Monday, April 27, 2009

You Gotta Have Heart

Well, we are three nights in to this seven night fund-raising gig, and I gotta tell you, there is some nice power at work that binds this extended family together. That's our happy Rhonda, at the top, looking all big-city. That's because she moved to New York two years ago. Last year she came back to be in the show. That wasn't possible this year, but she did surprise us by turning up unannounced on Saturday night. The bigger surprise of the night was that one of our performers, Fred, gave up his role so that Rhonda could go stage in his place! That's the kind of guy Fred is, and the kind of spirit that lives in the group. This weekend, Jacque, former employee, now friend, and daughter of Debbie and Mike, HAR committee chairs, will be home from D.C. to see the show, and my little friend, Emily, grandaughter of our general co-chairs, will come from Madison to see her very first Heart-A-Rama!

Brenda moved to Madison, but she turned up to work for a couple nights. Heart-A-Rama gets in your blood, and it is just what we do every spring. The tiny crocus pop up, spring rains fall, temperatures fluctuate annoyingly, and Heart-A-Rama beckons. Simple. Dotted thoughout the audience each night are the smiling faces of people who, for a plethora of reasons, can't play with us anymore. But they come to watch and to support the cause. I am lucky. Because of my job with the group, I get to see everyone in the audience, giving me a chance too catch up with old HAR friends.

Over the past few months, I've filled you in on how the show comes together. Here's a glimpse into my typical night at the Community House. Of the current show's directors, I am the only one who is not in the show. The other directors don't want to take a chance on me for some reason! The reality is that I don't enjoy being on stage, and have found a comfortable arena in the directing world.

Here's my typical night.....

6:30...director's meeting. Directors, tech support, stage crew, producer, MC's...we all cram ourselves in the narrow stairwell on stage right. Again, luck is on my make-up or costume to get into, so I can get to the meeting well ahead of everyone, and secure a steely cold cement step to sit on. My grandmother would be horrified, and would surely warn me about hemorrhoids. We discuss the previous night's show, offer solutions for problems that arose, give our producer reminders to share with the cast. We talk some nonsense with whoever is sitting closest, and then it's off.

6:50...catch up with Chad in the sound booth and share some scintillating conversation. Chad is fun, reasonably quirky, and we know one another enough now that the banter is as comfortable as periods of silence. This was Saturday's conversation:

Chad: You don't dye your hair, do you, Bev? (He excels at leading questions!)
Bev: Why yes Chad, I do. Here's a news item for you, I bet over half the cast does.

Long silence while Chad checks battery levels on the mics, and then...

Chad: But, that would mean that some of the men dye their hair.
Bev: Correct.
Chad: Hmmmmm...

Another minute or so passes. Chad hands off mics to Chris and Rick. Then..

Chad: What color do you dye it?

Bev: The color that you see.


Chad: Oh.

Too much excitement! Gotta move on! I pass out the headsets, so I can communicate with backstage and dressing room.

7:10...back to the booth to watch the toilet seat auction. Approximate totals so far...Thursday $1500.00; Friday, $1,000.000, and Saturday we got over $3,000.00.

7:25...sneak off the main floor when possible, up to the dressing room for the cast meeting, and a healthy dinner of cookies, licorice, and popcorn. Rick, our HAR poet laureate, reads his poetic reflection on the previous night, making sure to include any and all bad cast behavior.

7:27...back to the main floor, where I prepare myself for the biggest job of all...waiting for the signal to turn off the house lights to start the show.

Once the show starts, I just wait for something exciting to happen. When it does, I spring into action! Perhaps there will be a costume malfunction in "The Underpants Dance." Maybe someone the audience will faint at one of the show's naughty lines. More likely, my biggest thrill will be flagging down a heartdog seller at intermission, so I can buy two dogs for Terri, who can't escape from backstage to do so.

During intermission, Chad leaves the sound booth to me, where I generally crank Dave's guitar mic way up. He is an awesome musician, and I try to push his instrumental solos as much as possible. The downside is that, in addition to being an accomplished guitarist, Dave is a perfectionist. I get the impression, via messages from other band members, that he does not appreciate my adoration. The amplified volume, he claims, also amplifies any mistakes he makes. Too bad, Dave, I do enjoy fiddling with those buttons, and a number of people stop by the booth to tell me how good the sound is during the show. I promise (in my mind) to pass the compliment on to Chad.

I visit with, Karen, the shirt seller organizer, chat with Pat and Mike, general co-chairs of HAR, congratulate cast on good performances, track down lost props and run away performers, bug the lighting crew, shush loud talkers in the back of the house. Sometimes, a strange voice will come at me through the headset, at which point I alert everyone to the unauthorized person interloping on our equipment. We know it's just a cast member, or a curious, shy support person. I am surprised at how many people think that those of us with headsets are connected to all cast members, and can help them out if they forget their lines!

Other than that, there's nothing for me to do except watch my casts take the stage and play. For sure, I enjoy seeing them bring their crazy characters to life. Each night, they have a little more fun, and watching them never gets old for me. This year, my favorite skit was directed by Rick. It's called "Stand-up in Wonderland," and, as the name implies, its a bunch of puny jokes told by the White Rabbit, Goldilocks, and a terrifying ogre.
This is Solomon, (aka Coho Salmon) a frequent visitor to the sound booth. Coho has a cameo as the new mayor of Manitowoc. When he's not on stage, he runs errands for me, or listens to Dave rip on the guitar!

And now, for a clumsy segue...what am I reading? The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. After twelve year in business, you would think I would be comfortable interpreting financial statements, especially when you consider how small a business we are. Nope. They still baffle me. While pouring over my March books, and ending up with the same questions I have every month, I heard the quiet voice of my grad school research stats prof. Years ago, she told me to read this book to calm my fear of numbers. I thought this the perfect time to dig in, but I must say, I am finding it more about language than numbers. Maybe I am just numb to that world. Fun book, with shade of Alice's Adventures in Wondrland, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and A Wrinkle in Time.

I am halfway through a movie that violates all my movies rule...but I like it and will watch the last half tonight.

Until next week...when your luck is batting zero, get your chins up off the floor.