Rehearsal

In a store on East 9th Street I agree with the sales assistant that the bag I’ve picked up is lovely. It is. The bronze leather is soft enough to ripple, and the silk lining is hand-stitched in the workshop out back. She snatches up my two words.
“Oh! What part of Ireland are you from?”

I’d make a terrible celebrity. I don’t like being recognized, but I tell her anyway. She gasps again and waves a script. She’s studying lines for a Monday audition, and the North Dublin accent is being a right arse to her.
“I rented The Field,” she says, “And Angela’s Ashes.”
“And Darby O’Gill and the Little People?”
“They didn’t help much,” she says sadly, “They weren’t really Dublin.”
She seems nice, and I like interfering, so we start with a list of movies that she needs to see. The Commitments, which she’d forgotten. The Snapper–better, because the lead is a young woman. I Went Down. Some Colin Farrell interviews; he’s not quite right, but close enough to pass as Nortsoide for an American director. Forget The Dead; that’s a period accent, and the other side of the Liffey in any case.

She’s working on a Conor McPherson play I haven’t heard of. I was in college with Conor, though I didn’t know him. He wrote plays for DramSoc before Broadway adopted him. Noreen is impressed at this connection, though all I can think to tell her is that he was a funny-looking redhead back then, known to be talented and a grafter, and I remember him in tights. The ticket price for each of his plays doubled like lily pads, from three quid to see the The Light of Jesus at the Project Theatre in 1994, up to ninety bucks to see The Weir on Broadway a few years ago. The set design for his speechy dramas didn’t keep up, which made me bitter. For ninety bucks I expected a full-size Huey to land on the stage, at least.

“How do you pronounce N-E-A-S-A?”
“I’d say ‘Nassa’. But sometimes it’s ‘Nessa’.”
We go through the lines. I try to give her helpful rules. If it’s full-on North Dublin, then ‘book’ rhymes with ‘puke’. No tee-aitches. ‘I’ is ‘Oi’. You drop the ‘t’ at the end of a word and stick in a glottal stop if necessary. _Wha’ abou’ i’?_ I channel our Taoiseach(Prime Minister), Bertie Ahern. _Bairrrrr-tee._ That’s it, there’s a constipated frown that goes with it, especially if you’re threatening. I teach her northside jokes to get her in the mood.

“What do Nortsoide girls use for protection during sex?”
She looks worried. She is scribbling notes. Book = puke.
“A bus shelter!” _Shal-thur_.

A trio of Japanese girls comes in, coos over the bronze bags. Noreen’s sausage dog makes a bid for East 9th Street as the door opens, and she looks terrified that I’ll escape too. So she keeps me talking as the girls quiz her. “No, sorry, that one’s not on sale, it’s new stock…please, say it again.”
Foookhh off, wudjeh?”
Faakhh off, would you?”
“No, fookhh off, wouldj yeh?”

The Japanese girls look puzzled.

Rules, rules. Her notes snake around the script. “Fight” is “Foigh'” Then we probe Neasa’s motivations. “What would she wear? I mean, she’s this North Dublin barmaid, and this guy has dumped her because she’s too low-class for his family. This is the scene where she confronts him, with their kid upstairs. So what would she wear?”

This is how I method act my own life: if I were to move to California, say, what would I wear? Truth is I’m not sure any more what Neasa would put on. These days Ireland is more slapper-glam than New York City and I’m doubtful about anything beyond fake tan. That’s a definite. Brooklyn girl jeans, I tell her finally, and a tight black top. “Like these?” she says hopefully, and points her blue 501s, which look midwestern. No, I tell her. Tighter, babe. Neasa would be hard-eyed, I tell her, especially if this confrontation means a lot to her. She would fold her arms tightly across her chest.

Noreen says that she would really like to get this job. She hasn’t worked in a while and she can’t afford dialect coaching, but she would really, really like to get this job. As I edge out the door she asks if she could maybe call me with some follow-up questions, for a few extra bucks?

New York actors break my heart. I just hope they don’t hit me up for a hundred and eighty dollars when I go to see her shine.

15 thoughts on “Rehearsal”

  1. I think you should definitely get a trade discount!

    When I lived in London, we told “Glasgow girl” jokes that were probably identical to your Nortsoide jokes, e.g.

    How do you know when a Glasgow girl has an orgasm?
    She drops her bag of chips.

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  2. Hah, Dervala – I wish you could have seen me reading this post…straining to sound out every example as I thought you intended – twisting my face, thinking that I’m whispering my efforts when really I’m quite loud. I suspect the lady in the office across from mine heard me and is now probably quite curious as to who I was saying “Foookhh off, wudjeh?” to.

    Or maybe she’s asking herself, “What’s a fook?”

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  3. Yes, that’s exactly the school of joke, John.

    My favorites in the genre came from a Canadian friend who grew up in a wild rabble of eleven kids in the middle of the north woods. Far from Jersey, North Dublin, or Glasgow, his many sisters invented their own brand of Vosper Girl jokes about themselves:

    Q. How do you know when a Vosper Girl has her period?
    A. She’s only wearing one sock.

    Etc.

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  4. The difference in dialect really is intriguing to me. I work with a colleague from Derry (his brogue always grows stronger after a visit home) and then last weekend met some men from Belfast – their accent only seemed to pop out on an occasional word.

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  5. Hey Jessica,

    That’s a lovely piece. Thank you! You’ll learn plenty more about our regional accents on your trip. There’s a well-known Irish comic/performer called Niall Toibin who used to do this piece in the 80s where he told a shaggy dog story that moved from one accent to another the whole way around the coast. Don’t know if it’s rentable, but it’ll tell you more than you ever need to know about Irish dialect.

    -D.

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  6. I love the chat about hard lookin
    Dublin girls. Northern Ontario chicks tend to look hard too. They like their spandex pants as tight as can be. I am sure Neasa would have to use a hanger to pull up her fly on her jeans…like I used to do when I was a hard lookin teenager.

    Hey, how can you tell a Vosper girl is walking down the road, (like a lot of Northern Ontario chicks)….her camel toe is as big as a moose.

    Terri

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  7. Nessa would wear fake tan, jeans by seven or miss sixty, big gold hoop earings, a little bomber jacket, bare midriff, if she’s a teenager, a pair of o’neills tracksuit bottoms, ugg boots (but not at work) or a copy cat version of ugg boots. tracksuits are big!!

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  8. Laura, that sounds dead-on. I admit that I’m wearing Seven jeans today, but mine are four years old and they were the hottest things in New York that summer. They are as comfortable as cardboard.

    And the tracksuit thing…I just don’t get it. My Christmas suitcase was jammed with Abercrombie trackpants ordered by my little sister. I am an Abercrombie mule.

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  9. I would love to spin a tall romantic tale of how Rick- a dashing older man took a likeness to me, a young, naive gate girl, basking in his ability to get a giggle out of me with the simplist of stupidness, if you get my drift. But if you know Rick well, he takes a liking to most young women and usually gets a laugh out of most people regardless. He has always liked my long legs though… I remember him feeling them on occasion….not in a lecherous way, just to enjoy their beauty.. No harm.

    Anyway, the truth is I met him through Lake Superior Prov. Park, summer of 1989. I was a junior ranger at Beaver Rock in 1987, 1988, but we were segretated from the park staff. In, 1989, I was a gategirl at Agawa, with Sam as my supervisor. I still count Salmon Rick as good friends. Rick and I were chatting on the phone recently and he told me to check out your website. Tim is a long ago acquantance. Colin, my man and father of my two children, also worked at LSPP, way before me and is friends with all the above. We have just moved back north, so we are enjoying the beauty, peace and slow pace of life up here. I will pop into your site and add my two cents. It’s a grand site.

    There you have it.

    Take care, Ter

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