by Edith Pearlman

Imaginary Oklahoma is an ongoing project in which some of today’s most important and influential writers combine with artists to provide a fictional take on this place we call home. Through a wide variety of voices, styles and literary devices, these works prove that “Oklahoma” is much more than a place, it’s an idea.

I’d found my vocation.
“Your what?” said Beatrice. “Hold still,” said Mom, hemming
Beatrice’s costume.
“The Clares,” I explained.
“Like Sister Michael of the holy dunce cap?” said Bea. We went to parochial school when we weren’t on the road.
“You’re Bea’s sister,” said Pop.
I didn’t say any more. I was expected to remain in song-and-dance with my family. Next year Mom and Pop lucked into Star and Garter, a long run. Bea and I went back to school.
One afternoon I turned up at Miss de Mille’s. OK she said. She yelled all the time. Flagellation had nothing on her. When she signed on as choreographer for a new show, Away We Go, she took us girls along. Rehearsals were hell. Mr. M was the devil made flesh, Mr. R and Mr. H quiet as martyrs.
Songs like hymns, ballets light as the Virgin’s breath,costumes soft as swaddling.
Out-of-town try-outs? A mess! Numbers got pulled, dances rearranged, the show’s name changed. I figured we’d close the first week in New York.
Opening night every damned one of us did our best. The audience clapped. Clapping is insufficient. Then came the production number. We made a wedge, Curley its point. We waved forward, singing. Backward, singing. Forward… The letters, one at a time, each louder than the one before, spelled a place I’ll never see. But, calling its name, I experienced… ecstasy. The audience likewise. Kept us on Broadway five years.
During 2,212 performances did I fail to serve Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Hammerstein? No. I fulfilled my contract and cleared a nice bundle for my grateful family. After my novitiate I took vows. Left the stage behind.
But hollering Oklahoma! 2,212 times—that’s praising the Lord, and don’t let anybody tell you different.