Cher Public

BASTA: Boots and Saddle

Chapter Two of the continuing saga of Evan Ingersoll, opera-loving bar-back.

The guy in the plaid shirt motioned Evan over within seconds of spotting him at Aura. Evan rolled his eyes, checked his abs, and sidled up to the bar. 

“What’s up?”

“Hey, Sam, remember me?”

“Name’s not Sam. So nope.”

“It’s not? Hold it right there.” The man undid the top three buttons of his green flannel to reveal a silver chain and white undershirt. Close to his heart, a name inked in serif:

Samuel.

“Not you?”

“Wow. That’s hilarious.” Evan rolled his eyes. “What can I fetch you?”

“You can fetch me some of this,” said the dude, wrapping his right arm wantonly around Evan’s torso. “Or you can just ask for my name.”

“Yuck. I’ll take the name.”

“It’s Paul. Paul Upczuk. Nice to meet you…”

“Evan.”

“Ooh,” Paul crooned. “Evan is a place on earth!”

Surveying Paul’s cloddish, middle-aged face (and re-scanning that chest tattoo, despite himself), Evan had the odd sense that the two of them had in fact known each other for a while—from another life, even, as though the tides of time hadn’t yet erased a very old connection. Paul was fine-looking (an aging Massimo Cavalletti type, with flecks of white in his wavy mane) and might be fun to get handsy with, if Evan were into that piteous taxonomy of patrons who swan into bars alone and hit on bar-backs.

Which Evan was. A little.

“You live in the city, Paul?”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve been in this neighborhood for years. But I never, ever come here. Funny, huh? I just ended a terrible date at this place nearby that only serves meatballs and decided to stop in on my way home. Seems like I’m not missing much.”

Paul panned the empty space, and smirked. “So they letting you off soon, or what?”

“Ugh, I wish. Yoni’s probably gonna fire me soon anyhow. What do you do here?”

“Yoni?”

“The manager. Over there.” Yoni was storming angrily out of the bathroom and brandishing an empty roll of toilet paper. Pierre the stripper, trailing closely behind, looked crestfallen.

“Ah… I’m a set designer. Been doing TV stuff and different shows around town for years.”

“Really? Like what kinds of shows?” Evan was interested.

“A lot of shows, Evan. And not just around town. All over the world. You know Catt Devillz, the magician?”

“No.”

“Did two of her spots in Vegas and Bratislava, and two of her specials on the Food Network. I also designed Christmas at Radio City one year… Well, sort of. They brought me in for the “Umoja, Ujima, Ujama” Kwanzaa scene. I dunno what to tell you. It was the Nineties.”

He sighed and stuffed his straw in his water glass. “I supervised the art on three seasons of So You Think You Can Dance. Then I did a bunch of other stuff you probably wouldn’t know.”

“Like what?”

“Well, these days I’m mostly doing work for BASTA.”

“BASTA?” Evan couldn’t believe it. “What are you doing for them?”

“So you’ve heard of BASTA? Ha! You tickle me, Evan.”

Uh, yeah. Evan had heard of it. In the 70 years since it was created, the Big Apple Singing Theater Association had become one of the opera world’s great cautionary tales: a once-thriving New York performance institution that had, in 2015 (and after an ill-considered production of the Thomas Adès lemon, Michael and Macauley), gone bankrupt for pecuniary reasons part-obvious, part-oblique.

Still, redemption was on the way. Within twelve months of BASTA’s filing for Chapter 11, a newly-hatched emergency nonprofit named Redelivery Ltd. had somehow swooped in and managed to save the so-called “Plebes’ Opera” from certain insolvency.

Hastily planned and powered by the ardent, screaming prayers of scores of sleepless queens, BASTA’s first “Redelivery” season, was set to launch in just a few weeks. It would open with a facsimile revival of the company’s first-ever production—a 1945 Fanciulla del West—and then come full circle with the New York premiere of… of…

Well, of what? Evan couldn’t remember.

Bison Don’t Cry,” Paul reminded him. “New York’s first fully-staged gay buffalo herder opera. It’s capping the season.”

He scrutinized the tray Evan had set down on the bar. “Hey, hand me one of those?”

Evan passed him a shot. “It’s on me.”

“Aw, thanks Sam.” Paul took a swig. “Anyhow, as I was saying: I’m on lights and sets for the buffalo opera. Joey Piccata is directing of course. And I hear they’re casting for it right now.”

“I’ll be sure to try out,” said Evan, stifling a chuckle.

Paul ignored the sarcasm. “Oh, do you sing? Never mind, I’ve got two words for you.”

He leaned in and lowered his voice dramatically to a murmur.

“Cowboy supernumerary.”

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