It has been beautiful here for the last couple weeks – just beautiful! I went back to Indy last weekend for my dear friend’s wedding and was very dismayed at the cold and rainy weather covering the Midwest. I was fully expecting to come back to Bozeman and find two feet of snow, but was pleasantly surprised to find it sunny and in the 70s! This is sooo different from last year, when we encountered winter roughly two weeks into being here. It has been rainy and gray today, but is slowly starting to clear up and warm up. I have been a good girl today – I went to yoga, went shopping for the road (apples, coffee, floss etc), sent postcards, worked on some new monologues and am now finally getting around to a new blog entry. Tonight, we are all going out to dinner and then going to see The Perfect Ganesh at the MSU theatre on campus – it is directed by Will Dickerson, who directs along with Joel for the summer tour.
We got back into town yesterday around 5pm and made a wonderful concoction of Lynchburg Lemonade (whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup) while watching a rousing Seattle Sounders game – Nick, one of my tour buds, is a big fan and is getting me back into watching soccer games. We had today off and then tomorrow we are heading out around 11 am to drive back to Cody, WY. We are going through Yellowstone tomorrow and are making a day of it so that we will have plenty of time to take in the beauty and majesty and perhaps hike a bit. But enough about what I am going to do, let me get to what I have already done!
We were rehearsing for about three weeks, spending two days of that working on developing the workshops that we will take to the students. All of this went well – I definitely had some challenges, but I think I overcame most of them and am continuing to work through those that I haven’t overcome. My process for developing Olivia was very strange to me – I felt like I got in touch with her girlish, flighty side first and it wasn’t until the end of the process that I finally found the down to earth and reason-driven qualities she possesses, with the help of Joel. She is an interesting character in that she only has one scene in which to establish who she is BEFORE she falls head over heels in love, which makes her act very differently throughout the rest of the play. The text provides a lot of help establishing this – the whole first act or so is spent talking up Olivia’s grief and mourning for her father and brother, her beauty and her command over her house and her emotions. Thus Olivia needs to deliver all of this when she first appears on stage. First of all, I think I am pretty, but I have a terrible fear that I won’t live up to all the hype about this woman whose beauty is known throughout the land. Second of all, I was finding in rehearsal, that I wasn’t portraying Olivia as someone who has command over her emotions or her servants. Finally Joel gave me an image to work from: the benevolent queen. And to further create this picture for me, he told me to think of none other than William Brown, who directed Romeo and Juliet last year. It was a perfectly crafted piece of direction. Bill is a benevolent queen: kind, indulgent, makes you feel special, without ever giving up an ounce of authority or control. Bill makes you want to impress, entertain and be loyal. So, with that thought, I finally felt like I found the calm, centered Olivia I was looking for. Yay.
The dress rehearsal was a great success and Joel and Kathy were so very kind and took us out to eat afterwards. The next morning was an early one – we played to Anderson Middle School (also our first school last year) and it was fun and very enlightening. I quickly realized that I needed to pay more attention to my diction – I should never NOT pay attention to my diction, I have a lazy mouth – and I taught the Just Speak English workshop on my own as we were spread a little thin. Teaching solo was scary, but it was a great way of getting me over my teaching hesitations real fast – everything since then has seemed like cake. We ate lunch with the kids and I had a great time talking to some that I remembered from last year – Marley and Eliza, in particular. Some of the younger girls remembered me from Romeo and Juliet last year – but they thought I played Juliet, which I am guessing is because of the fabulous wig I am wearing in this show…. They were all very concerned that my hair was actually short and unruly rather than long, flowing curls down to my hips. They informed me, as a group of seven or so, that I should really grow my hair out – it looks so much better in the show than in real life. While trying to stifle my giggles at their boldness, I pointed out that many of them had short hair and it was gorgeous, so why didn’t they like mine? They then informed me that theirs was styled and smooth which made it fine, whereas mine looked like I had rolled out of bed. I reminded them that I had just done a play with a wig on my head. They looked at me with knowing glances and then skipped away. Hilarious. I did get some silly bands, though. Apparently they are all the rage among middle schoolers.
On that Friday night, we had a birthday party for Shannon (our Viola) that involved lasagna with 8 lbs of cheese in it, Elle’s Belle’s sinfully delicious carrot cake, and quite a bit of libations. On Saturday, Shannon, Nick and I went horseback riding at Jake’s Horses and it was SOOO MUCH FUN!!!! I got to ride Princess Isadora, the mule. Her name was really Izzy, but she definitely thought she was a princess, so I indulged her. It was pretty funny, we all got to the stable and there were three horses tethered. One of them (which happened to be Izzy) was kicking at the other horses and very antsy, to which Shannon said, “God, I hope I don’t get that one.” Nick and I were speculating about who would get which horse – they had asked for our weights, so I hypothesized that Shannon would get the little cognac-colored horse, Nick would get the larger yellow horse and I would be left with the kicking black horse which seemed to have enormous ears. This is, of course, exactly how it played out. I was beckoned over to the stair mount and told that I would be riding a mule rather than a horse. I heard Nick and Shannon kind of snicker and someone made a hilarious comment about how “perfect” that was. I assured Izzy that I was stubborn too, so we would make a great pair. As soon as I was in the saddle, she started walking around – she was ready to go. All the other horses were pretty patiently waiting for the go ahead, but not Princess Isadora, oh no, she was walking circles around everyone despite my pulling on the reins to get her to be still.
Anyway, it was such a blast. Shannon was on a horse named Confused that would seem to get caught up in the beauty of the scenery, fall behind everyone, and then subject Shannon to galloping to catch up with the group. Enough said. Nick was on a beautiful older horse named Buck who had a shaggy coat due to a thyroid disorder – thus he was constantly itch and would walk over large bushes and small trees alike to scratch his butt. It was pretty funny watching Nick’s face the first time it happened. Okay, it was funny every single time. We went out on a 2.5 hour ride and it was just breathtaking to see the mountains on horseback. Just amazing. I really want to go again, maybe when it is snowing. I did learn that horses are very frightened of bikes – apparently they don’t know what to do with them. They (the bikes) are big enough to be threatening, so when we came upon bikers going the opposite way on the trail, the bikers would kindly pull over to let us pass. Some of them would put their bikes down on the ground, which I thought was odd - until one didn’t and Izzy took off, tearing up the hill completely away from the trail. I believe I yelled “Whoa” and “Oh no” but Shannon assures me that I didn’t scream. Our trail leader told me to stay calm, bring Izzy to a stop, and then guide her back down to the trail. He gave me permission to let her go off the trail so that she didn’t have to walk near the bikes any more. And that is exactly what I did from then on – and we came upon a lot of bikers!
This brings us up to this past week, which was our first week actually on the road. We played Powell, WY, Cody, WY, Colstrip, Manhattan and Absarokee. It was great – all the schools were wonderful and the kids awesome. I had a particularly great time in Cody - the kids were very interactive during the show and in the workshops and I definitely left feeling like they had learned something, which always makes me really, really happy. We’ve been so lucky to come across some really wonderful people this last week, several Montana and Wyoming residents have approached one or all of us in parking lots and asked if we were playing that night (they wanted to know when and where) or they have just wanted to say thank you for the work that we do – they are mostly talking about the summer tour, which is open to the whole public – and it is just so nice, so validating. It warms me to the very cockles of my soul. For instance, I met a really cool guy named Pete in Absarokee. Two of his kids were at the school were performed for the next day and he and I just spent the better part of an hour talking at the 5-spot Bar while the Jets/Vikings game was on. He had been to Indy a couple times and has a lot of family there, but said he could never understand why they left Montana. I told him I didn’t really have a good answer. Anyway, he was really just a nice guy, very friendly and talkative and he thanked me and all of us for doing what we do where we do it. He told me that it makes a world of difference to the students and the adults. And that is one of the many things that makes this tour so magical and so absolutely worth the early early hours and the long drives and the many hotels. Love to you.