Finishing the Hat
by Mark Kennedy, Arden Professional Apprentices
Every day, except for Mondays, I hum the song “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George in the Arcadia green room while I sew in a fake hair piece to the Mouse’s hat. Later onstage he will cut it all up and after the show I will take out the hair piece, spot clean the hat, and let it dry so I can sew in a new piece the next day. It is one of the many little tasks I complete daily (and in many cases, twice a day) to keep If You Give A Mouse A Cookie running.
I have many tasks like this that involve constant upkeep; I am definitely never really finishing anything. I put every prop in its proper place only to be brought out and thrown around each day and I spend about an hour and fifteen minutes cleaning up each mess. I have to be painstakingly careful cleaning up each and every time because I have to be sure to clean up all the rice flour that the Mouse pours onstage at a particularly delightful moment in Act I. The rice flour gets into the cracks on the floor, into the tiny ledges in the cabinets, even into corners backstage. I have to be sure to get rid of it all because if any rice is left out it will attract real pests like ants and moths. If it’s left out with water under the stage lights it will actually bake into unleavened bread. We definitely do not want our own version of If You Give A Bug A Biscuit.
As I write this we’ve done 45 shows and you can imagine after five weeks of constant cleaning I might be feeling a little weary of the tedium. But it’s funny, I’ve been less weary than I thought I’d be.
I find a lot of little things that keep me happy. The Mouse draws a picture of a large sun and a house as he sings “You Are My Sunshine” each show, and I’ve hung up each picture backstage as a visual representation of the number of times we’ve told this story. 45 so far. Only 53 to go!
On the inside of the Mouse’s hat is a little inscription that reads “Do what you like. Like what you do.” I like to think our costumer Richard St. Clair chose the hats not only because our Mouse is ever the optimist, but that the hat’s message would provide me a daily reminder of just how lucky I am to be here, working, doing what I like. So I choose to think that way, and marvel at my luck to be doing it.
On the front of the hat is another inscription: “Life is good.”