Sarah Recommends: “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John

I can strip someone of their clothing in 30 seconds or less.

This isn’t as sexy as it sounds.

I acquired this skill during college. Not at parties, but in the backstage area of the university’s theater. There, I became skilled at the art of the quick change: the coordinated dance between actor and theater tech in which one costume is removed and another donned in minutes.

Me dressed in black, blending into the darkness of the theater wings.The actor shouting an exit line and rushing into my arms. Kicking off their shoes. Standing like a mannequin as I whipped off their clothing. No modesty in the theater. Them mumbling lines to me as I pulled, zipped, and buttoned them into their character’s next reality. On stage they’d strut, returning to the audience utterly changed. As if by magic.

I didn’t do this as a hobby. Like most strip acts, it was all about cold hard cash. For two summers, I was the Wardrobe Mistress for my university’s theater department, which cranked out musicals to bring in the college-town locals.

It was a decent job, but a lonely one. I spent my time waiting to perform quick changes in empty dressing rooms reeking of sweat. After the cast gave their bows and went off to drink, I headed to the Costume Shop to repair costumes and do laundry.

Before I sorted through my first load of sweat-soaked undershirts, I’d put the XANADU soundtrack on the stereo. The mellow strains of “Magic” started and Olivia Newton-John’s seductive, saccharine voice became my companion throughout the night.

I’m not an easy-listening type of girl, but “Magic” captivated me. Something about the corny lyrics appealed to the optimist living in the recesses of my heart. I was nineteen. I had dreams that extended well beyond doing costume changes.

While waiting for the final load to come out of the dryer, I’d play dress up in the costumes hanging in storage — throwing on the Witch’s cloak from Into The Woods, or Viola’s disguise fromTwelfth Night, or Claire’s sleek suit from The Visit. I’d strut to Olivia Newton-John and wonder what kind of woman I’d one day become.

And if all your hopes survive

Destiny will arrive

Bring all your dreams alive

For you

(Song recommendation by Sarah Skiles)

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