The Story of the Hat
This hat…it’s called a toboggan in certain parts of North America…a woolen hat with ear flaps. We bought them in Ontario for the show DoveTale, written with Ingrid De Sanctis in 1997.
They are more common now across the US, but in 97, especially in the lower states, not so much. Something happens to me when I put this hat on, it somehow feels as if my IQ drops precipitously, perhaps around 60-80 points when the hat slips over my ears.
Ingrid and I both wore them for DoveTale, two shepherds, Egan and Maggie. They were Irish – because the accents are so much fun – and loveable, but my character was, how shall we say, less than intellectually vigorous. It was always a delight to play this scene, broad comedy with numerous opportunities to confound Lee’s Gabriel. I wore the darker hat, I believe mostly because Ingrid’s dark long hair contrasted better with the lighter hat.
When Lee and I wrote The Creation Chronicles, stories from the Old Testament or Hebrew scriptures, we wanted to deal with Jeremiah or another of the major prophets. When I began reading Jeremiah, I reached Jer. 13 and started laughing out loud—I could hear Jeremiah’s voice in my head recounting God’s instruction to “wear these shorts, but don’t worsh ‘em. “; of course he needed a hat. The logical choice was the same hat, but the lighter one, Ingrid’s hat.
For a couple of months after the DoveTale tour, when I was again playing Jeremiah or Marty, the hat would smell like Ingrid, a nice memory of the Christmas season. Once 4 years or so ago, I was offstage getting ready for the Jeremiah scene, hat in hand, when I notice a long dark hair nestled in the hat, definitely not mine.
In addition, Marty—from the Marty and Mel monologues—also uses this hat. He is from the tribe of Jeremiah, with similar speech patterns and the hat, I’m sure passed down for many generations.
Jeff Raught and I put the Jeremiah monologue into the show “Tattered and Worn”, I include the piece in “The Big Story” and this year in the newest show “Laughter is Sacred Space”, I again use Jeremiah, plus Egan, the Irish shepherd – and so I get to wear both hats in that show.
It has become one of my treasured props, a shortcut to character recovery, fifteen years of history and memories all wrapped up in wool with tassels.