A Tale of a Towel
By Brittany Brewer
What would you do with all the money in the world?
What a question.
I know what I’d do. [Pause]. Do you want to know what I’d do?
I’d never do laundry again.
That’s it. That’s the big dream?
Once upon a time at a company called Arden, there was a show, >sick a show with lots of water. It was called Metamorphoses. Those who worked at the company knew that producing the show would bring many challenges: heating the pool, keeping the pool clean, making costumes that could withstand weeks of sogginess, and – of course – towels. Many, many towels. And no matter how hard they tried, this Arden just couldn’t keep up with the mountains of towels that piled up in the laundry.
And just when it seemed that all laundry hope was lost – Wash Cycle Laundry came to the rescue! Wash Cycle Laundry – a company who helps individuals and businesses surmount their mountains of laundry – agreed to help the Arden meet the challenge.
This is the story of that partnership – and of the one little towel who wanted more than anything to make a difference!
Once upon a time, there was a towel. And on one crisp fall morning – clean, fresh, fluffy – this little towel found himself bumping along the back of a bicycle! The bicycle was helmed by Wash Cycle Cyclist Route Manager, Jason. As Jason wove in and through Philadelphia city streets, the towel felt the cool breeze in his fibers.
Suddenly, the bike veered to a stop and Jason was lifting the little towel and his neatly folded friends off of the bike and into a building. As the little towel and his friends whipped through the doors of the building, he noticed the large sign on the front: “The Arden Theatre Company.” The little towel began quivering with excitement. Helping out behind the scenes at the Arden was his favorite post! What purpose would he have today? Would he embark alone or share in the journey of toil with other towels?
Jason soon was backstage, and the little towel could hear the actors as they rushed between dressing rooms, stretching for their performance, and warming up their voices in preparation. Jason handed the little towel and his friends off to Rebecca, the Arden’s wardrobe supervisor.
Some of the little towel’s friends were being placed by Rebecca on the ground to catch water from dripping costumes. Others were brought into the dressing rooms to assist actors. The little towel wondered what his job would be! Before he knew it, the assistant to the stage manager was ending his speech, the lights were dimming, music was filling the space, and the show was in motion.
The little towel’s day at work was a blur, but beautifully transformative. He felt joy in the many ways he contributed in moving the show forward. From the moment the show began, everyone and everything was in constant movement.
Sometimes, the little towel lined the floor of “the hotbox” – a heated space backstage where the actors changed costumes.
At another point, the little towel served as a personal assistant to the actors. The little towel assisted an actor in drying his hair. Then, he was immediately wrapped around the actor’s waist and the little towel assisted him in relocating to a dressing room for a longer costume change. In moments of movement like this, the little towel spotted some other of his towel friends at work: draped across different actors’ heads and bodies as they lounged for a quick breather backstage or hustled to make a quick entrance. Many more lined the floors. The little towel was happy; it felt nice to be needed.
When the show finally came to an end, the little towel found himself back in “the hotbox”, tossed quickly into a pile as his actor returned to stage. Though the show was over, the little towel had more work to do! After audience members sifted out, crew members grabbed the little towel (and some of his friends) and began to wipe down the wet stage.
Then, when that was done, the little towel was returned to a large yellow bag. The little towel was now damp, rumpled, and dirty – a far cry from the fluffiness he had felt just 2 hours ago!
Days passed and the little towel waited. He waited, and waited, damp and dirty, for Jason to return and transform him back to his fluffy old self. Days passed, and more shows were performed, and more towels joined the little towel in his dirty bag – but still no Jason. And just when the little towel was about to give up hope – he heard the familiar shuffling of Jason’s shoes coming through the backstage door. And suddenly, the little towel and his friends were being lifted into Jason’s bike!
As the little towel sighed a breath of relief, he and his soggy compatriots were bumping along the old city cobblestone once again. In and out of the historic side streets of Old City they weaved until they arrived at 16th and South, where Tracey and the Wash Cycle laundry team were waiting. Tracey and her team scooped up the little towel and his friends, dropped them into the washers, and the little towel’s second transformation had begun. In the care of Tracey and the Wash Cycle team, the little towel was tumbled, soaked, soaped, dried, fluffed, and folded. He was placed into a pile that was soon to be loaded onto a bike, and just as if he had never been dirty before, the little towel set off on his next big adventure.
Partners in Transformation: Arden and Wash Cycle Laundry
The Arden is very grateful for the support of Wash Cycle Laundry as a partner in our production of Metamorphoses. Metamorphoses requires the use of 75 towels per performance, which is about 600 towels a week. We needed to find assistance in laundering our daunting number of backstage towels so that each performance, our actors can truly take our audience through the transformation that is Metamorphoses. Fortunately, we did not need all of the money in the world and Wash Cycle Laundry is not intimated by our massive loads of laundry.
Transformation is a theme that is very important to the Arden. We always transform of spaces: our seating is flexible and the audience area can change from show to show, depending on the needs of the story we are telling. The Arden is also committed to the transformation of the environment, and as such, through our partnerships with Revolution Recovery and The Resource Exchange, we diverted 78% of our trash from landfills last season. But, the theme of transformation extends even further for us this year. It is a pivotal component to storytelling that can be seen in the selection of our 2015/2016 season: Shagspeare’s belief in his purpose as a playwright transforms in Equivocation, Chick Sherman seeks to transform his legacy in Funnyman, the cultural landscape of America is transforming in Two Trains Running, and the garden undergoes a lively transformation in The Secret Garden.
Transformation is a theme that also really speaks to the mission of Wash Cycle Laundry. Nearly 50% of Wash Cycle employees have a history of incarceration, addiction, homelessness, or welfare dependence. Over 80% of their employees in management/leadership positions began on the front lines and they double Philadelphia’s average for employee retention with welfare to work recipients. They are transforming people’s lives by creating stable jobs with upward mobility and providing people with opportunity. They are showing that being sustainable can actually save money and improve our cities. They are cutting down on the number of trucks blocking traffic or polluting the air and getting places faster and more often because of their use of bikes.
The Arden is proud to partner with a company as dedicated to sustainability and community as Wash Cycle to help tell our stories onstage. Thank you to Jason, Tracey, and all those who work behind the scenes at Wash Cycle Laundry who have helped to make Metamorphoses possible.