Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Nativity Vol. III: Global Warming in Bethlehem

At dress rehearsal on Saturday, each cast had to be outside for 45 minutes in -20 weather. Naturally this was the day we all grossly underestimated the weather and came underdressed.

Sunday night was a bit better as we all had bundled up and looked like different coloured marshmallows. It was just as cold; I cupped my hands over my ears while I huddled on the angel stand to protect them from frost bite, but we survived. This was also the night that the heater in the cast trailer was broken.

Tuesday I came prepared just the same. Being the woman in the well has it's perks in that your costume has more layers and is made of thicker fabric. Furthermore, the heater was on in the cast trailer and it was +1. I hung out with the alpacas in between cues because I got too hot in the trailer.

Thursday I had no idea what to expect. Should I plan one less layer? It had been so hot on Tuesday, and it's too hard to shed a layer once your costume is on. What if it was cold again? better to be too warm than too cold. I am outside for several hours at night in December in Canada after all.

Yep. It was warm again. That was okay with me though, because now being established as the jack-of-all-trades in my cast, I had way more fun making things up as I went along when I was toasty warm.

On Sunday I was a white marshmallow with a dangerous trumpet. On Tuesday I was a purple one. Thursday I was a green marshmallow with no direction and making up my own role entirely as I was an extra townsperson.

Lucky for me, my good friend Lou was also added as an impromptu townswoman. Plus I got to keep my pitcher from Tuesday! For some reason, I really loved that thing.

Lou's brother and sister were also townspeople. They were referred to as Budgers because there job was to come on right as Mary and Joseph enter so they can cut in front of them for the tax line. Originally, Lou and I thought we would just do the same thing as them.

However, we both agreed that this did not sound like the most fun, and given the nature of Brant's directions, we took matters into our own hands. Woman at the well; the role I was on Tuesday - enters right at the beginning of the show. She is one of the first people on the stage. Lou and I decided we would enter from the same entrance a little later, walk slowly and converse, hang around the well, get water, pay taxes, talk to people, and then head off as the town clears. It was a brilliant plan, and we had a blast altering it every performance.

Do you know what is the most fun about ad libbing in a show where all the sound is on a recording that's blaring over you? You can actually talk. Marvin and I discovered this on Tuesday about halfway through, and made up a new identity for the tax man each show. Lou and I had even more fun, especially when we pretended to talk to Amanda and McKay; her siblings. I got in the habit of going up to Amanda and saying:

"Pencils! Aren't they the greatest when they are sharp?"

She would usually say: "I prefer HB. Or coloured pencils."

Then Lou would say she loved the colour purple, and we'd move on.

McKay would always poke fun of my pitcher, because it was actually made of wicker and I filled it at the well every time. It was only thing I was given solid direction on so of course that is what I did. Still, he made fun of me every time, and then I would smile and say:

"I went to the well and got a brimming pitcher of feta cheese."

We were so amused by these conversations. There is something so delightful about being ridiculous when you have an entire audience thinking you are being perfectly serious.

The conversation that takes the cake though took place with the Roman official. His job was to drag out everyone paying their taxes so the scene didn't move too fast. Usually he would ask us how many donkeys we had, if our house was being renovated, and tell us how much silver and gold we needed to pay him. He got just as bored as us though, and began to vary it.

On one such visit, Lou told him our home was being renovated. He said we owed him twenty pieces of gold and three pieces of silver. Lou kept up her habit of acting shocked and complaining about the high taxes, and he said:

"That's the way it is. It's the global warming."

We paid our taxes and wandered off stage discussing how silly we think Al Gore is. Once off stage, we both burst out laughing. Man I love being a townsperson.

Pageant is over now, and I will miss it. Despite the cold, the long hours into the night, the self-inflicted injuries, and repeating the same show over and over and over again, each show was a new experience. I'm so grateful for this opportunity I had to fulfill one of my childhood dreams and teach my city more about what Christmas is really about.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Nativity Vol. II: The Woman Lost at the Well

My second night of the pageant was on Tuesday. Upon arrival, I spoke to my director, and got an unexpected surprise. Apparently a few of the townsfolk hadn't shown up due to illness and they were shorthanded. Brant asked if I wanted to fill in. As much fun as it was to clonk myself in the face on Sunday, I was ready for a change, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Things got interesting starting in the costume trailer. The woman I was filling in for is over six feet tall. I am 5'6". You can imagine the fun the the costume mistress had making that work. What was even funnier was the other person who had called in sick was a little girl, yet the only person they could get to fill in for her was a guy a few years older than me. If my costume looked funny, Marvin's looked even better.

Then we got to our directions. Brant promised to show us what to do before the show started, but his idea was to say:

"Come in here, here, or here sometime in this two minute span of music and like you are in a town (????). Leave the stage, but come on again and keep the set busy. Oh, and you should pay your taxes to the Romans. Keep the line busy so there is always someone in front of Mary and Joseph. When Joseph starts knocking on doors, you should be off the stage. Oh and don't forget to come on for the finale."

Lucky for us, I had seen the show through once so I knew how it was supposed to look. Otherwise I would have had no idea what to do.

At the cast meeting the propmaster came looking for me and wanted to know why I hadn't taken my pitcher for the well. Was I not playing the role of woman at the well? Not that I was aware of, but thanks for letting me know. At least I had a starting point now.

Through some deductive reasoning (ie. where other towns people were entering and which entrance was empty) my hubby for the night and myself were able to figure out where we should go on. Once on stage we moved very slow, puttered around at the well, paid our taxes and went into the inn at the innkeeper's gestured suggestion. Then we went on again as Brant had told us to do that, and walked across the town. We paused only when our fellow townspeople pantomimed speaking to us to drag out the time we had to fill.

The great thing about this pageant is that we have six performances a night, so even if you have no idea what you are doing on your first show, you can figure it out for the next, and continue to make it better until show six; when it is perfect. By the end of the night, Marvin and I had our role down to a science. I did not miss being an angel at all.

To make things better, I asked Brant where he wanted me for Thursday, and he said if I would rather be a townsperson, I could just stay there. The costume will be different, my role will be different, and I will have to improvise the whole thing again, but that is the whole fun. I cannot wait until Thursday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Nativity Vol. I: Wounded Angel

You know how some people just have a natural grace? How everything they do and every movement they make comes off with a certain flow and elegance, and they always look so assured and so in control of where they are going and what they are doing?

Yeah, I don't have that. In fact, if anything, I have the opposite problem.

I have a natural talent for self-inflicted injuries. What's more, I have the most interesting habit of creating these injuries at the most bizarre times. I can train for months at running over hurdles without knocking a single one over, and then hit it with my foot and fall to the ground in a crash in finals when everyone is watching. I can walk and dance for hours in high heels and then right before midnight on New Year's mysteriously fall off my shoe and ring in the New Year sitting in the corner with my foot elevated. Such an injury happened again this past weekend at our first performance of the live Nativity Pageant.

The church puts on this pageant every year before Christmas. It's a short little show all done in pantomime while a recording reads Luke 2 and plays hymns by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. We also have a real donkey, sheep and alpacas, and perform outside in the beautiful snowy weather in costumes designed to wear a snow suit underneath.

I play an angel; although up close I look like a marshmallow with gold embellishment. My role is to stand amidst the heavenly host and pretend to play the trumpet.

Now, there are a number of concerns involved with this pageant in terms of health. First of all. the whole cold thing. We all froze at the dress rehearsal, and showed up opening night looking like the Stay Puft man so we do not all celebrate Christmas with hypothermia. Second, the animals can cause a problem if they get spooked or are feeling belligerent. Case and point: the shepherd that got kicked in the face by a sheep when the angel appeared. Luckily she was not seriously hurt. Thirdly, the angels have the risk of becoming fallen angels six times a night when they climb up a steep wooden staircase covered in hard packed snow, crawl across an icy surface and up a set of steps as if they are appearing out of nowhere. This is especially interesting when they are cued too late and the last angel (yours truly) has to run across said icy surface. Amazingly, I managed to leap into place without falling off.

We made it through opening night with very little injury and hardly any glitches. Then, on our final performance, I did something truly spectacular. My trumpet is made of hard plastic that feels even more solid when it is frozen. Normally, I place my hand near the mouthpiece so I don't get my germs on it, but in this performance, in my haste, I didn't, and rather than look like a celestial being gracefully and confidently playing the trumpet, I smacked myself in the mouth.

Blinking through the pain, I pretended to play that darn trumpet and hoped no one could see my eyes watering. I tasted blood in my mouth and prayed I didn't start bleeding on my white robes.

As we descended, I remembered that this performance just happened to be the one where our documentary maker was crouching on the angel stand for a different shot. And who was the angel he filmed up close? That's right. Me!

Of all the ways to get injured on that angel stand, I think I took the dumbest. Who knows what I'll do at our next performance?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lawyering: A Well-Rounded Education

Quite often for class, we go down to the court house. This is a very handy field trip not only because the courts centre is a couple blocks from school, but because all we really have to do is mill around and go to court proceedings that are open to the public.

Sometimes, this can be more interesting than others. Dockets, for example, are not much fun at all. Criminal charges beign dropped for the mere fact the accused did not recieve his phone call fast enough; always interesting, if not disheartening. This Tuesday's field trip however takes the cake.

We were sitting in the courtroom waiting for the judge to return. There were two prosecutors and two defense lawyers negotiating and scheduling trials and sentence requests from the counsel desks. Because we are in a courtroom and everything is miked, everyone can hear what they are saying.

It was actually very interesting, and very educational to listen to them discuss and come to agreements. You know how lawyers are on TV? Well, they're not really like that. They're friendlier, and while they haggle over how long one accused needs to spend in prison and whether or not another's trial date can be postponed, they were quite agreeable. Then they got down to the real issue.

While checking their schedules and seeing when they can set aside a time to discuss these matters in detail, one defense attorney declares that evening will not work because she wants to watch Glee. The crown scoffs at this and replies:

"Glee? I don't like that show. I prefer Gossip Girl."

They then launch into a heated discussion of which is better and why; haggling in the same manner that they did over their cases. When another defense lawyer jumps in with the claim that he doesn't like "that Glee show" either and Gossip Girl is much better in his opinion, his fellow defense attorney questions his taste in song. Seriously; she sang. This continues until the Clerk of the Court shouts "All rise!" and the judge re-enters the room. The clerk informs everyone present that what is being said will now be recorded, and I try not to laugh as I envision what would have happened if the judge got to look over the previous conversation in transcripts.

I learn the most interesting things at the court house. Who knew lawyers could be so multi-faceted?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Desk Drawers of Doom

This week, I started a major project. I began packing up all my belongings to move out. I will be moving to a house of girls I know from church, including my sister.

The spot in their house is available now, which is the only logical reason I can give for why I am moving in the weeks leading up the Christmas when I have a million projects on the go for school and am still working 25 hours a week. Suffice it to say, I will not finish in one day.

Today, I realized again how much work I have ahead of me when I discussed furniture with my mom. She has big plans for turning my bedroom into a hobby room/wedding planning room leading up to my sister's wedding, and so I while the bed, the dresser and bookshelf are mine to take, my giant desk will be left behind for her use.

Now to understand why that is a piece of blogworthy news, you have to understand something about this desk. I first started using it when I was thirteen years old and it's drawers contained the toys I wanted to stuff away when the need to look cool came up. This desk is made up of two columns of drawers; four on each side - that are very sturdy, and completely detachable from the board across the top that serves as the desktop (it may also have served as a door in previous years, I can never remember). This has been a great comfort to me over the years because even when I was not using my entire desk, I shoved the drawers in my closet to store all the essentials inside.

Over the past nine years my mother has tried on many occasions to convince me to clean them out. Whenever we move, I have evaded the problem by taping the drawers and transporting them as they are. That one snow day in the ninth grade where she suggested I use the extra time to dejunk, I "categorized" by looking at the contents on the surface of each drawer, writing what I'd seen on a masking tape label and sticking it on the front. At least until I decided to go tobogganing instead.

This time, I am cornered, as the drawers are not coming with me, and my new desk has none. So for the first time in nine years; I really do have to dejunk, pack up, and as my mother always says:

"Be ruthless."

This afternoon I embarked on my adventure expecting to find a lot of old memories and feel incredibly nostalgic as I boxed things up and threw a few away. In my first two drawers, these are the "treasures" I found:

  • my grade 11 student ID; always worth commemorating.
  • paint chips from that one time I considered repainting my dresser, took every colour from Home Depot, and then changed my mind.
  • three bottles of wedding bubbles.
  • buttons to articles of clothing I do not remember owning, or outgrew five years ago.
  • a sizable collection of expired coupons. Seriously, why did I think that was good place to hang onto them?
  • flashcards from my Science 30 diploma exam.
  • half a drawers worth of dead pens.
  • an invite to a friend's 17th birthday party. We are now both 22.
  • my 30 Hour Famine pledge form from grade 11. So that's where it was . . .
  • every college brochure I ever received in high school, and yes, that is a sizable number.
  • my wisdom teeth. I kid you not. My dad was quite proud of how intact they were when he took them out, so he put them in a cute little container and asked if I wanted to take them home. I'm still wondering if that was a good idea, or just weird.
Suffice it to say, most everything went in the garbage bag.