“Pack it in!” I screech, “Like sardines! Think sardine-y thoughts!” I beckon to the groups tentatively stepping in the small, dark holding room. It’s approximately the size of a closet, with dirty carpet on the floor and flickering (electric) candles on the wall. A claustrophobic’s nightmare. “Get closer to me, I don’t smell! I’ve washed this week, I think,” I pipe, my cockney accent making my voice particularly shrill. Perhaps the group I’m addressing is this: a nuclear family- mom, dad, teenaged son and 8 year-old daughter, a date- a tall, muscular man and his busty girlfriend, and a birthday party- eight 10 year-old girls and a chaperone. Once they’ve all squeezed in, the door closes. It’s very dark, especially to those who’ve been waiting outside in the bright sunlight, which may elicit gasps and giggles (especially from the 10 year-olds).
“Alright, everyone! My name is Minnerva Killgoar [spelled weird to avoid searches] and I’m one of the maids here. I’m actually one of the nicer people you’re going to meet tonight, I’m afraid. Not everyone is as nice as me here, or as pretty. Like our test administrator, Ichabod Gory. He’s rather…icky..as his name might suggest. Oh you didn’t know this was a test? It’s a test of bravery. If you pass, you’ll go in, get seated, have a lovely dinner. If you fail…we may all die here together! There’s no going back! Ichabod, where are you?”
That is some version of the speech I give before “Ichabod Gory” , an animated little skeletal man, appears on the television at the far end of the chamber. He gives a little speech which ends with the initiation of the test: the ceiling of the room begins to lower. I gasp, point to it, and then get everyone to “muster all your bravery into your little finger and point it to the ceiling and say, ‘I AM NOT AFRAID!’” The ceiling stops, Gory announces “You passed”, and I get to heave open the door and pass these people off to the hostess.
This is the most boring part of my job. I’m doing interactive improv theatre at a theme restaurant in Midtown. I am solely hired as an actor, playing the part of a maid. Occasionally someone will ask me if I can get them a drink refill and my character apologetically says “I’m only a maid here. I’m not qualified to do anything but dust. I tried to bring someone food once and I spilt it all over the walls. They don’t allow me anymore.” I’m thinking to myself “Hell no I’m not bringing you anything. I’m being paid to say and do weird and funny things, and that’s it! HA!”
Minerva is a dodgey cockney maid who often pulls her apron over her head in fright and thinks she has telepathic capabilities. This means she walks up to people and says “I am getting a strong vibe…the universe is telling me you are not from New York City.” Well yeah… I’m working at a tourist trap. She is also fond of approaching bald men and peering into the depths of their bald spots and seeing the future. Dangerous, I know, but I’m great at gauging who can take a joke and who is too self conscious about their thinning hairline. Minerva’s hobby is making grown men scream like little girls, “I believe every strapping, macho looking man has a little girl inside him, just camping out on his solar plexus. I was hoping to make her scream.”
The walls of the restaurant are adorned with artifacts and experiments. The ambiance is that of a social club for bizarre scientists and explorers. There is a mummy in one corner, a suit of armor in another, a fireplace with a werewolf bust over it, a statue of a Greek god rotating in the middle of the room, a strange zombie band, to name a few. They are all animatronic puppets controlled by an actor in a control booth. I’ll spend an hour out on the floor as my batty maid, then half an hour in the booth being the teenaged werewolf, the crotchety mummy, and all sorts of other weird characters. It is fun and madly different from anything I’ve done before. I’m interacting with people by squinting at them on a little black and white television screen and straining to hear them overhead phones.
I can’t complain. I’d rather do that all day than bring people Pepsi. I’m getting paid to sing like a werewolf practising for his “Twilight the Musical” audition (heaven forbid that actually becomes a musical) and make up amazing dance moves with a feather duster.