Like many odd events in life, the journey of Yvette Sirker's Pink Collar Crime from paper to the Jefferson Performing Arts Society's Teatro Wego! stage is an odd event that's even odder than it seems. The crucial connection was made in a ladies room -- the ladies room of the Earnest N. Morial Convention Center, where Sirker had ducked in when nature called, during a conference by Mitch Landrieu on cultural economy.
"I had just pee-ed," Sirker told me, with a laugh, "and I was talking to someone, as I washed my hands. I was telling this person about my play and how I didn't know where to put it on. Another person, in the ladies room, overheard. She just happened to be Carol Sloan, who worked for the JPAS. Carol introduced herself and one thing led to another."
Sirker told me this story as we sat in the front room of the furnished shotgun on Dante Street she's now renting. A New Orleans native, she is an attractive, slender, olive-skinned young woman. When I arrived, she had just finished her yoga session. Yoga launched us on the curious path of the creation of Pink Collar Crime, for Sirker got the idea for the play while she was teaching yoga at an ashram in Massachusetts' Berkshire Mountains.
"One evening, I was having dinner with some crones," she explained. "In yoga, that's not a pejorative term; it just means elderly women. Anyway, they were very taken with the Edgar Cayce Earth Changes Map."
All right, now I needed a reality check. Edgar Cayce was a psychic, active in the first half of 20th century. In his Earth Changes Map, which foretells the destiny of the planet, New Orleans has been swallowed by the Gulf of Mexico.
"I got obsessed with this," Sirker continued. "I was already tuned in to the problem from Troubled Waters, a play based on the great flood of 1927 that I wrote for Dillard." Troubled Waters, it should be noted, won the 2001 Big Easy Entertainment Award for Best College Production.
Now, ladies and gents, step right up for the (perhaps) final curiosity of Pink Collar Crime: Sirker wrote the first draft of this hurricane-disaster show in the fall of 2003. It was only after she was forced to evacuate to her sister's house in Austin, Texas, that she realized she possessed a gift for telling the future that rivaled or surpassed Edgar Cayce's.
The rewritten, post-Katrina Pink Collar Crime is part fiction -- but also, alas, part docudrama. We meet Tamara, a bright, 16-year-old Creole schoolgirl; Enjean, her mixed-blood mother, who is a lawyer; Purl, an environmental biologist of Hispanic and Indian ancestry; and (as Sirker calls him) Saint Charles, a "charming, well-educated African-American male," the owner of a white-tablecloth restaurant.
If you imagine this drama as a sort of tag-team wrestling match, you'd be tempted to say, from the descriptions, those are the good guys. In the opposite corner, we have the bad guys: Earnest Bane IV, Caucasian, an oil-company CEO, a "gluttonous, a gambler and a white-collar criminal"; Mae Constance, Caucasian, his wife, "smart, compassionate, yet overwhelmed by her life and marriage -- a heavy drinker."
Between these opposing teams, we have Penny Moon, daughter of the Banes, "a white female attorney, socially and politically conscious, who possesses a biting wit and contained rage against her white-collar criminal father."
The bell sounds Wednesday night at Teatro Wego. It should be quite a brawl.
Not only did Sirker write Pink Collar Crime and corral a bunch of grants to give her time to work on it, she is also playing the role of Purl. In fact, Sirker told me she started out in acting. After majoring in English literature at Cornell, she got her master's degree in theater at New York University. When she returned to New Orleans after her studies, she acted with The Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, and then went on to head its internship program. She also taught acting in public schools until Katrina tore the town apart.
Speaking of Katrina, Sirker's exile in Austin did provide a silver lining. While she was there, a filmmaker heard about her plight. Now, the filmmaker is shooting a documentary on Sirker and her play. That's not quite as extraordinary as the ladies-room parley or the Edgar Cayce Earth Changes Map or the premonitory hurricane disaster script, but it does give one pause. The stars must certainly be in the right place just about now for Yvette Sirker.
- Yvette Sirker wrote the first draft for the "hurricane disaster show"