Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Miss Carew

I've been Miss Carew for 21 days now.  It happened when I bleached my hair and my students kind of freaked, and everyone decided it would be easier to accept an alter-ego than a blonde Mrs. Fife.

I'm not Miss Carew all the time.  In fact, since Jekyll & Hyde opened, I've spent only 7% of each week wearing her clothing and saying her lines.  The rest of the time, despite the new moniker, I really am Mrs. Fife, Mom, Sis. Fife, or Andrea as the situation warrants.

But similar to the way I often get sucked into the world of a fantasy novel that I can't quite escape until its completion, I frequently catch my daydreams off in 19th century London.  I've woken up beside Kirk, confused at how Emma got into such a bed.  And I find myself already reluctant to leave Emma behind when the show closes next week.

This has never happened to me before.

In fact, I've kind of prided myself on the truthful statement that I've never been sad on a closing night.  I am fairly certain that in one week's time, I will no longer be able to brag.

I won't miss the cast.  That sounds terrible, I know, but I've been doing this a really long time, and I know that I never do.  I also know that the theater community is small, and Facebook makes it smaller, and we will all "play" again someday.

I won't miss the time commitment.  The late nights.  The ringlets and costumes.  The mic checks.  The declined social invitations.  The corset.  The carefully planned potty breaks.

But I will miss Emma.

Which is strange, because if I am being totally honest, she was not the part I'd hoped for.  I love theater because I get the opportunity to be people I could never be in real life, and this time around (like every other female who auditioned), I'd hoped to play Lucy.  Having played previous ensemble roles as a "saloon girl," I'd discovered that it's pretty fun to get to be promiscuous on stage.  And in my mind, the "good girl" Emma just didn't seem like as much fun.

However, I knew I loved Emma songs, so when the opportunity to play Emma came, I happily accepted it.  I had no idea how difficult it would be for me to identify with her character.  And I had no idea that the harder I worked to try to portray her the way I thought she should be, the more I would come to like the fictional person I had become.

The main theme of Jekyll & Hyde is one of duality - the idea that every person has two sides, and that they only choose to show the side they want to show.  This, an opening number suggested, is called "the facade."  And this is something I could relate well to, especially when one considers my recent post (remember the zocchihedron).  However, Emma is one of the few characters with no facade.  With no agenda.  With pure intent.  While I wish I could say I'm just like Emma, I am not.

Not only is Emma remarkably straightforward, she is selflessly caring and dotes on those she loves.  Again... wish I could say that is me.  Nope.  Not me.  Because of this, I had a really hard time relating to the relationships between Emma and Henry Jekyll and between Emma and her father.  But with lots of thought and trial, I finally found the tenderness in those relationships.  And suddenly, like the way I've cared about my favorite characters in a trilogy, I found myself caring surprisingly deeply about Henry and Sir Danvers.

And so, I will miss the characters.  It is going to be strange when I never again get to look at "my father" with what Michelle calls my "silly daddy," look.  When Emma's lifelong argument with Sir Danvers over how to proceed with her life concludes for the final time.

Someone recently asked me if it is emotional for me when Henry dies in my arms at "our" wedding.  I explained that surprisingly that scene is not nearly as emotional for me as the one in Henry's lab where in her one moment of selfishness, or weakness, or strength, Emma decides to leave Henry on his own.  I think it hurts me so much to walk out because that self-centered-ness is the moment to which I most naturally relate.  And so I will miss Emma's more simple times with the love of her life.  I will miss her easy, selfless devotion to both Henry and his work.  I will miss being the calm in someone else's storm.

I will miss Emma's willingness to show her uncertainty.  When she is worried, she says so.  When she has nothing left to give, she says so.  When she's wrong, she says so.  I will just miss feeling so what-you-see-is-what-you-get.  I've tried to learn that from Emma, but I don't think I've succeeded yet.

But Emma has changed me in other ways.  I hug now.  Naturally.  And what's funny is that it seems to be awkward for everyone else, because most people know I'm not much of a hugger.  I actually really hope I'm able to keep that ability when the show is over.  It has been pretty nice to have a way of showing people that I care about them.  I also think more.  As I've tried to figure out how Emma should love Henry, I've also had some pretty great opportunities to think about how Andrea could love Kirk better.  I hope that stays, too.

Probably one of Emma's best qualities is that she knows the story really isn't about her.  She's there to help both the fictional characters and the audience like Henry.  She's there to provide a contrast to Lucy.  She's there to help others reach their potential.  Oh, how I could stand to learn that from Emma!  I'm going to miss being a contributing factor to something so much bigger than myself.  Sure, the reviewers keep saying it is a Halloween show.  But I know better.  It is the story of good and evil.  A story of agency.  A story of friendship and sacrifice.  A story in which I am so grateful to get to play  a part.  I hope I can remember that.  I hope that as Andrea I can work toward being that grateful to play each role in my life.
I will be sad when Emma looks down naively on the poor for the last time.  When Emma and Henry can no longer get lost in each other at the engagement party.  When Sir Danvers gives a final hug to his only daughter.  When Emma has made her last decision to remain faithfully devoted to Dr. Jekyll.  And when Henry Jekyll dies in Emma's arms - and I realize the finality that this time he's really gone.

The change away from Miss Carew will be gradual.  I will put away her costumes.  I'll probably put at least some brown back in my hair.  Henry and Sir Danvers will be replaced by Eric and Matt.  My students will go back to calling me Mrs. Fife.  And Emma will fade away into my memory.

But I'll keep her earrings.  I'll wear her boots to the Dickens Festival.  Her wedding flowers will probably sneak their way into a hairdo or two.  And hopefully, a part of her goodness will continue to change me until I can be all the things I admire in her.

I know she's total fiction.  She's not even in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel.  She's not real.  But I will miss Miss Carew.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

That Guy

We have a big household right now.  Our five live downstairs in three bedrooms: Adam & Alex share, Kirk & I share (duh), and Dylan gets his own room.  The three upstairs bedrooms are currently occupied by the Davis family: Skye & Michelle are in the master, and Tyler and Ryder each get their own room.  It's full.  It's a bit crowded (I'm sharing one bathroom with all 4 of my boys).  But it is a ridiculously happy place to live.

Imagine coming home each day and being greeted not only by your own sweet redheaded son but by Princess Tyler, who alternately toddles over or offers you her recently perfected pageant wave.  Some days, I am lucky enough to come home and see one of my older boys holding Ryder on the couch.  But probably my favorite days are the ones when I peek through the blinds of the back door to see my three jumping on the trampoline with Tyler, four giddy faces enjoying a pleasant afternoon.  I still can't believe that Tyler - not yet 1 year old - can hold her own on the trampoline with her crazy cousins, but she loves it.  I can't quite tell whether she prefers to jump herself or to sit atop her perch on Adam's shoulders and let him do all the work.  She seems pretty smiley in either case!

I don't know if Skye and Michelle agree, but Kirk and I talk frequently of how blessed we are to get to share this time with Skye and Michelle.  We get all sorts of geeky happy about the benefits.  It's not often that you know how great and how rare something is when you're right in the middle of it.  But as 8 of the 9 of us sat down to watch Iron Man 3 recently, I couldn't help but feel like the luckiest woman in the world.  On my left sat my loving husband of 12 years with our adoring niece climbing him like a jungle gym.  Behind us, Adam held baby Ryder, feeding him his bottle.  Alex was cuddled in near my right shoulder.  And in the bend of the couch, Dylan had climbed onto Michelle's lap.  Kirk and I whispered happily about how much we love it when it is difficult to see where one family ends and the next begins.

Don't get me wrong - we are really excited about the new house (plans have been sent to the city and we are picking colors) and there are certainly times the house feels crowded.  But I know that when I look back on my life, these 9-ish months are going to stand out as some of the happiest.

I've really enjoyed getting to know my sister.  With six years between us, we weren't particularly close growing up.  As she grew into adulthood, she spent her time away at college, performing in Idaho, or being married to Skye, and I can't really say I even knew her very well.  It turns out Michelle is pretty fun to hang out with, and I really enjoy having her as a friend.  She makes a great Zumba buddy.  She is really good at laughing quietly with me while Dylan explains that I will need to make Halloween costumes for the ants, because they don't have arms and can't use the sewing machine.  She is willing to grocery shop with me.  And she seems to always find little ways to make my life a bit easier.

With all the benefits of our current cohabitation, it would be a bit difficult to pick a favorite thing - that is, if this one thing weren't so clearly my favorite.

Dylan gets to be a big brother.

I know Tyler and Ryder aren't really his siblings, but I'm not sure he knows that.  He gets to love them and be annoyed by them and have to share space with them and learn to be big because it's their turn to be little.  And while listening to him squeal as Tyler chases him through the house may not make the top of my list, watching him take care of Ryder does.

Dylan calls him, "That guy."

"Can I hold that guy?"

"Can I feed that guy?"

I love to watch him plop down on the couch, insisting on a pillow to help support Ryder's head.  I love to watch him sit still, focusing all his attention on holding Ryder's bottle just so.  I love that he's not jealous when my attention is on the brand new baby I sometimes get to hold; he's jealous that he isn't spending time with Ryder.

I like getting to spend time with Skye.  Sometimes we're both leaving for work at the same time, and I get to say a brief hello.  Sometimes he makes me baked penne at midnight when I'm up late working and he feels like cooking.  I like having access to Michelle's closet if I don't have the right pair of shoes to go with my outfit.  I like dragging her with me to the model home to look at colors.  I like the ease of a friendship without drama.  I know I am pretty lucky being one of the first people to see Tyler's hair in pigtails, and her purple polka dotted pajamas are a welcome addition in my BoyTrapped house.

But in Ryder we have another little brother (minus all the work).  A bit of calm in a continuous storm.  And I know our time with "That Guy" is something rare and special.

I know we're just moving across the back fence, but I'm going to miss Those Guys.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Best Moment

I haven't written much lately.

I know it seems unlikely, but I really haven't had much to say.  Life for the past 10 weeks has mostly been school and Jekyll, and while I am enjoying both, neither really seems like the thing to blog about.

I would love to tell stories about school, but since I know some of my students happened upon my blog last year and since I know parents from my school are also Dickens parents or EYT parents and have easy access here through Facebook, it just doesn't seem ethical.  I could go private, but that really just isn't me.  So if you want to hear fun stories about my 5th grade adventures, we'll have to hang out in person.

Photo Credit: Deanne Jones
I would love to tell stories about Jekyll, but if I wrote down every Jekyll story, you'd all be pretty sick of me by now.  Plus, having Skye and Michelle in the show with me, I get the chance to rehash every story with people who know the people I'm talking about.  I haven't felt the need for my typical public dish.

I would love to tell stories about my family, but frankly, I just haven't been around.  I am starting to make some major life changes to start to remedy that, but the process is a bit slow, and I can only wriggle out of one obligation at a time.  But come mid-December, I intend to have narrowed down my responsibilities to family, work, and one church calling, and I am looking forward to being able to be around to catch the stories firsthand.

There's also the fact that I've been a little down lately, which makes it hard for me to want to sit and write.  Nothing major, I've just been struggling with vocal health.  I've changed my diet, tried every old wives tale in the book, and spent tons of money on high-water-content fruits and veggies and assorted lozenges.  But since my voice is the basis for my vocation, my hobbies, and my personality, it has taken every bit of energy I've just to function.  If I'd been blogging these last few weeks, it would only have been to complain or worry aloud.

But amid all this stuff I haven't really wanted to talk about, it was easy to recognize the best moment of my week and know it was worth documenting.  I even asked Kirk to snag a quick picture.

Sleeping in is great for so many reasons.  But for me, the best moment is a lazy morning when I am still in bed when Dylan wakes up.  Despite his brothers' early start watching t.v. or playing the Wii, Dylan chooses to come quietly into my room.  He crawls up right next to me and cuddles in.  Often, he puts his arms around my neck.  Sometimes, he turns his back to me and wedges his little body right in front of mine.  And he lays there, still and quiet and warm for 10 to 20 minutes.  Of the 10,080 minutes in a week, these 10 are by far my favorite.

My sweet four year old is growing up.  I am grateful he stayed a baby so much longer than the older boys did.  I am grateful that he is still a bit reluctant to be as independent as the others.  I am grateful for the calm he brings into my weekly storm with a sleepy 10 minutes.  Some day he'll choose the brothers and the screen first thing, but I will smile each morning that he chooses this.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's Phantom LITE

In my experience, most people either seem to know nothing or everything about Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde.  If you're in that rare know-it-all group, I probably don't have to tell you why you might not want to bring your kids to my latest performance opportunity.  You already know about the PG-13 language, the violence, and the "career women."  But just in case you've forgotten all the reasons why you might want to bring them, read on.

For the larger group of you who are vaguely aware of the musical's existence but know little beyond the basic idea that Dr. Jekyll is good and Mr. Hyde is bad (and that certainly any show with Mrs. Fife | Sister Fife | Andrea is of course family friendly) may want to do a bit of research before you load up the kids and head to the Empress Theatre for a night of entertainment.

First, let me tell you that I think I've concluded that I will let Adam (8 yrs old) see the show.  But I am going to pass on bringing Alex (6 yrs old) and Dylan (4 yrs old).  And here's why:

If you let your children watch PG-13 movies, then language is no reason to keep them away.  We've cleaned up a few lines, possibly making the language even PG, but I think language sounds much more harsh in person.  Adam is going to hear one "b" plus a smattering of "d"s and "h"s, though the "d"s and "h"s are often to convey their literal meanings as Jekyll literally contends with the devil inside himself.  He's also going to hear the Lord's name taken in vain more than once, though never by me.

The line around the theater to describe the show's "career women" has been "family flirty."  I haven't seen the costumes yet, but I've heard they will be understated.  I've seen the choreography, and it's nothing I would feel uncomfortable with Adam seeing.  However, not being a mother of the teenage crowd yet, I don't know how I'd feel about kids who "get it" watching.  Again... if you watch PG-13, you certainly won't be seeing anything new.

Okay, here's one to consider seriously.  I took Dylan to a production of Robin Hood where a man was strangled to death at our feet.  He freaked a bit.  If you don't want your kids to see people dying on stage, don't bring them to Jekyll & Hyde.  8 people die fairly violent deaths.  However, we are not using blood on stage, so they are not gory.  Just violent.  Adam has already seen The Scarlet Pimpernel twice.  I figure if he can handle watching the guillotine, hopefully he'll handle these deaths okay.

The whole show is about the duality that exists in everyone - the good and the evil and the choices we all have to make.  Because of this, the worse we make the "bad" on stage, the clearer the need for "good" becomes.  If you haven't yet guessed, this category is the why I'd encourage you to bring your kids.  Just give them some context first.  Talk about the concepts of free agency on the ride over to the theater.  If Family Home Evening is your thing, do a whole lesson.  I had an incredible discussion with Adam and two young girls in our neighborhood about this idea, and that's when I decided I want Adam to see the show.  He gets it.  Agency.  And since he gets that, I think he's prepared to get some of the rest of it.

The Mrs. Fife Factor
There's a lot of "bad" in the show.  But fortunately for me, I get to play one of the only pure and good characters in the show.  I don't know if I would be comfortable with the kids I teach at school or mentor in the community watching me portray the "bad."  I am pretty sure I would not be okay with Adam having to sort that all out at only eight.  But in this case, it's not an issue.  If you do bring your kids, they will not see Mrs. Fife | Sister Fife | Andrea do anything she wouldn't do in real life.  (Except hug people easily and kiss Henry Jekyll.)

Oh, and if...
You're an adult, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE come see the show.  Even if I wasn't in it.  Jekyll & Hyde is one of my top 3 favorite musicals of all time, not only because I love the music (oh, how I love the music), but because I believe in its message.  I don't want to ruin it for anybody, so I'm not going to publish my overanalyzed love affair with this musical until after closing night, but just know that I strongly encourage you to attend!

So since...
I don't want to post spoilers, enjoy one of my favorite Forbidden Broadway spoofs: "It's Phantom, lite."

(By the way... it's not!)