BACKSTAGE INC. at 21st and P streets is full of stuff!
Liquid body dye. Yellow. Blue. Bright purple!
Skin glitter in three colors! A hundred makeup base colors, a hundred eye liner colors!
And a shelf of wrenches for fixing stage lighting, and books on lighting, and a stack of color frames, and a chin-high Victorian map cabinet full of colored gels for theatrical lights, reminding one that owner Jean Rosenthal (no relation to the Broadway designer of the same name) was trained as a lighting designer at George Washington University, where she graduated only two years ago.
"This is my dream," she said. "It was going to be a bookstore, but that wasn't enough. I got tired of everyone saying they had to go to New York for everything." Her mother and father, a retired antique dealer and government worker, respectively, help out in the store. So does her grandmother.
You want wigs? Have a Louis XIV wig. A George Washington wig. A Santa Claus wig. A Washington lawyer wig. Clown wigs in all the primary colors. And rainbow.
You want masks? Have an armlength scarlet ostrich-feathered harlequin seductress. Have a gapemouthed fish face designed by Jack Guidone. A devil. A lion. A monkey. A quetzal.
A quetzal! A Jack Guidone quetzal! The winged serpent of Mexico and D. H. Lawrence right in your own living room! Wear it to Trader Vic's!
A new department: Tights! Leotards! Leg warmers! All colors! (Within reason!)
"I'm starting to collect costumes, but you know they take up so much space. We'll have to expand if we get into costumes," Rosenthal said.
But the toe is in the door. On the bookshelves: a book of Erte fashion paper dolls of the '20s. Marilyn Monroe Paper Dolls! Rudolph Valentino Paper Dolls! And a boxful of old magazine ads ("I'd walk a mile for a Camel!") and Harper's Weeklies as far back as April 1, 1876 -- with three solid pages of bustles!
Opened a month ago on the Henri Gallery main floor, the shop is already finding its audience. Play-wright John Nassivera ("Phallacies") has been known to hang out there. Downtown theater and dance people call for this and that, and every Wednesday Rosenthal orders copies of whatever scripts the local theaters are working on, to be able to supply the songs and research and small props that might be needed.
O for a Chekhov revival!
You can buy whiskey bottles and tumblers made of dried sugar syrup: breakaway bottles for hitting someone on the head with.
O for an O'Casey revival!
There are records, of course, and tapes and sheet music and post cards and posters, lots of posters, stacks of posters, walls full of posters...
"The Joffrey is a time for joy. The time is now!"
... and shelves and shelves books on theater, film, opera, dance: fat books, thin books, hard books, easy books.
"The No Plays of Japan" by Arthur Waley!
"The Instant Decorator!"
"Basic Ballet -- The Steps Defined!"
People come in looking for material for a monologue or a speech. People want old songs, or new ones (drawer label: "Complete Vocal Scores, A -- J"). People pick up the-artical-theme jewelry, theatrical note paper, dramatic scarves, beads, Tshirts with "The Wiz" on them. People leave notices, fliers, audition calls. They drink the hot cider there on cold days. They sit in the director chairs and read the books from the shelves.
It's a store? It's a planet!