacekeeping duty," I like to say. Personnel serving on MFO duty—Fijians, Columbians, Hungarian, Kiwi, and more—wore the uniforms of their nations' respective militaries, but we all wore the same hat.

The military called it a "Stetson," but it doesn't look much like a cowboy hat. You can wear it like a cowboy, however, by shaping its brim. You can also shape it like a slouch hat, a jungle boonie hat, or like you're going on safari. You can look like Indiana Jones. You can look like The Man from Snowy River. You can even flip the front of your hat up to look like Larry Storch's character on that old "F Troop" comedy.

Our sergeant major didn't much care how we wore ours—this was in the days before color-coded Reflective Safety Belts and other garrison finery. How one chose to wear the hat became a matter of self-expression during our time in the desert.

The hats featured a flap of cloth that could be extended to shield one's neck from the sun. They also featured an adjustable chinstrap. Neither was ever used.

"It's a fishing hat!" Danielle says, after my show-and-tell.

I had never before thought of it that way.

Later in rehearsal, each of us worked on reading aloud an excerpt from a book or play, taken from a selection of monologues collected by the director. In keeping with the military theme, there were a few selections from David Finkel's "The Good Soldiers". There were some non-military selections, too. Jennette Walls' "Half Broke Horses" was one. I randomly selected an essay from David Sedaris' "Naked," which involved the author's show-business epiphany when a mime visited his high school.

Next week's assignment, coincidentally? Present to our fellow cast members an activity—something we do regularly—without vocalization or use of props.

Mime's the word!


  1. Ahh.. kind of like a Swiss-army-type Hat then (and on the bright side.. it wasn't a beret!)



    1. We were also each issued a burnt-orange winter-weight (w/lining) wool beret as well. Wore it exactly twice during seven months in the Sinai: Once, for the incoming ceremony; once, for the outgoing ceremony!

    2. My rusty beanie did eventually serve a useful purpose. Gave it to #2 daughter at the homecoming ceremony which in turn caused her to stop absconding with my black one.

      My stetson started as a slouch, morphing into a boonie with repeated cramming into cargo pockets for helicopter flights. Ironically, it now serves as a rain hat.


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