Larch Miller

Larch Miller
Larch Miller
In 1966, I returned from Germany, a single parent with three children, and lived on the second floor of a three family house in Cambridge, MA. We had no yard and, when I thought of the summer, I wondered what we could do. As a swimmer, perhaps I might find a job at a summer camp. I spent the winter shivering at the YWCA in Boston, getting my WSI. My resume went to the New England Camping Association; I waited and waited. When I checked, I was told that most Camps did not want counselors with children. I kind of gave up and began to make other plans. During one of our trips from Germany, the children and I visited my parents at a cabin they rented on a pond in Maine. While there that particular summer, we saw red canoes landing on Peanut Island. Amazingly, the secretary from the camping association called; she had reviewed my resume and saw that my background was in theater. I had majored in drama at college and taught drama at a settlement house in the North End of Boston for five years. She told me there was a camp director in Maine who liked to have mature counselors, who had a Cub group for their children and was looking for a Dramatics Counselor. The director was Mrs. Henderson, MUM-MUM. I had an interview in Newton, MA at Mum-Mum’s daughter Margaret’s house. The result: I joined Arcadia as Head of Dramatics. That first summer, Peggy was a Junior at Arcadia, Peter was a Cub with Katherine and Jeanie Fritts and Eric, who was a number of years older, spent several summers at Camp Pinehurst. When Peter was old enough to go off to camp, he went to Pine Island Camp which was a very good experience. He now has two sons who have spent many summers there; Nick, his oldest, is to be a counselor this summer. Peggy went all the way through Arcadia and her daughter Ali spent six wonderful years at Arcadia. I had nine summers of turning the wintertime boathouse into a real Playhouse. It was such fun introducing young campers to different styles of drama. We did all sorts: Wizard of Oz, Tom Sawyer, Aladdin, Connecticut Yankee, Spreading the News and several musicals when there was a music counselor who was interested in helping me, a total non musical person. What I liked most was seeing the shy girl mature and gain poise, all because she had proved to herself that she could get up in front of a group of people and do her part. One of my favorite experiences was doing Saving the Old Homestead, a melodrama complete with a pure heroine, a stalwart hero and a dastardly villain with a mustache just right for twirling. One of the accomplishments was to teach the campers stylized overacting while keeping a straight face. We even had entre acts and the music counselor provided themes for the heroine, hero and villain, played on the piano just before each of their entrances. We put the play on at PCW and, beforehand, we asked the parents to be involved with hisses and boos. They really got into it! I knew it was going to go well when one of the fathers yelled, “Unhand that maiden” at just the right moment. It was an evening of good fun and the girls learned what melodrama was and that they had really entertained their parents well. Another favorite was Aladdin, complete with puffs of smoke out of which stepped Rebecca Lord as the Genie as well as Sherry Henry as the wicked Vizier diving out the window as the curtain came down. The Point girls presented the Irish Play Spreading the News and, by the time we went up with the production, girls all over camp were speaking like the Irish, referring to himself and herself. I spent nine wonderful years at Arcadia and my experiences with costumes and scenery inspired me to stop my winter job at a bookstore in Cambridge and start making costumes at home. I did that for four years and then, in l983, I accepted an invitation to go to NYC as a resident seamstress with a new musical La Cage Aux Folles. I could sew and was able to figure solutions to any trouble that came up. I attribute these talents, in part to nine years of making appropriate costumes out of the contents of four pine boxes and a rather small costume closet. I spent four and a half years at “La Cage.” When it closed, I toured as Larry Kert’s dresser; Larry was the original Tony in West Side Story. These “Bus and Truck” tours had trucks for the scenery and a bus for the actors and orchestra as well as a “rock and roll bus” (one with bunks) for the stage hands who struck the set in one city, slept on the bus and set up in the next city the next day while the cast and wardrobe people went to a hotel. I saw a lot of the U.S. on the three different tours. One of my favorite experiences: making improvements on the costumes provided by the costumer. In “La Cage,” one  boy’s finale yellow dress (it was a drag show) was very poorly made and the underskirt to which petal-like pieces were attached kept ripping and, eventually, looked just awful. I went into the theater early one day, took the dress skirt apart and remade the underskirt, reinforced the area where the petals were attached, worked right through the first part of the show and finished in time for it to be used in the finale! I then stood at the back of the theater and watched, thinking that dress looked better because I was there. It was a good feeling. When “La Cage” closed, I did some tours and a few other Broadway shows and, during this time, I ceased to be the “fix it” lady and became a Wardrobe Supervisor. I was in my 60s and was deciding that I had had my NY experience and would go back to Boston, when I received a call from the wardrobe union’s business agent. The New York City Ballet was looking for a supervisor of the Women’s Wardrobe and she thought I might be right for the job. I interviewed, was offered the job and, at age 62, was hired. My word to Arcadians: Don’t ever let someone tell you are too old to find a job. You must be willing to do what the job needs. At the Ballet, I inherited a costume collection of over 200 ballets stored in a huge room next to the Orchestra Pit, therefore, called the Pit Room. It was disorganized and nothing was labeled and there were no records of what costumes went to what ballet. My assistant and I spent the next three years reconstructing a “bible,” hanging and repairing the costumes. I was with the ballet almost eight years. One of the things I enjoyed was taking care of costumes for ballets by Jerome Robbins, ballets that I had loved seeing when I was in my 20’s. Robbins did a ballet suite of West Side Story which had been part of my life in many different ways; it was exciting to see it come to life plavix dosage. After I retired and moved to Vermont, I spent seven years back at Arcadia. I taught knitting and poked my head a little into the dramatics department. I loved sitting on the Weaving Hut porch with a group of girls knitting and chatting away. The mothers of many of the girls had been at Camp when I was there before and we had great fun recalling specific memories, one of my fondest being the counselor’s show. My first summer, I was told I had to put it together and that we were doing The Wizard of Oz. Parts were assigned, a group gathered in the evenings and wrote Arcadia songs to go with songs from the musical and we rehearsed one afternoon. Louise Henderson wrote rhyming narration and, often, Anne Henderson Fritts appeared in a nightie and robe before the curtain to read a bed time story to the campers and counselors. To me that narration was an amazing feat. I had reserved the role of the Wicked Witch for myself; I could easily find black clothes, had blacked some teeth with grease paint, put green lipstick on with lots of line on my face and had a great time running around onstage being evil. Then Vicki Secrest, who was Dorothy, threw a pail of water on me. I melted. The Cubs were seated up front and I had scared them. Not my intention, of course. Son Peter would not speak to me until I had unblacked my teeth and taken the make up off. Then he asked why his friend Vicki had thrown water on his mother. “Because she wanted to melt me.” That did it. It took Vicki several days and all her charms to get back in Peter’s good graces. My family’s life long connection with Arcadia still goes on through all my children’s memories. Peter is now the “Bug Line Man” and he goes to Camp at the beginning of the season and sees that the bug line works. He loves doing it.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)