Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bristol Reveries: MoOnIe SoUnDs

The business of life keeps me hurtling forward, but I had too many fun moments this past summer, and you've got to know about them, so I mustn't allow momentum to sweep me past all remembrances.

Many Things Were Different About My Bristol Experience This Past Summer. One of them was that I made great advances in the field of Taking Care Of Myself so that I didn't Die. Somewhere many years ago, I had gotten the idea that a street character at a 10-to-7 show had to be on, full volume and full speed, from 10 to 7. I can't say where I got this idea. Did I have a mentor who did that? The editing-desk of memory probably made me think that I saw this behavior demonstrated, and that it was heroic and deserving of perpetuation. Maybe it comes from good old Puritanical American guilt, of the piquant Midwest variety, very intense -- work work WORK! Anyhow, for many years as an interactive street character, I would go and go and go until seven both days of every weekend, regardless of my health, the weather, or any obstacle.

This physical, mental and emotional beating led to me having little mini-nervous-collapses after the show every night. In recent years, those got mighty, and I reached my breaking point. I had to do less.

In 2007, you will of course instantly and gigglingly recall, I went off to beautiful Muncaster Castle, in the UK's breathtaking Lake District. Performing there was a revelation. The experience shook me to the roots - everything I thought I knew about Doing What I Do got a new glint, a vital new polish, a thorough scrubbing, and it was a whole new game, which I will discuss further in more posts about that trip, I so totally promise.

One thing that blew my mind was the notion of Taking Breaks. Walkaround performers at proper castles in proper Britain work walkaround "sets" -- perhaps up to but not longer than 40 minutes in length -- and they may be contracted for two or three of these per day.

PER DAY. Do you understand? I was thunderstruck. Here I'd been driving my students and long-suffering cast to go-go-go for nine hours. "Eat with the patrons!" I'd cry. "Let no activity be unseen, no moment empty of blinding energy! Tear it up all day!" I'd cajole, never mind the stifling heat, the murderous humidity, the worn-out and beleaguered audience.

So to find that it was not only possible, but required, that performers should take care of themselves in some places...well, it was a whole new world for me.

I brought the idea of Resting So That I Can Be ON When I'm On to bear this past season. Every day, after the -- what was it actually called? We called it Camp Kumbaya or the Rum-Diggity Hoo-Hah, but I think the program called it the Royal Spectacle. After that, I'd bee-line it to the back of the Globe Stage and lock myself in the air conditioning for a whole hour. I would take my hat and biggins-cap off and put them in the freezer, where they would freeze quite wonderfully solid, as I'd been sweating furiously into them all morning. I'd roll up my chemise sleeves, put a Freezee-Pak on the back of my neck, put little Blue Ice thingies on, um, my cleavages, hike up my hoops and shove down my stockings, and just SIT for an hour.

I did this on not-so-regular a basis the previous year. Once during the 2007 season, stage manager Stephen Geis happened in upon me when I was in just such a state of icee-undress. He smiled a little smile and, in a German accent, slowly said, "Ohhh, my schatzie, you haf followt my direkshuns precisely; verry gut. You know how I prefer you, mit der stockeengks down, unt der blue ice on ze b00biesss..." I exploded in laughter.

Anyhow, with making The Break a more regular part of my day this season, it happened that every day, when I took my hour, it coincided with MoOnIe the MaGnIfIcEnT's show on the Globe Stage, to which I would listen, through the surprisingly-thin walls of the Globe tiring-room. I've SEEN his show so many times. Now, to borrow a phrase from the Neo-Futurists, if you've seen his show one time, you've seen it one time -- regardless of many of the beats remaining the same, the variable -- the audience -- is deliciously volatile. And it was really a fascinating schooling to be required to experience only the audio of the show -- the responses, his whistling, the surprise-laughs, the build-laughs, the explosive laughs. So many different kinds of laughs and applause.

I had other delightful relaxing good times during The Break as well -- sometimes Richard would come in and freeze his hat too, and regale me with brilliant anecdotes of a life upon the wicked sod; sometimes Jenny would seek refuge from the dust and heat, and then we'd realize we had the Unholy Triumvirate in there: Mayor, Magnolia, Jane. When Etienne was in town, he'd join me or us in the cool, and great stories were heard all around, quietly, all of us with one ear out for the MoOnIe whistles, claps and thunderous applause and cheers.

No comments: