Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Monday, December 17, 2012


I wish I had the resources to be able to present this as a full scale video production mimicking the ever popular crime dramas.  The episode would start with me sitting across from an internal affairs investigator, or a psychologist, or a judge, trying to explain why I shouldn't be fired | committed | hanged.  As I told my story, there would be flashbacks, subtitled with words like "2 Days Ago..." or "11:53 a.m."  And you'd all be dying to know how I got to where I started.

Let's see if this picture sets that mood:

"You see, Mr. Investigator | Dr. Psychologist | Your Honor," I might start.  It's not that I don't have Christmas spirit.  I just show it in a different way.  What you might see as a coffin leaning against my house and an absence of Christmas lights is... well, it's a coffin leaning against my house.  But what you have to understand is...

Saturday, December 15th, 1:23 p.m. (okay, that's a total guess...)

I am sitting at the tech table at the Dickens Festival, running the music for our matinee performance of Oliver!, happy to be watching 15 pickpockets and Fagin explain the lucrative benefits to crime, when suddenly, the lights flicker and the power goes out.  Buddy, the professional technician running the equipment for our show quickly runs to the front of the stage, checking cords and equipment, while I sit observing Proud Director Moment (PDM) #1: each of the 16 children and teens on my stage has chosen to freeze in their current position until directed to make a different choice, never breaking character or showing concern.

Buddy determines that the power is out in the whole building, and before we begin to troubleshoot that, I suggest that perhaps it is out at the whole fair park.  A quick text later, we find out that the problem is nothing we can fix.  The power is just out.  

I ask my actors to step back stage and be ready to come out again at a moment's notice.  I announce to the audience that we are uncertain of the situation but that we will get the show up again if at all possible.  Someone suggests that I should have my orphan choir take the stage, since their music is all acapella.  I agree that this is a great way to entertain our now-dwindling audience, and 31 children take the stage.

We receive notification from the powers that be that the power will be down for at least a half hour, and we reluctantly cancel the rest of the Oliver! performance, inviting our audience to come back at 3:00 for Scrooge and at 5:30 for our evening performance.  I begin to consider the options, because in my mind, "The show must go on."

Saturday, December 15th, 2:15 p.m.

A plan has been hatched to run our 3:00 p.m. show using an emergency battery pack with inverter (similar to the picture), borrowed from the back of the Richardson family vehicle.  Buddy the Great has hooked a CD player (also provided by the very prepared Richardson) family, and the scheduled dance performance is taking place on the stage.  But it is becoming apparent that A) the music from the CD player is nowhere near loud enough to run our show and B) the power from the battery pack is dwindling rapidly.

I make a few phone calls and get ahold of Marie Nugter, a staple at the Empress Theatre.  She agrees to let me borrow her Tailgater, a rechargeable amp and speaker that was loud enough to use on the Magna parade route and happened to be sitting fully charged on the Empress prop table.  Cast member Shawna Pierce offers her phone, which we hope at 58% battery will last long enough to play the tracks she has fortuitously loaded into a playlist.  I send assistand director Perry Whitehair to get the Tailgater, instruct cast members to look as nice as they can sans curling irons, and to be ready for the 3:00 p.m. curtain time.

Saturday, December 15th, 2:55 p.m.

I hear that the power has come back on in one of the fairground buildings.  I check in with Buddy the Magnificent, and pose the theoretical question, "If the power comes back on, how long will it take for you to get all the equipment up and going."  He pauses, deep in thought, then replies, "Have your people wear and trade their mics as if they are working.  If the power comes back on, distributing the mics would be the worst part.  But this way, if it comes back on, they can just keep doing the show while I work to get everything going."

Buddy and I determine that we will run the show from the battery pack for as long as it lasts, in part to get a higher quality sound and in part because Perry isn't back yet.  When necessary, I will switch to the Tailgater. I announce to our large gathered audience that they can expect to see a great show despite strange circumstances and explain that they are to ignore me as I sit at the back corner of the stage, visibly operating Shawna's phone.  I position my mother/music director Jackie Casdorph in the audience to be my ears and give me signals to balance the accompaniment volume against unamplified voices, and we begin.

The show continues as Buddy makes preparations in case the power returns.  We discuss remaining battery power as Perry arrives with the backup machine.  We determine that I can probably get one more song from the battery pack, and discuss a plan to get Tiny Tim a corded microphone (run from an output on the amplifier/speaker combo) for his solo.  I make the determination to switch to back up power, and carefully watch the phone battery, now down to 48%.

Saturday, December 15th, 3:27 p.m. (another guess...)

The Cratchit family has taken the stage, setting their table and stools closer to the audience as suggested by Jackie, and they are deep in the dialogue that sets up their family song, "Good Times," when the stage lights flicker.  Soon the lights are up, and the audience gasps.  Infused with that bit of extra energy - pun intended - the Cratchits begin to sing.  Buddy the Amazing hurries quickly from equipment box to equipment box, readying the microphones, and by mid-song we have both lights and mics.  PDM #2: I look out through the Cratchit family who despite their relatively young ages (Kortnee Linnett - 5ish, Soda Evans - 8, Brynn Hill - 12ish, Cami Whatcott - 15ish, Alisa Woodbrey - 23ish, and Christopher Kennedy - 25ish) are continuing to perform as if nothing has happened, and I can see between their kick line to the audience.  I look at the faces of the mothers who've been to every performance, who have volunteered back stage, who have brought me offerings of chocolate and moral support, and whose faces are currently alight with overwhelming pride.  And I have to turn my face away as I choke back tears.  As the song ends, I power down the Tailgater and Shawna's phone and head back to the tech booth to watch/run the remainder of the show.

Saturday, December 15th, 3:48 p.m.

The entire cast of Scrooge takes the stage for a final bow, and I mentally will the audience to give a standing ovation.  This cast deserves it.  This performance deserves it.  PDM #3: I recall all this season's "The show must go on" moments and remember with pride the night that Colton Jensen, fighting a losing battle with the stomach flu, hurried on stage right after throwing up backstage to make sure he didn't miss his solo.  I remember the night when a cast member was stuck in horrible traffic and had to miss the show.  I sent light technician Miki Davis, one of last year's pickpockets, on stage in his place with absolutely no rehearsal, telling her simply, "Break a leg, and I think he stands two people to the right of center in the front row during the 'windmills.'  Other than that, just rely on the other kids."  I think of Travis Hymas whose intelligence on stage gives me the trust to know that a simple, "Cover for him, Trav," will do the trick, and each line and solo is delivered with confidence as Trav reworks his blocking to cover the conversations of two characters.  I think of Kylee Ogzewalla who, after an unfortunate fall in a rehearsal, jumped back up on stage without so much as a moment to go composer herself.  I stand, even though no one will notice.  I give this cast a standing ovation.

Saturday, December 15th, 4:00 p.m.

We begin our cast party, high on the adrenaline of a crazy - but successful - performance.  Shawna charges her phone, just in case.  We laugh together, eat together, and then prepare for our closing performances.  The 5:30 showing of Oliver! goes off without a hitch, which is especially great considering we hadn't been able to give the matinee a conclusion.  We return to the green room and begin preparations for the closing performance of Scrooge.  We check in any Oliver! specific costumes, and I send my littlest orphans home for the last time (as they are only in the one show).

Saturday, December 15th, 7:15 p.m.

The power goes out again.  This time it is too dark and too cold to just announce, "The show must go on."  We reluctantly close without a final performance.  We collect costumes in the dark.  We send home the volunteers who had signed up to help sort, organize, and load props, sets, and costumes.  We ask for new volunteers for an 8:00 a.m. Sabbath Day work party.  We say our goodbyes and go home at an unprecedented 9:00 pm.

Sunday, December 16th, 8:00 p.m.

I arrive to see the Jensen family (three year Dickens veterans), the Pierce family (two year participants, and work colleagues/students), Brett Hansen (this year's Fagin), Arlee Heslop (one of my best friends), Nate Kennedy (recently returned missionary and great addition to this year's cast), and of course - my parents.  In only two hours, we accomplish all the work that has to be done, including loading up the props that don't go to St. George for storage.  My dad drops them off at my house, following my exhausted instructions to just, "leave them in the front yard."

I arrive home to see a coffin leaning against my house.  I leave it there.  In part because I have to get to choir practice in 45 minutes, and I am definitely currently in my favorite orange sweatpants and yesterday's unbrushed hair.  I leave it there.  In part because I truly don't have a solution of where it needs to go.  I leave it there.  Mostly because it is a symbol of this year's Christmas spirit.  Of the fact that I am so tired that I keep welling up at the slightest thing.  Of the fact that this year's Dickens Festival has somehow brought me to a point where the Holy Spirit seems to be constantly right at the surface, keeping me in tune with tender emotions that I often overlook.  I leave it there in memory of the final performance my amazing cast didn't get to give.

So please don't fire | commit | hang me for my completely bizarre Christmas decorations.  Just consider this a final curtain call for the incredible 67 people with whom I have spent the last several months.  Well done, my friends.  Well done.


Sarah said...

You are more than welcome to quote my "concider yourself" thoughts...tho I think your write up here alreay perfectly captures the emotion of those last few shows!
I caught you tearing up as the lights proved to be working again (and found myself sitting there with similarly wet eyes). A moment of relief and gratitude that I won't soon forget!
THANKS for another great year that again steered me to family and the Spirit of the season!

The Linnett Log said...

Seriously Andrea! How is it that I end up bawling whenever I read your blog! You have such an amazing way with words that captures the emotions that tear me up every time. You are such a great example to those kids that worship you and us adults that do too! Thank you so much for every thing you have done for my kids! You are amazing!