Friday, October 5, 2012

Shakespeare and the Unicycle

You know those days when you stop toward the end of it and say, "what the heck just happened?" At 6:18 PM I stopped...thought about the past 13 hours and just started laughing.


My new job basically requires that I use my skills to increase the value of a Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts diploma. Branding, basically. I go in, diagnose and exploit the resources available to me to upgrade what already exists, to spit and shine, to invent more money, to put the school on the map...the map of really great schools. No biggie. Really. It's no big thing.

But it's a terribly huge amount of little things.

It's the details. For example...this week...cutting coupons to take to JoAnn's Fabric to get one piece of Shakespearean trim that will turn an ordinary black dress into an extraordinary Shakespearean costume.  I do not have time to make a trip to JoAnn's for 3 yards of $7.99 trim at 40% off. So those little details, whole piles of them, jump around in my brain so that when I happen to pass a JoAnn's in my travels, I am prepared to turn on a dime, park and run. With the coupon. It's seriously that obnoxious sometimes. By the end of the year I will have turned in literally hundreds of receipts...$3.42, $12.08, $2.87...I sewed costumes for our Shakespeare team until 4 up at 6 and drove back to the school.

My bosses asked me to mount a Renaissance style feaste/faire that would showcase the kids, celebrate their success, bring people into the school and make some money. In the past they have done a "recital" of their competition pieces just for the parents. Now let's be real, Shakespeare is my buddy, but sitting through one piece of 500 year-old poetry after another? I'd rather eat dirt and so would most people. So yes, they commanded, use your skills to elevate the recital into a popular fundraiser. A long term, repetitive FUNdraiser. (sigh) I know how to do that.

Schedule dinner for 100...three nights in a the set...write the program...find a caterer that can come to a venue without a kitchen... and will do it for under $10 a plate... find and order paper plates that will hold chicken, veg and potato...go plastic...bowls...napkins...thousands of napkins (no need to order utensils for this meal)...baskets for the napkins...two per table...find the tables...order tablecloths...iron the tablecloths...find a kid to iron the tablecloths...find the iron...fluff the matching centerpieces...convince Andy to donate his time (again) as the Lord of the him a costume (left the old one at Tuacahn)...the Master of the Salt...the salt...the little bowl to put salt should be wooden because of the time period (where did I get that one I left at Tuacahn?)...and the kid that brings the salt around, he has to be comfortable having old ladies kiss him on the cheek as payment for the salt...find the cast member...have the talk...add a piece of elastic to his hat because he will be constantly bending over (learned that lesson back in 1998) I have any elastic that isn't an inch elastic...find a way to print the set design since you have the only color printer in the school and it's out of yellow ink...caterer leaves a message...chicken breast or thigh and leg please call her all the teachers with performing groups involved and make sure they pass out the information packet to the their kids...make the information packet...distribute the information packet....hope they read the poster...order the poster...get the poster the poster for the paper...write a press release...take a picture for the press release...will they be costumed for the picture...will all 65 performers be costumed... No!...only the wenches and key named characters...make 42 Renaissance style costumes...pull what the school already has...where is that stuff...being used by another class...trip to all my sisters and gather their JoAnn's coupons...why do I feel like I want to throw up all the time...because...because creating this monster project will prevent me from coaching....

Coaching is my real skill. The time I spend working out the vowels, consonants and pauses...the meaning of the text, breaking vocal habits, breaking down walls...that time I spend with kids is my joy, my work, "my all the world." And we did reach out and help other coaches at other schools when we could, but because of all the little wasn't nearly enough.

It's selfish really. ( FAKE MOM )

This morning, and every first Thursday of October, for the past two decades, I have gotten a team of kids on a bus, driven to Cedar City, Utah, and gathered a few awards at the Utah Shakespeare Festival High School Competition hosted by Southern Utah University. I have had the honor of watching hundreds of kids grab hold of Shakespeare and spend the rest of their lives seeking him out. Some of my dearest friends are tournament officials that I have loved 30 years since I was a student there. Some of the people I respect most in the world are teachers from other schools who follow their kids around with a bag of safety pins in their pocket. It's required. I know their spouses, I've seen their children grow up. We've commiserated and communed as coaches behind the Adams Theatre now for more than 20 years.

Until this year.

This year, the team at SPA was already in place when we got there. There was no need for us to coach. I didn't really think about it. I thought  "I'll contribute my costuming skills. I'll travel down with the team, I'll cheer for them and be their school administrator. But I will not coach unless I am asked. Even then, everything their coach says must trump what I say." And that was my plan. I would still have one butt cheek on the bus, so to speak.

So I kept the filing cabinet marked "Shakespeare," locked. The one in my mind. And for the first time in decades, literally, I never even opened the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I planned a giant dinner for 300 instead. I know its important, but it could not seem LESS significant to me today.

Because there is so much to do on the Renaissance Feaste, and because I did not want to steal focus (and it would have been so awkward seeing the Tuacahn kids while my SPA kids still wonder who I am.) I opted to stay back and finish the Feaste. It was easy to say "I. N.E.E.D. M.O.R.E. T.I.M.E." And true. But when the bus pulled away from the school this morning, full of kids, coaches and costumes, I waved, turned and briskly walked toward the school. The SPA coach came running after me, damn her intuition, and she hugged me. All I could say was "twenty-two years." And she knew.

I have not cried in front of this group of people nor did I want to start. So I hurried back into the costume shop, sat at my new awesome sewing machine with the full intent to put that damn trim on another vest and I could not turn it on. I did not have the energy to reach up and turn the machine on. I just hung my head and cried for a good twenty minutes. I had my little pity party and then I left the room. I went back to my office and had a fabulous conversation about Commedia del Arte with the vocal teacher. He stayed home because his wife is expecting their baby a.n.y. s.e.c.o.n.d. This just added to my grief! The one excuse I would respectfully give myself for missing the Shakespeare competition is one I will NEVER be able to use! Instead I used "I need more time." Lame.

What would happen if just once, some kid had a big piece of fabric tied around their waist instead of a lined, trimmed and grommeted vest? I will never find out.

I never returned to the costume shop today. I found other things to piddle with. I gathered the school announcements, worked on accreditation, answered email, re-designed a ticket for Legally Blonde, took an order for tickets over the phone, talked to the caterer, sent an email out to the parents...and then I found myself opening a word doc and typing out the words "Rehearsal is cancelled." 

I CANCELLED AFTER SCHOOL REHEARSAL FOR ME. But mostly so that I could cry without embarrassing other people that still don't know me very well. But I cancelled rehearsal.


SO...last week my sister called to explain that she had ordered a unicycle for my nephews birthday and forgot to change the shipping address. Subsequently, it was delivered to their old house in Salt Lake instead of St. George. She wanted me to go and get it. It was on 10th East over by the U of U. I went there after school that day and no one was home. Then I got caught up on all the little things and forgot about the unicycle until today - after school - when I had a car and a peaceful brain. I refused to allow myself to do anything related to work after I left the school...(this is also why I'm blogging...even though I did bring the sewing machine home just in case guilt reigned as it usually does.)

I got all the way to 3300 South and turned around to get the unicycle. That would still be productive, but not theatre related. Well - it was a in some theaters... Anyway, I got to 8th South and 8th East and realized that the University of Utah's football team was playing The traffic piled up around me instantly. My dream of going home early...not gonna happen. By the time I got three blocks over, the road was blocked off for the game and I had to circle around the cemetery to be able to get to the house with the unicycle. That is a HUGE cemetery. My anger was rising. I tried two separate routes to find a way to turn right without going up to the "U" on the mountain and turning around, but suddenly, I found myself stopped in the middle of about 200 tailgate parties. MAN! Those Utes know how to party!

It took me nearly 30 minutes to get out of the middle of all that. My anger, my blood pressure...rising...over a UNICYCLE.

I finally got to the house but there was nowhere to park. They already had four cars parked on their lawn. It was spitting distance from the stadium. So I pulled into the Little Caesars two doors down. I was determined to knock on these people's door and say "DO YOU LIKE RIDING MY NEPHEWS UNICYCLE? DO YOU KNOW I SPENT AN HOUR TRYING TO GET HERE?! DO YOU KNOW WHAT KIND OF TIME AN HOUR IS TO ME? DO YOU EVEN CARE YOU SLOTHFUL U OF U PARTIERS!"

But then as I was getting out of my car, a hired Little Caesar's security guard said "Ma'am you can't park there unless you buy a pizza."

?!*#^!inner monologue!*$#!!bad words@$!#%more bad words*#$!%

Then I walked over the LINE of FOOTBALL PATRONS waiting to buy Hot n' Ready. I just needed to talk to the lady with the unicycle sitting in her living room twenty feet from the line. But a pizza and bag of breadsticks later... (they were only a buck with the pizza.) I threw them in my car and raced over to the unicycle-nappers and prepared for a fight.


A very nice older woman opened the door. A younger girl, obviously her daughter, was sitting on a nearby sofa holding a baby that could not have been more than two days old. "Hello," she said calmly...saint-like...still glowing in the my-baby-is-now-outside-my-body-and-I-feel-like-Mary-the-Mother-of-Jesus glow.  "Hello. My name is Jan Shelton Hunsaker and I am JoEllen's sister," I stuttered.
(My sister's in-laws are related to the owners of the house. They didn't know JoEllen. DUH. Why would they?)

     New mom: (blank stare)

     Jan: "Did you get a unicycle delivered to your house last week?"

     New mom:  Why, yes we did. At least I think we did. It was from a bike shop but we didn't open      the box. We called UPS and they came and picked it up right after they delivered it."

     Jan: (of course you didn't open the box.) OH, I'm so sorry...I...I...I'm probably a step or two behind the news about that. Sorry to bother you. I'll let them know you sent it back. Sorry to sorry...

I got back in my old blue Honda, the one that I've been driving for 16 years and burst into flames. JUST KIDDING. I nodded at the security guy like "I told you I was only going to be two minutes!" And I turned RIGHT without thinking, instantly buried in masses of people wearing red and BBQ-ing ribs under endless tents.

I was spouting green smoke out my ears at this point.

I took a breath. I opened the box of pizza. I knew it was going to be awhile. And the pizza was exactly what I imagine eating pizza in the celestial kingdom will be like,  It WAS hot n' ready! The breadsticks were like cloudy pillows of garlic and butter encrusted goodness! WOW! I hadn't eaten all day! In my pity party I had forgotten to eat! That pizza was so good I almost cried.

One entire bag of breadsticks and four brake pads later...I was finally within breathing distance of freedom from the tailgaters. It was six o'clock  and I had left the school at four...WHEN...a man walked out in front of me and held his hand out for me to stop. It was a crosswalk after all...but in my mood I may have killed a stray rib eater on his way into the stadium if the guy hadn't jumped out in front of me. But it wasn't a rib eater.


I'm not kidding! They rolled (and you band geeks know what I mean) through the crosswalk in a double line...two by two...must of been 150 of them. They were wearing big Trojan helmets with glorious red and gold feather plumes shooting out of them. Their uniforms were perfect. Instruments golden and shining. They were all "holding their nickles." (When I was in band our teacher told us to walk as if we had a nickle stuck between our butt cheeks and don't let the nickle drop. There you go. Don't say you didn't learn anything today. That's how they do it.) 

I love marching bands. !

I sat in reverent awe as they passed right in front of me. I felt my spirit stand up. I felt the disastrous day flee my temperament. I said "Thank you Heavenly Father, for the band."


I know He knew I needed that band today. And the pizza. That was good pizza. And I can go to bed now because I left the little things behind, just for the afternoon, and I chose to take time to write a blog today and that always heals me.

Still . . .

Chad, Josh S., Josh L., Heidi, Mindy, Neal, Stewart, Jim, Agnes, Rock, Andra, Glen, Big Al, Richard, Melanie, Brad, Alyn, Phaidra, Julie, Katie, Christine, Fred, Scott, Michael, Doug, Brad, Peter, Brian, Melinda, Sabrina, Anni, Cam and especially ... Jen and J.P...    I missed you today. 

But there is no pity party that a unicycle, some hot pizza and a marching band can't crash.

Break many legs in Cedar tomorrow, everybody! I'll be making a trip to JoAnn's instead and its O.K.