By Mark Crantz
By Mark Crantz

There’s an art thief amongst us. “Tableaux vivants” are disappearing at rehearsals. “At first we didn’t notice. There’s so many volunteers backstage, the commotion masked the disappearance,” said a tearful high school student. Another supporter chimed in, “And that painting wasn’t the first. We’re taking an inventory now to see how many paintings are missing,” said the public relations person, who was thinking about a career change to view ordinance, a less stressful occupation.

This is an outrage. The show must go on. I’ve called in favors. F. Art Notmoi was a college buddy, who once cleared a room of innocent bystanders and found his soul mate and future wife. He seemed perfect to find the culprit or culprits who were ruining the upcoming Pageant of the Masters. Notmoi agreed to help. He had the time and no active clients, a testament to his quickness to sniff out the guilty.

Notmoi was unfamiliar with the show’s mechanics. “Let me get this straight. Actors stand still and recreate great works of art. Right?” asked Notmoi. “Yes,” I answered. I could see the wheels turning and then the smell hit me like a ton of bricks. Notmoi smirked. “Sorry, but I had to make sure you had nothing to do with it.”

Now off the suspect list, Notmoi insisted that I help in the investigation. “I trust you. You must quickly get up to detective speed. We must establish motive. Who most benefits from stealing these pictures?” Notmoi asked me.

I was still woozy from being found not guilty. Notmoi saw my discomfort and gave me smelling salts and a clothespin to continue our sleuthing efforts. With my head on straighter I said, “Nobody benefits if the artwork is stolen. Audiences support the show and the show supports the restaurants, the hotels, and merchants,” I squeaked out through my clothespin. “So everybody benefits if the artwork stays,” ruminated Notmoi. “That’s right,” I answered.

“Ah, ha. I know the thief,” exclaimed Notmoi.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“The butler did it,” stated Notmoi.

“That can’t be. There is no butler,” I pointed out.

“Oh? Then back to the drawing board,” exclaimed Notmoi. “Ah, ha. Again. I got it,” proclaimed Notmoi.

“Who is it, now?” I ventured.

“The grip,” said Notmoi.

“A lighting and rigging technician stole the painting?” I asked.

“It was more than one mon’ami. It was a departmental effort. See, the plural for grip is grips. However, that is the urban usage. The correct grammatical plural is gripes. This shows grips have gripes and I deduce they’re unhappy that their credits come at the end of the show’s playbill in a font size that nobody can read. They’re mad and want rightful recognition,” explained Notmoi.

Notmoi was right. Case solved. The missing paintings were found behind the proscenium arch on the catwalk above the stage. The actors were found unhurt and quickly revived with smelling salts. Management resolved the grips’ gripes by agreeing to provide audiences with magnifying glasses to better read the grips names and make the audience a better “Art Detective.”

The show must go on. Be sure to be there to sleuth along.


Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago. He occasionally writes the guest column “Pet Peeves.” His recently deceased border collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.



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