Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jane and Percival: A Lovely Scene

I like this picture so much. The low angle of the morning sun through the winter trees, the throngs await us in the distance, and I think I look FANTASTIC from the back. I do. And something about this picture reminds me of one of my favorite paintings, which is by Rousseau and shows the two little teeny summer carnival performers, a Pulcinella and a Colombina, I think maybe, in a forest in the evening. You can't really tell from the photo, but Richard's schaube is pleated in exactly the same way that my overskirt is done. I just notice these things. It's a nice picture! Tom Charney, my inventive and devoted husband, took all of the shots shown in this picture's Flickr set. Thank you, Tom; they're lovely.

The Wreathing of the Lions at the Chicago Art Institute was an amazing fun time. The weather forecasts were pointy, but I was quite comfortable in 50 pounds of upholstery fabric, strangely. It's nice to wear history clothes in something remotely like the weather during which it was probably conceived. It was a nice 45 degrees Fahrenheit out, and with the sole addition of a pair of soft red kid gloves (procured from a stand at the base of the Rialto Bridge in the real actual Venice FOR JUST THIS PURPOSE), I was toasty.

Chicago pedestrians are ready for fun, especially on the Friday after Thanksgiving, on Michigan Avenue. We met and laughed with excited and intelligent people from all over Chicago, and, INDEED, all over the world.

Some people from China FINALLY taught me "bad monkey" in Chinese -- it sounds like, "hwai hoe-tze," but please do not attempt to pronounce it on your own. Let me help you when next we meet. There are inflections to consider, and if you rise when you should fall, or maintain when you should ascend, it changes the ENTIRE MEANING, and I have not yet learned any of the other things those syllables could mean. PLEASE BE CAREFUL.

After I met the Chinese people who taught me the "bad monkey" in Chinese, I encountered ten or so other families and groups of tourists who were also from China, and you know it's become something of a sport with me to surprise people by having my first comprehensible speech to them be "bad monkey" in their own language. The special kind of shocked smile it extracts is, frankly, addictive.

I said "bad monkey" to people in Russian, Swedish ("POORLY FUNCTIONING MONKEY"), German, Portuguese, French, Spanish (Mexican variety of Spanish, not Spain variety), and of course Chinese, but there was a moment when I met a family from India, and paw through my little Boke of Notes as I might, I couldn't find where I'd written how to say it in Hindi. I must make it a particular priority to alphabetize my list by country and then cross-index it by language name. That will create a Good Opportunity for Procrastination.

Richard Weber was flawless as Lord Percival Degage. Many of you who know me from the Bristol Renaissance Faire will now announce to whatever room you're in, "But that's what he wears when he plays Bristol's Lord Mayor!" BUT!!! He is ALSO wearing a mink stole with wide gold trim. You cannot see it in this shot so well, but believe me, he's wearing it, and that, friends, makes ALL the difference.

When Richard and I perform together (read: walk around talking to people) at the Bristol show, I admit I get a little anxious -- generally, I'm rated PG-13 or below, and I tend toward a G rating in most of my material. The reason for this is that I have lots of fun playing with entire families, including families with smaller humans attached to them (children and other small humans), and this audience wants to be able to have fun without worrying about the imperilling of any AmeriPuritanical notions of immortal souls or anything like that. Richard, contrariwise, can end up with a slightly racier tone, inlaid with polished swirls of only the most highly refined bitterness, which he garnishes with biting insult comedy. We are a contrasting pair when we're out and about, in other words, at Bristol.

But at this event last Friday, we were quite the pair. I watched Richard serve compliments from an inexhaustible lexicon of charm. He elevated everyone he met to dizzying stata, kissed little girl's hands, handed titles round to everyone, Did All The Things. You know, the things! The Things We Do to give everyone permission to join the fun...he did all of them, which reminded me that he really is not merely a master of this craft, but essentially one of its finest pioneers. It was really, really lovely.

We traveled by "L" from Richard's Wrigleyville digs to the gig (say it! YOU ARE COMPELLED TO PRONOUNCE THE WORDS ALOUD), and that was silly good fun as well. It's nice to just assume a bizarre, non-threatening posture, as Ken Campbell said all those years ago, and watch people try to not notice you and try to avoid smiling when they see you. After we finished the 30-minute event (!!!), we continued chatting with people and handing out programs, just because the people were delightful and it's good to have an activity. Programs depleted, we took our leave and went off for hijinks -- first off, we went to Millenium Park.

I KNOW it's called something to do with clouds, but it DOES look like a bean! So we went up to that and caused great consternation. Everyone was out to have fun that day, shopping or not, and loads of people pressed in on all sides to have their pictures taken with us. Most of them wanted no explanation -- we were strange but non-threatening; that was sufficient. Some, though, were Very Interested, and fairly Demanded to know from what time period we came. A small handful correctly identified me as a jester from a Tudor court, and that is always a glowing Amelie-orange feeling. Several people asked, "Is that really your accent?" I always say, "Yes! I paid good money for it!" No One Questions That In the States. Very polite of them. With a few people, I sensed I could push the conversation further by informing them it's a dialect, and we'd prattle on for a few pleasant foppish minutes.

We strode through Macy's and caused a total uproar. We Didn't Actually Do Anything Inside Macy's, other than compliment the sales staff on their festive hats and pose for about 100 photos. (100 photos sounds like a lot to you. But you would not be caught dead in what I wear when people take 100 photos of me. It would not fit you anyway. Also, I have not one but TWO winning smiles [www.maskartists.com].)

On the State Street side of Macy's, as we stood for a moment to figure out where to go next, we blew up two "street musicians", a pile of Salvation Army bell-ringers, and something called a "Puppet Bike," who it must be admitted tried to stake a pitch Right Next to Where We Already Had a Giant Crowd, and we Weren't Even Trying.

Point is, the crowds were smart, cheerful, engaging, and really whoopingly ready for fun, and neither we nor they knew we'd be meeting each other that day. And so it was a Very Satisfying Adventure Indeed. Chicago Arts Organizations, please hire Richard Weber and I to do more of your wonderful gigs -- for the reward exceeds the remuneration! (Stacy, you're welcome.)

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Sounds like a swell time.
sorry to hear that your mere presence "blew up" the Puppet Bike's bit. It's great street theater that rolls to you, On State St., that Great street...
http://www.puppetbike.com/