Hello friends and family,
I am on the train now, going from Huntsville Alabama to Newark New Jersey. Everything is shaking and rumbling, and since the sun is just starting to get lower in the sky, all the trees we pass are making the light flicker into my window. It is a really nice day outside. One of my favorite things about traveling has always been observing the difference in the way the land looks; the types of plants and trees, grass, swamps, hills and mountains, rocks; just details of the geography. I am excited to see my surroundings looking more and more similar to home. I have no idea where we are though, and Book and I have spent the past few minutes in the vestibule spying for business signs or license plates, something to give us a clue about where we are. But it was cold out there, and the wind made it hard to be very persistent.
Huntsville was a pretty good city. We had excellent crowds, often sellouts. Probably the best was on Friday morning, which was a sold-out kiddy show. Kiddy shows are always great because 1) there is no pre-show, and 2) the crowd is almost all kids (very enthusiastic!). Though it was nice for us that the crowds were excited, it was not so great that whoever calls doors was as well. For some reason, a few times, people were coming into the arena BEFORE pre-show had begun! This was horribly nerve-wracking for us clowns, who are the only ones there for the first rotation, and who have come to cherish the last few minutes of getting ready. I, for one, always need that time to run around with my jumpsuit half on, trying to find my other sock, or a makeup table, or anything but a wide-eyed, pigtailed-head looking up at me.
Friday was a split-show day, and after the first show, Trish and I were scheduled for a PR. It was described to us as “reading a book to first graders”, so we volunteered cheerfully enough. We were annoyed to find out later that, in fact, this was a performance and speech onstage for 150 kids, which included reading a book. Trish was more patient about the situation than I, but we stuck our chins out and set about practicing the mannequin gag that she and Brandon do for pre-show. Later I felt dumb for complaining, because it was the best PR yet! When we arrived, we were shown into the auditorium, where the 150 first-graders were seated, facing the stage, ever so attentively. Talk about a no backing down situation! Anyway, we were each given a mic, and we sat on the stage, which was really a very wide and shallow flight of steps. I picked up the microphone, and bonked myself in the forehead with it, and all of a sudden that place was roaring! They were great. I forgot how wonderful kids can be; they are an entirely different breed in school than they are on the pre-show floor. Trish did most of the reading, and I have to hand it to her, because Dr. Seuss’s ‘If I Ran the Circus’ can be quite a mouthful of tongue-twisters at times (by the way, happy birthday Dr. Seuss). I goofed around based on what was happening in the book, and we came up with a few bits, like sliding down the stairs on our butts, which they loved. After the book we did the mannequin gag, and that also got a great response. They paid such close attention, and laughed so hard, it really made me very happy. It was a good reminder of why I do this. And then when we were done, after all that, they gave us each a bag of candy! Oh my GOD. Trish and I agreed that if there is ever another reading PR, we will jump on it.
Recently, us three Smirkos have been staying after work to practice. [Before I move on with what I was going to say, I must give a little back-story: everyone calls us “The Smirkos” as a unit. At first we were a little annoyed by this, because it seemed that the term was being used to alienate us from our current place of work, or maybe to put us down for coming from a youth circus. But, because we really are a trio, and trios need names, and because we are more proud of our Smirkus roots than we are about pretty much anything else, we don the title with pride.] Where was I? We usually stay til the last bus, which is usually at about 11 PM. I stretch, and sometimes pretend to juggle, Book juggles, and Eric does straps (he just received them in the mail). It has been really good for us, because by just performing here we are not getting any better (or even staying good), at any of those things. I am getting flexible for some future clowning plans, which I am really excited about. This is great, and I am happy to be working on something like this, but man, have I been sore the past few days! I know that I have to just push through it, so now I am considering what fun it will be to try and do splits in my tiny little bunk bed.
Maybe it is because we have been spending more time at the building on the floor, instead of in clown alley, but we have been seeing a lot more of the younger Chinese kids. They are all delightful, and I’m glad to finally be getting to know them better. Probably the one I interact with the most (I can’t really say “talk to”, because of the language barrier) is Liao-Shua. He is 10 years old, and the textbook definition of a rascal. When he was telling me his nickname, Shua-Shua, he also insisted that his English name was “Cool”. He is the reason that I haven’t been wearing my antennae for the last site and a half, because he broke them (he was really very sorry about that though). He taught me to count to10 in Chinese, and also some mysterious phrase, which I don’t think was appropriate. When I said it, the little girls said, “No goodah!” and made an X over their mouths with their fingers. They are all a lot of fun.
Sunday was quite an eventful day as far as non-serious injuries go. There were just a billion. In blow-off during the first show, Book was standing on top of one of the chairs, which was on top of Brandon. Brandon tipped the chair over, and Book fell right onto the chair, chest first, and completely knocked the wind out of himself. He had to run offstage and lie down for a few minutes, but we managed to cover. There is one point in Spec where Bibi and I take Sean’s shoes off. For the first time, he forgot to unzip them before going onstage, so there was a lot of scramble and confusion when we got there and couldn’t get them off! He had to take them off himself, and after all that, he slipped and hurt his shoulder on the platform. People often get pyro in their eyes during Spec finale, but this day one of the high wire girls got hit by a piece big enough to actually cut her, and she had to sit the next show out. But what happened in pre-show of the second show really takes the cake. Book, Eric, and I were doing our ring-tossing gag, which is in the beginning of the 4th rotation. When we pull up an audience participant to catch the rings on his head and two hands, Book always throws once so he can’t catch it, just for build-up. Sometimes, because I always tell the guy to hold still, the rings come pretty close to his head, but this time, one hit him right in the forehead! Book comes back over to tell the guy to try to catch the rings, and I could see something was wrong by his face. Eric and I spun around and looked, and the man had blood dripping down his forehead! All three of us were startled, but we had to finish the gag. We were really lucky for two reasons. One, because Eric had taken the man’s hat off, and so he put it right back on to stop the crowd from getting worried. And two, because we just happened to have picked a really nice, friendly guy, who couldn’t have been happier to be an audience participant! We made sure he was alright, and then went running to find our production manager. She sent the general manager out with us to try and find the man again, and somehow we did. When we spotted him across a platform and waved, he pulled off his hat, grinning, and pointed to his forehead. Wow, were we ever fortunate to have chosen such a positive guy. The GM made sure he was alright again, gave him a pin as a souvenir, and we said goodbye. Whew!
We had a much more light-hearted pre-show the second time around. Brandon decided that he and Eric would do slide table in drag, and Eric complied. This involved Larry’s curly brown wig, and a blonde wig that Brandon got from who knows where. When I am standing up on the table, and Eric slides through my legs, his wig came off. I looked at him, looked down at the wig on the table, and screamed, which got a big laugh. It was a lot of fun, and we had a good crowd for it too, thanks to the over-excited person who called doors to pre-show so early.
That night was very cold. I was glad not to be doing load-out, but I felt bad for everyone who did. Book and I called a taxi with Alex, the Ringmaster (or Zingmaster, in this show). He is often leaving about the time we do, so we’ve gone back to the train with him a few times. He always has a lot of stuff to carry, including his doves, so we helped him with the load, and I carried his boots for him. I was surprised at how hard and stiff they were! It was like they were made out of wood. The taxi never showed up, but the bus did, so we just took that home instead. We drove past a large building where a concert must have just let out, because there were people everywhere. I couldn’t think why the site of so many people was so odd to me, until I realized this was the largest amount of people I had seen in months that weren’t at all interested in seeing me! Weird.
Back at the train we tried to order pizza with no success. When Eric got home, we watched Sideways, and then Animaniacs, and had a wonderful time staying up late and yapping. We have another whole day of train run tomorrow!
Much love to you all,