“I’m looking for a Stalin mustache.”
“Did you call earlier today?”
“No. Huh. Wow! Imagine two people needing a Stalin mustache on a random Friday in June!”
Silence. And then it occurred to me that at Backstage that sort of request was probably not all that uncommon.
I had that conversation last Friday afternoon in Backstage, the theatrical supply store on Barracks Row. I found the mustache, the child upon whose lip it would rest received information on safe mustache removal and the serious consequences of pulling it off unaided by spirit gum remover. Then we were out in less than five minutes.
I immediately felt that Backstage was an obvious choice for a TWTFG piece. I may only need to go twice a year for a set of vampire teeth or a clown nose but boy I’m glad it’s here!
The store is a Washington area institution. It was opened in 1981, and when I first had a need to purchase something there (a script and an Irish accent tape for an audition) it was located on P Street Northwest near Dupont Circle. Shortly after we moved to the Hill Backstage moved here too.
The natural clientele for a store like this is of course people in the performing arts. Need sheet music from Wicked for that first-ever audition? Sure. Want to check out the latest issue of American Theatre? Of course. Actors and performers occupying all levels of the theatre world have at one time or another had a need to purchase a script or a Ben Nye make up kit. (My first kit came with something you would use to make freckles and even though I have plenty of my own I employed it a great deal.)
While I have no need for accent tapes at the moment and haven’t had an audition in a decade, (Wow!) I cherish the existence of this quirky, one -of-a-kind place in my own neighborhood. Halloween puts the store to the forefront of everyone’s mind and there are lines out the door as grown-ups scramble to find the right sexy nurse, sexy superhero or sexy lawyer costume. Year-round the store supplies professional quality theatrical make up and prosthetics as well as feather boas and Reagan masks should you have a need. And you know… you sometimes do.
Every fall as a new crop of ballerinas readies for their first classes at CHAW, Joy of Motion or St, Mark’s their moms query the MOTH list as to where they can find the proper shoes, tight and leotards. No need for online ordering or a trip to the burbs, Backstage has everything the tiny Makarovas might require. The store is packed with supplies of all kinds and taking kids in there can be dangerous to your wallet. One year I threw a pirate party for my son and went in looking for cheap hats and walked out with a parrot on a saddle type thing which enabled it to sit on a five-year old’s shoulder.
Sure that was crazy. But it was also fun.
So as we lament the lack of retail of Barracks Row and around the Hill, remember this gem that calls our ‘hood home. Come to think of it, you’d look pretty hot with a mustache…