Tableau Vivant

Clara’s well into her thirties now, but she can hoof it enough for the chorus line, and hold a tune if it’s catchy. It’s her first season touring with Sam T. Jack’s Creoles, “the pre-eminent terpsichorean diversions of the day in the Afro-American line.” (Sam tells the press they’re Egyptians or genuine Louisiana Creoles at least, but the fact is he hired most of them in New York, and picked Clara up when he was passing through Toronto.) The Creoles don’t cork up, and all that dumb-darkie Jim Crow stuff is gone by the wayside. They’re a pretty classy troupe—burlesque, but not the dirty kind. Sam’s girls sing airs from opera, they shake their spangled skirts, nothing out of the ordinary and that’s what’s somewhat extraordinary to Clara. The Creoles travel in their own comfortable Pullman to avoid any possible unpleasantness at hotels, especially in the South. They’ve got their comedians with them, their first-rate olio men and some star females too. They pack houses all over the States and nobody asks them any questions.

In the night, though, Clara finds it’s a whole other story.

Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 5. Purchase the book to read the full piece.