And last, but certainly not least, our final chronicle.
I apologize for our tardiness - as you can imagine, last weeks of tour feeding right into Christmas got a little busy.
When last we met our heroes they were in Alabama and looking at Christmas lights. They were ok. Northern Alabama was pretty boring not much to say on the subject.
Now we are back in Virginia at Bill and Rozi’s home. Yesterday we went back into DC and looked at more museums and tried to get into the Ford Theater, again. It didn’t work. They were having a matinée that was not listed on the website by the way. We had lunch at Union Station at a Rocket which is a burger shake place. I had a burger with onion rings and a dark chocolate and strawberry shake and Megan had a veggie burger. Then we went to the Native American Museum for a bit before they closed. Then we hiked all the way around the White House looking for the White House Christmas Tree. We found it and Megan was happy.
And now on to today…
Today started pretty good. As good as a day can be when you have to wake up at 5:45 to get ready for your drive through DC traffic so you can be at the school at 8 for your show at 9. We had some interesting shout outs, notably “Oh no!” when the witch first entered and “But try the stuff in your bottle” (referring to Lucy’s cordial) when Lucy comes out to see Aslan slain. And one over-excited dwarf-volunteer even went after Edmund’s sword after the witch kicked it backstage. You can be sure the White Witch booked it backstage so she could hiss “Please give that to me now” at the over-zealous dwarf. Scary when elementary students have weaponry! But the show went well and our first workshop also turned out well. It was about Shakespeare and was for 7th and 8th graders. They seemed to have fun and thats what counts…. Oh and that they learned something too.
Then we got to our next school. I checked in to the office and got directed to the Gym and then we were left to our own devices, which is no problem – we are used to it and we just set up how we normally do. It was a pretty normal Gym with bit of an elevated stage (more like an alcove). I opted to do what we normally do in a venue like this and we set up in front of the stage and used the steps leading up to the stage to put our props and costumes on. I chose not to use the stage for many reasons. 1. It was not that deep, 2. Between the walls and the curtain it would have eaten up sound, 3. It put us farther away from the kids and as per our director’s wishes to maintain the intimacy of the play we like to do A Christmas Carol relatively close to the audience.
We then got ready for the show and waited. We heard talking through the speakers above us and which was a bit curious. Then a few minutes later the principal came to us as the kids were coming in and introduced herself with a live mic in her hand. She puts the mic under her arm and gets feedback through the speakers and she was confused as to why, so I had to tell her that her mic was on. Then holding it as if it were a snake that would bite her, she turns it off. We then introduced ourselves to her and she says she has had our company before. We tell her what we need for an introduction and she goes about her merry way. A few minutes later the kids are ready to start and the principal is speaking into the mic and it is about as loud as it can be and as a result she is getting feedback again and she blames it on interference from our mics. Hmmm… Confused and a little entertained by the fact that we never use mics and were told never to accept mics when offered, we prepared ourselves for what promised to be a very interesting show. She then says that there will be no questions at the end, which we would have liked to have been told, we like that part. Then she goes on about how much she loves this book and Dickens is one of her favorite authors. Then we start and less than 5 mins in, right after my change from Fred to Scrooge, the principal goes behind the flats to tell Megan that they can’t hear us in the back why aren’t we using our mics. Megan told her we don’t use mics, we don’t have mics, and that we will project as much as we can. So we did. I have had training in outdoor theater spaces where I have to be heard in an 1800 seat house. Projecting is nothing new to me and Megan has some pipes on her as well. We could hear our voices bouncing off the back wall of the Gym. But oh well.
The show, for us doing it, went well. We had great volunteers and the best Tiny Tim we have had. He was so cute. He came up to a little past my knee and followed instructions very well and didn’t hesitate at all with his line. No time for Q&A, but we understand that buses certainly won’t wait for us.
We start to pack up, smiling and waving as the kids file out of the gym, when the principal and her assistant approach. With grim faces, the principal launches into a strong critique of the show we just did: we couldn’t be heard in the back and that the language was very hard to understand and that we talked to fast. The show was absolutely inappropriate for her 4th and 5th graders, and while she will take responsibility for the P.M. Kindergarteners, she could not believe that this would be considered appropriate for 4th and 5th grade and that really she was hoping for something a bit cheerier.
Have you even read “A Christmas Carol?!” Cheerier, my ass. Our production, while true to the book (in keeping with our company mission) is even cheerier than “A Muppet Christmas Carol” – what’s she looking for?! Obviously not anything resembling Dickens’ story (which as you may recall, is one of her favorite stories).
This is all new to us as she is the first person we have ever had complain about anything to us. She goes on about how inappropriate it the play was for her kids and there were terrified kindergarteners and that she’ll be getting calls from parents and there is no way we will be returning to perform tomorrow morning for her 1st and 2nd graders. Absolutely no way. Of course, all through this we are pulling every bit of our “difficult teacher training” into full use, but to no avail. Nothing would calm this woman.
At this point, we’d like to note that we have had multiple cases of tears from small children (specifically during Narnia, when the Witch kills Aslan) and not once have we received reprimands from parents or teachers. We’ve certainly spoken with the kids, reassured them that it’s all just a play and make-believe when they wander up with tear-streaked faces, and really, isn’t it the job of theatre to awaken emotion within the audience? Even just this morning, a petite little 5-yr-old started sobbing as soon as the Witch came out with her dagger to kill Aslan. But she was invested in it – it wasn’t just a play, it was real and happening for her. Not saying that we like to make kids cry (well, Megan doesn’t at least) J , but there is something to be said for kids becoming wholly invested in live theatre. But not once, prior to this afternoon, have we ever been scolded or reprimanded for being inappropriate or terrifying small children.
Eventually, we called the farm and the farm called the school and Gordon worked his charm and everything looks to be ok. Our show there is cancelled for tomorrow morning, but we’re ok with that since it means we can sleep in, and Kati says she’ll be calling to guilt them into booking a spring show.
And after the entire debacle, we went to “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and thoroughly enjoyed it.
All’s well that ends well, eh?
Holy cats, it’s been nearly a week since last post. How does that happen? Particularly in December (around the holidays) and in May (when school is wrapping up) time seems to suddenly fly by with alarming speed. This morning at breakfast Josh asked me “So, we have 2 weeks left, right?” and I had to admit we only have one week left (well, one and a day). How odd.
Memphis was… ok to us. Our Best Western Suites, which we were so hopeful about because of the listed amenities, safe area and discount we were able to haggle fell so very, very flat. There was hair in my sheets (not mine - gross!), the power sockets were smashed, the fitness room didn’t have ONE machine that worked, the breakfast was stale - Best Western, I am severely disappointed. Regardless, we did our best to go exploring and enjoy a couple of days off. We went to the zoo and had a lovely time wandering around and playing “who would this animal be if they were a person.” Unfortunately the temp was in the 30s and most of the animals were inside, and as most of the zoo is outdoors, we had many disappointments, most notably the apes and monkeys. Ah well - it was a nice day outside, the sun was shining, and we were happy to have a day we could take life at our own pace. It’s a rare treat on the road.
Sunday we had a lazy morning (love sleeping in past 6am!) and made our way to the Brooks Museum of Art to see their special exhibit “Armed and Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal.” My lovely tour partner near lost his mind with glee at all the pretty weapons and we proceeded to both nerd out at the history and beauty of these tools of destruction. Museums are dangerous places for history nerds. After our full tour of the exhibition (audio guide included in museum admission!), we made full use of our paid admission and toured their permanent galleries (in chronological order, as encouraged by the concierge). On the whole, a great way to spend the afternoon. There was even a holiday party with gingerbread decorating, but a certain Scrooge of a partner didn’t want to stay for the festivities. I don’t believe it was character work for a second.
An odd show in TN - the school really seemed to have no idea what to do with us, and we were shuttled from adult to adult as someone tried to figure out where we were supposed to be performing and for what grade. It also didn’t help that the school was like a rabbit warren and would could scarcely find our way back to the front to continue unloading the van. After the show, we booked it on out to get to Alabama for the night and find a safe/clean hotel.
It was not to be.
We had our sights set on the Economy Inn. Oh my sweet heavens, did that fall through. Our “non-smoking” room was most certainly not smoke-free, the area was not very safe, and the hotel’s most recent renovation was likely 1968. Yikes. And for our max budget, there was no way we were going to stay there. After some searching, we ended up at a Super 8 about a half hour away from our school. Not an ideal location, but the area was safe enough and it was under budget. Score. Showering the next morning proved tricky: water was either freezing or scalding. Thankfully, my dear partner was sweet enough to just leave the water running after he was able to achieve an acceptable lukewarm during his shower for yours truly’s shower.
I’m afraid the shower may have been providence - a way to wake us up, keep us on our toes and keep us thankful for the little things. The morning proved to be incredibly trying. When we showed up at the school, our contact wasn’t at school and the teachers in the office seemed a bit at a loss what to do with us. After some polite chatting about what we do and why we were there, we were lead to the gym and given free reign to set up our set and props. Finally, our contact (one of the counselors) Mrs. Brown came in and greeted us, then flitted off as she was organizing a teacher’s breakfast. We soon learned that the breakfast was, in fact, for the teacher’s of the classes for which we would be performing. Meaning the kids would only be supervised by the counselors. 600+ kids, grades K-6 and only 5 teachers. Are you kidding me? Definitely a difficult show. But, for all their chatter and clatter, the kids were invested in the show and they did really enjoy it. They just had never seen live theatre before, as we were told by the adults supervising, but they were invested in the show. That made it all worth it. Though we still question the wisdom in the administration…
Our afternoon show was another case of students who only see theatre once a year, when Hampstead visits. And what an honor to be able to perform for them. It was a good show, though there was a small miscommunication when yours truly made her habitual bathroom ten minutes to curtain. The principal misunderstood (or ignored) my “be back in one minute” hand gesture as I darted off to the bathroom, and he introduced us before I was back! Whoops. And for the record, I pee quickly, it’s not like I was faffing about and taking my time. In any case, as I was coming out the bathroom, Josh was coming out onstage as the Professor, so I nipped backstage and we had a good laugh about it after the show. We had a good show with some amusing Q&A, particularly one little boy who just flat out said “I like red” when we asked what his question was. Josh was great and just said enthusiastically “All right, cool! Do we have any questions?”
We are now in Huntsville, Alabama for a couple of days and we’ll start our trek back north as we wind our way to the farm. Tonight - Christmas lights downtown in their historic district! I’m so excited. :)
Ah the South. :)
First off, when I signed up for this gig, I was under the (false!) impression that the South was generally warm. In fact, I was told time and time again by my dear tour partner that it would be hot, it would be humid, I best have some shorts with me, as a Northerner I probably wouldn’t be able to handle the humidity. So: I got my shorts out, I got my t-shirts ready, and I was totally ready to buy some sunscreen for hanging out either by some dingy hotel pool or just sitting outside at a cafe.
Big fat FAIL on that one. It is in the 40s and it is raining.
Second, the hotels in the suburbs of New Orleans seem to have a price alliance on hotel rooms. We had a devil of a time finding a hotel room for the night 2 days ago. We don’t ask for much, but unless we wanted to stay in a not-so-safe part of town (definitely NOT something we were going to chance on the outskirts of New Orleans), we struggled to find any room under $80 (which is nearly double our budget). Eventually we were able to haggle our way down to a reasonable price at a Travelodge (despite our best haggle efforts at numerous prior hotels). And it was just fine.
After settling in to our economical digs at the Travelodge under the expressway, we popped over to the recommended Perino’s Boiling Pot for some authentic (and well-reviewed) boiled seafood. We tried boiled crawfish, crab and shrimp. Josh really enjoyed it, and yours truly enjoyed the experience. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it too, but Northern spice/heat wimp that I am, I couldn’t feel my lips for the majority of the meal. Thankfully, there was a large basket of soda crackers that I used to soak up the flames shooting out of my nose and mouth.
We then had an incredibly interesting day yesterday. We had a double in the morning and a single in the afternoon, so we were ready for quite a ride, but we certainly weren’t prepared enough. The first school was an elementary/middle school that included a pre-K division. Holy. Cats. Our first audience was nearly all pre-K, 3-year-olds at best. They were a young crowd, and I think they did enjoy it, but they’re 3 for crying out loud! They just can’t sit still for an hour-long theatrical performance, bless them. Cute, but restless. And because of the chill, the teachers had them put on their coats for the walk outside in the outdoor corridors to the theatre. So. A theatre full of 3-year-olds in swishy-winter jackets at 9 in the morning. No amount of tea, Monster energy drinks, or Emergen-C could have prepared us for that. It was a hard show, plain and simple, and that’s the first time we’ve said that. Sure, there have been difficult moments, but this show was just hard. The second performance was better, and the school kindly sent us on the road with lunch to-go at about 11:45am. We thought our next show was at 1:30pm, which meant we intended to be at the next venue at 12:30pm, and the next school was about 30 minutes away, so we were doing ok.
Until we double-checked and realized it was a 1 o’clock show. Yikes.
We were a little crunched, but as it was a Narnia performance, we knew we would be ok since we’ve done more Narnia performances and can usually set it up quicker (especially since those set pieces are easier to load out of the van). Then we got stuck in traffic. Two accidents, one of which involved an entire funeral procession attempting to enter the expressway (a multiple-car pile-up). 12:15pm and we were ready to call the school, but we found it quickly just off the expressway. Until we couldn’t find the school office (thanks to the gates surrounding the school). Josh found the office while yours truly maneuvered the van, but with only one woman working in the office, we were only given a vague idea of where we were performing. Ok. We found the gym (eventually) and the gym teachers weren’t exactly sure who we should talk to or how we should set up. However, they did send some kids to help us unload the van, which was very nice. Oh, and the gym was upstairs, 2 flights of stairs. Just enough room for the flats. Heavens. :)
At this point, we could only laugh at the day, and we had a good show (though Megan nearly wiped out multiple times on the slick gym floors). There were some adorable little ones, which always make it better, and I think they all enjoyed it. Some favorite questions included “How did you kill him and not hurt him?”, “Is the witch’s crown real?”, and “I though there would be a real lion. And you’re not.”
After a long, hard day, we crashed at the hotel for a bit before heading into the French Quarter for some good eats and wandering. Crescent City Brewery treated us well, and we had a good meal.
And this morning, we got to sleep in! Only one show at 1:30pm this afternoon. It’s nice to slow down a bit after yesterday. We’ll be doing Narnia then desperately searching for a hotel within a 30-mile radius of our next school. Excuse me, and affordable hotel. We’ll see how good our haggling skills get by the end of this tour.
And we must note: the best comment we’ve gotten yet was from a little girl in Houma, LA who asked me (after finding out I’m from Minnesota) “Who do y’all root for, are you an LSU fan or do you root for Minnesota football?”
Ah the South. :)
Very happy to be out of Florida.
We had some great shows in the Jacksonville Public Libraries and we have to give a shout-out to the wonderful Stephanie Miller and staff at the main branch in downtown. They were outstanding.
We’ve had all manner of audiences. One Saturday morning, of our 5 kids in the audience, not one raised their hand to be a volunteer to work for Mr. Scrooge. Really had to sell that one, and eventually just took any volunteer who was willing to come up with us. Then Tiny Tim just plain refused to come up with me, so I made up something about staying home with Mrs. Cratchit. Josh then struck out twice with volunteers for dwarves to fight the White Witch. We have also had some great question/answer sessions, particularly the one tiny munchkin who so eagerly asked “Why does the witch have magic?” Josh very kindly answered “…because she’s a witch…” Aah the beauty of live theatre and children. :)
Now chilling in the HoJo in Houma, LA after a successful day in Mobile, AL, and a video to come soon from our time in Florida (oh Florida…).
Reasons why the Sunshine State has proved disappointing:
1 - There are certain exits on the Florida Turnpike that are SunPass only, meaning if you don’t have the state’s e-pass in your car, you can’t exit (or risk a $100 fine). STUPID. Who on God’s green earth though that was a good idea?!
2 - It’s cold (by Florida standards), which doesn’t bother yours truly too much except that it’s too cold to swim in the ocean. I may be a crazy Minnesota girl, but even I won’t go swimming in the ocean when it doesn’t even feel 60 outside.
3 - Florida Turnpike traffic on the Sunday after Thanksgiving made a 6-hour drive 11.5 hours. People can be so stupid.
4 - Car overheated in said-stupid traffic.
5 - We have no AC in the car. It may be cold outside, but the sun will cook that car in no time.
6 - Prior to about an hour ago, we couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi anywhere in Jacksonville. Our hotel, Applebee’s - nothing. 24-hours and multiple calls to the hotels tech support, we’re on. But we shouldn’t have to call. And it shouldn’t take 24-hours.
7 - Check Engine light came on in the van this morning and we had an adventure to Pepboys to get the part replaced. And a 1.5 hour wait. Not technically Florida’s fault, but it happened here, so I’m blaming Florida.
That’s enough for now. I don’t want to sound malicious.
Ok so it’s been a while since our last post and a lot has happened. Let’s see, we finally left Virginia and went down to the south eastern part of North Carolina. It was really pretty and Megan was happy she got to see the Atlantic and we had some fish and chips right on the coast. Then we headed to my home in Warner Robins GA for Thanksgiving. It was very lucky that I was able to be home this year because all three of my dad’s sisters came. I don’t get to see them often so it was cool to be able to spend some time with them. And everyone really liked Megan, but how could you not. :-P Anyways we both had a good time over the Thanksgiving. We got to see the new Muppets movie and that was really funny! Go see it if you can.
Well now we come to the Sunday after Thanksgiving. A trip that should have taken about 6 hours from Warner Robins GA to West Palm Beach FL took us about 11 hours. There was no wreck to blame just too many stupid people on the road. But we got there safely and did some good shows the next day.
Now we are in Tampa to do a show tomorrow then it’s off to Jacksonville for the rest of the week.
Oh our last show in North Carolina we were doing Christmas Carol and Megan chose this very tiny kid to play Tiny Tim. He was very cute. Anyways he came around and I told him I needed to go out on stage and I would be back to get him and he will say “God bless us every day.” He said ok and I went out on stage. Now standing there listening to Megan and I felt something next to me so I looked down noticed that there was a little person standing next to me, so I ushered him back behind the curtain and told him I would be right back for him. Then it was time for me to speak and we went on with the scene. Then we heard him crying back stage and the teacher we had as a volunteer went back there to calm him. Then it came time to go get Tiny Tim and I asked him if he was ready and he said yes so I took him out and he said “God bless us everyone” as quiet as you can say words and I didn’t ever hear him so I asked him to say it and he said “I did” just as quiet and he looked like he was about to cry again so me and Megan said the line together. Then everyone clapped and he started to smile as we sent him to back to his seat.