Written by Jeremy Stolle
I met my wife in a theater class here in New York City. Ironically the whole time we were growing up, we were steps away from meeting each other. Every day after school throughout my elementary education I was dropped off at my grandmother’s house. As it turned out Ashlee grew up in a house three blocks away in the same town, San Mateo, California. We would have met in high school if my parents had not decided to move our family across the bay. Later, after college, she and I had a chance to meet yet again when we both worked in stage shows at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. Our contracts overlapped and yet, I never laid eyes on her. We finally met in January of 2003, on West 27th street, in a small rehearsal studio, right here in New York City. We both had relocated in an effort to pursue a career in theatre. Luckily when we met she wanted nothing to do with me.
I pursued her for a bit, won her over, and it was finally time to meet her family. I do not think anything could have prepared me for the moment I was to meet her parents, except my education in theater. My wife’s parents own and run a successful singing telegram and children’s party business in Northern California. At one time they were local celebrities. My father-in-law has been known to frequent the grocery store in a pink cupid outfit because he had to pick up milk after a gig. My mother-in-law cooked us dinner in half of her Viking princess costume because she was rushing off to sing to a CEO at his office birthday party. The first meal I shared with them was exciting and fun. I went home a happy man.
The next afternoon my soon-to-be mother-in law had an “emergency” Superman gig come up. At the time I did not know that my mother-in-law was infamous for employing my wife’s friends. My mother-in-law called and asked if I could do this job. She described it as a “quick 1-hour-walk-around.” (Meaning I would dress as Superman and literally walk around a corporate event interacting with the guests and posing for pictures.) The dinner the previous evening had gone well. I really liked Ashlee so I said yes. When Ashlee, now my wife, received word of her mother’s request, she phoned me immediately. She apologized for her mother’s request and let me know that I was not at all obligated to work for her parents. She explained that she was crazy about me and that my choice to do the job would not affect her feelings toward me. I laughed and assured her I was not offended. I then turned around and phoned her mother and I agreed to do the job. I genuinely thought it would be a simple way to gain favor with someone I hoped would be my future in-law.
The next day I drove to the business office to discuss the gig and get the costume. The place, of course, was buzzing. There were two secretaries wildly trying to keep up with the ringing phones. Elvis and Cinderella came through to drop off items or pick up directions to their next gig. A delivery of pirate party goods and helium tanks for the balloons arrived all at once. There were floor to ceiling pictures of the characters they represented. Fax machines, printers, and monitors lined the wall. Naturally there was a rainbow of feather boas on the door next to a case of facial hair, swords, Viking hats, and an adult-sized chocolate chip cookie costume. At that point, I realized I might have gotten in over my head.
I was taken right away to the changing room and tried on the Superman costume. The assistant brought me the one-and-only available costume they had in the shop. Then I knew I was in trouble. The costume was built as a one-size–fits-all unitard!!! Living as a 6’4” man, I knew this to be a misnomer. Needless to say I began to pull the costume up. I was horrified when I realized the impossibility for the shoulder line of the costume to lie at my actual shoulders while the inseam lied in a classy manner at my crotch. I panicked at this realization and yanked the costume so hard to try to cover my shoulders I think I may have injured myself. Of course, at that very moment there was a rapid knock at the door. It was my future mother-in-law. She wanted to see the costume. I refused to open the door. She insisted I show her. I was on my own and had no protection so I allowed her to come in. I stood there holding my genitals in one hand and my dignity in the other. She took one look at me and said, “Oh my, this won’t do!” She sent her assistant to get me some help. Her assistant brought me a red turtleneck to take care of the neck problem, some red ballet shoes and boot spats for the shoes, and a jock strap to possibly cure the unspeakable problem. I politely refused the jock strap. The assistant then returned with a leather thong. Once again I balked. My mother-in-law realized it was not going to work. She then got and idea and instructed me to jump into my car and follow her car. I agreed. I began to close the door to change my clothes. She stopped me and explained that there was no time to change, I would have to go in costume!
At that point I was driving through downtown San Mateo in my parents minivan, dressed as superman on my way to a destination unknown.
To Be Continued…
Jeremy is a Phantom understudy in the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera. He writes a humorous Twitter account about life on Broadway at @JeremyStolle.