The summer after my Sophomore year of college, I did an internship at the Broadway Dance Center in New York City. My mom and sister moved me into my first New York apartment, and my sister stayed with me for the first few days to make sure I was all safe and settled in. I had a friend performing in an Equity workshop show about apartheid in Harlem, so on my very first night in the city, my sister and her Manhattan based-friend took me on my first trip to Harlem.
As we rode the subway uptown, my sister and her friend started getting nervous. I was bouncing happily in my sweaty subway seat, excited to see my first Equity Workshop. We got off at our Harlem stop and started walking to the theatre. Within moments, an African-American gentleman hooted at us calling us “snow bunnies.” I was very confused by this. It was summer. I was wearing a dress. How did I look like a skier? It took three blocks’ worth of explanation from my sister’s friend for me to understand that “snow bunnies” was actually a derogatory term for white girls. I was shocked! I had just been hit on in Harlem. I was officially cool and grown up.
We got to the church where the show was supposed to be. We walked happily into the lobby chatting away. My sister opened the door to the sanctuary, froze in horror, and slammed the door, leaning against it with all her might. She sputtered and gasped. I asked her what was wrong, but she couldn’t form words. Her friend pushed her out of the way and pulled the door open. She too gasped and, wide-eyed, slammed the door, adding her weight to my sister’s. I tried to push them away from the door, but they wouldn’t budge, or tell me what waited through the door of doom.
Then an elderly woman entered the front door interrupting our scuffle. She looked at the two girls holding the door shut and said, “Git out a my way.” My sister and her friend shook their heads but stepped obediently aside. The woman opened the door and cried, “Oh hell no! That’s a dead body in there!”
We had been opening the door to an open casket funeral. The show was in a theatre space above the church. I never thought I would be a funeral crasher. Oops.