Monday, February 24, 2014

Adventures with a Queen- Part 4 (Epilogue)

So for the final show we were told that Chris would be attending.  Drew had videoed most of the shows (including the queen's train wreck), but we were very glad that Chris would be able to see it in person.  All throughout the entire process we had Chris in our hearts.  We wanted the show to be good- for HIM.  Really, we were thrilled to have him there.

And it was the best show of them all.  Most of the people who prepared the food and the servers were in the audience.  It really felt like the room was filled with family.  Chris sat at the back in the queen's chair.  He thoroughly enjoyed the show and even gestured and conducted some of the songs.  It was great having him be a part of the show.  It was the perfect way to end the weekend.

So here's what I want to say about Drew and Walt.  First Walt.

Even though I wrote the dialog and directed the show, Walt was truly my partner.  He really took on half the burden and there's no way I could have done any of it without him.  He and I had so much fun together, onstage and off.  And all the craziness with the queen was really kind of fun because it was shared with Walt.  I'm so happy he's my friend.

And now, about my brother.  On the Wednesday before the show we still didn't have anyone who could run the music cues.  All we needed was someone who could sit at a table and work an iPad to advance to the next song.  We needed someone who could come to the rehearsal on Friday and do all the shows on Saturday and Sunday.  Without someone who was willing to make that commitment we didn't have a show.  I asked Drew if he could do it.

Drew came to the rehearsals on Thursday and Friday.  He helped set up lights and worked on anything else that needed to be done in the room.  He learned the ins and outs of the whole show and even gave me notes on my performance.  He gave useful suggestions wherever he saw they were needed without ever overstepping the bounds of manners or appropriateness.  Backstage he made sure everyone had a place to sit.  He set up background music for in-between the shows.  He poured tea for all of us!  And on top of all of that he's just an awesome guy to hang out with.  I'm a very lucky sister.  Thank you, Drew.

Man, this was quite an experience.  Lots of lessons learned!  Mainly about ownership.  Personal ownership of a role or a commitment.  Drew has it.  Walt has it.  So does Terry, the guy who was the chairman of the church committee for the Dickens Faire.  And his wife, Sue, and all the others at the church who worked so hard to put this on.  It was a pretty cool thing to be a part of.  Even the hapless lady-in-waiting who walked on crutches and rode around in a scooter making sure the queen was taken care of even though the queen couldn't be bothered with communicating with her about the whereabouts of that stupid script.  Maybe it's because her dress wasn't pretty enough.

Get well, Chris!  I don't want to do this again!

Adventures with a Queen- Part 3

It was time for Walt's solo.  This is a sweet, sentimental song that tells the story of a man whose son is away at sea.  Walt's speech beforehand is warm and thoughtful and relate's to the queen's own son who is also serving in the royal navy and who is also at sea.  It's a beautiful song and a nice opportunity for Mr. Bumblepitch to interact with the queen.  And then there are a few lines afterward.

When the song ended I was backstage listening for the queen's line.  Nothing.  NOTHING!!!  I stepped out onstage and said the lines so poor Walt wouldn't be left hanging.

And then the queen said, "Well friends, it is time for us to depart your company."

No, no, NO!!!  She skipped two songs!!!!!  She said her last speech and then they all stood up and WALKED OUT!!!!  I said, "Um, everyone please rise..." and the audience stood as queen and company left the room.  I whispered to Walt and Bethie that we would do the songs she skipped and finish the show.  When everyone sat down I said to Drew (my darling brother who was running the music cues.  More about him later), "Please Mr. Lang, we will do Rutherford Rhodes." just to make sure he didn't skip ahead to the end.  We did the last two songs plus another song at the end where we all gush about the friggin' queen.  We improvised the Felicity/Maisie-gets-exposed-but-it-all-ends-well part and finished the show.

Afterward, Drew came backstage and handed me the queen's script.  She had left the script behind even though we had another queen show on Sunday!  My head went KABOOM.  Again, we were all agape.  And it wasn't just us actors.  Everyone at the church who was involved with the show were also astonished and more than a little miffed.

I decided to take the script back to the Mission Inn and leave it at the desk.  I sat down and wrote her a note (Drew is telling me to stay calm) and stapled it to the front of the script.  I basically told her that she had skipped two songs and that it was important for her to take some time and PRACTICE her lines so we could have a great show on Sunday.  Then I took it to the Mission Inn.

Janet was in the lobby.  I tore the note off and approached her and handed her the script.  I was calm and friendly (really, I was!).  I let her know how important it was that she practice her lines and that she had skipped those songs.  She was apologetic, and it really wouldn't have been appropriate for me to rip off her wig right there in the hotel lobby so I left it at that.

Sunday!  That morning I redid the queen's script.  I removed the pre-show page and any other stage directions and put the song titles in bold print and colored them red.  That way she should be able to find her place both by looking at her own bold, blue lines and the red, bold, song titles.  I put the pages into plastic sheet protectors and put everything into a three ring binder.  I don't see how I could have made it any more idiot proof.  I headed off to the church.

We did a Jeffrey show, which went very well.  Drew and I decided to take a stroll and check out the rest of the Dickens Faire.  Right outside the church was our familiar lady-in-waiting.  She said, "The queen didn't get her script after the show."  I told her that we found her script and it has already been placed in Janet's hands.  I also told her that I had redone the script and that it would be placed on the table in front of her.  Once again the L-I-W said, "I will convey that message to Her Majesty."  I said, "Her name is Janet, you know.  She's not really the queen."  Really, I'd had it up to here with all this queen bullshit.  The L-I-W said, "I know.  I like to stay in character."  But you could see she thought it was a little silly.  Before we left, Drew dashed back in and took the script off the table and hid it.  He thought that just maybe the L-I-W would try to nab it.  I think he was probably right.

The entourage showed up a little early and the queen and I went through the script again.  She appreciated the simplified and straight-forward script.  Also, we had replaced the problem chairs with plain, wooden ones from the sanctuary.  I also told her that whatever Dick says in his announcement, they need to arrange themselves so the queen ends up in the middle.  And I told her that when the room is full of people, they soak up a lot of sound so she needs to speak loudly in order to be heard.

She said, "Sitting at the end of the table I was too far away from the microphone."

There was no microphone.

So, the show began, they all went in in the correct order and the queen said the correct opening line.  So guess who flubbed a line?  ME!

And the queen shot me a look that was laden with daggers and ice picks.  Seriously, bitch?  Well, now you know how we felt.

The rest of the show went as it should.   We had one more Jeffrey show after that.  More in Part 4.

Adventures with a Queen- Part 2

The show was going along pretty well, considering.  We added as many rehearsals as we could.  Walt and I visited Chris in the hospital and shared what I had of the script so far.  He laughed as I read it and said it sounded like something he would have written.  That's what I wanted to hear.  As I was writing it, I really had his voice in my head.  Walt and I were happy and relieved after our visit with him.  The path was clear and we were confident about how to proceed.  A few days later, Chris left the hospital and is now recuperating at home.

I had the completed script and now I needed to get a copy to the woman who plays the queen for the Faire every year.  The email address I had for her was an old one so I wasn't getting any replies.  Also, for some reason my Word files weren't sending correctly, so when I sent the script to people it came through in pieces.  I eventually got the "queen's" phone number.  I texted her and said I'd like to deliver a printed copy to her so she could have some time to practice.  This was the Monday before the show.  No reply.  More texts were sent.  I told her I really wanted to meet with her and go over the lines because this year things were different.  No reply.

(About the queen's script-  I had gone through the whole thing and made her lines in bold print and colored dark blue so she could easily see which lines were hers.  I also included the page with the pre-show stuff so she would better understand the whole story line.)

Wednesday evening she finally wrote back.  She asked me to deliver the script to some woman named Antonia.  I told her I didn't know Antonia and that my only affiliation with the church is through the Queen's Tea show.  Then she asked me if I was staying at the Mission Inn (?).  Um, no.  That was when I figured out that she doesn't live in Riverside.  Then she said (all texting here) she would be at the Mission Inn on Friday at lunch time and we could meet then.  She asked me to leave a copy at the front desk.  Ok, Friday is cutting it a little close, but all I need to do is go through it with her.  She didn't need to memorize anything, but I wanted her to be familiar with the story line.  I was planning to be at the church all day to decorate the room.  I could leave at any time and pop over to the Mission Inn, which is only a block away.

On Friday morning I left a copy of the script at the front desk with her name and phone number on it. Lunch time came and went with no text, no phone call from Janet, the queen.  So I called her.  I asked her if she got the script.  She said no.


I said, "I left it for you at the front desk."

She said, "They didn't give it to me when I checked in."

Ever get the feeling that things are about to go terribly wrong?

She said she was having lunch with friends and that when she was done she'd go to her room and call me and we'd go over the script on the phone.  Ok.  So we did that.  She liked the story line.  She thought it was cute.  Oh, such fun.

Saturday morning!  We had two Jeffrey shows, 11:00 and 2:30.  After the first show, one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting (Yeah, she has an entourage.  For real) found me and told me that the queen has lost her script and do we have a spare one I could give her.  WTF???  Lost her script?  No, I don't have a spare!  After a short but circular conversation the L-I-W said that the script wasn't lost, but it was locked in the queen's hotel room.  Again, WTF???  I told her the queen's show wasn't until 4:00 and that there was plenty of time for someone to get into that room and get the script.  Oh, and by the way, the queen has more than the agreed upon number of people in her entourage.  We told the L-I-W the queen can have five people total, including herself.  The L-I-W said, "I will convey that message to Her Majesty."


So, at about 3:30 the whole entourage shows up.  Queen Janet made a bee-line for the bathroom.     The L-I-W I had spoken with earlier pulled me aside and told me the queen needed to leave the show early because she had to go to the closing ceremonies.  I told her no, the queen CAN'T leave early because she's part of the show.  She has lines!  She's in the freakin' show!  I asked the rest of the entourage if the queen had found her script.  Blank stares all around.  When Janet finally came in I asked her if she had her script.  She and the others started rummaging around in their tote bags.  Then she grabbed a script that was laying on a table and started leafing through it.  I said, ok, fine.  We'll just high-light her lines and use that shitty, dog-eared script.  Then someone found the queen's script.  It had been folded in quarters and jammed down into the bag.  Oh my god.

She and I sat down and we went through the script together.  She seemed to understand it all.  Oh lordy.

(Here's some more goofy shit that happened-  We had her long table set up in the back of the room.  There were some pretty Victorian-looking chairs set up for them.  One of the chairs had arms, which wouldn't work well for the ladies because of the hoop skirts, but would be just fine for Prince Albert.  We had them arranged so the women wouldn't have to deal with the weird chair.  Usually, the queen's entourage traveled with a Beefeater dude who would come in and announce them.  This year there was no Beefeater, so one of the guys from the church (name's Dick) said he'd announce them.  I didn't want him to mess around with everyone's name, so we said just introduce the queen, the prince and Princess Alice.  So he did just that.  And then the queen, prince, princess and the rest of the entourage very obediently trundled in in that order, completely getting themselves tangled in the chair with arms and ending up with the queen sitting all the way at the end of the table, instead of in the middle like she was supposed to.)

So then it was time to start my interaction with the queen.  I said my first line.

"Your Majesty, we humbly welcome you and thank you for once again gracing us with your patronage."

And she said, "You're welcome."

AAAIIEEEE!!!!!!  That's not the line!  She couldn't find her line!  She was on the wrong page!

So, I just jumped in and basically said all her lines and got the show started.  Then we left the queen's table and went back stage.  Walt, Bethie and I just GAPED at each other!  We couldn't believe what had just happened.  Oh my god.

By the time we ended the first song she was on the right page and the show ran smoothly.


(See part 3)

Adventures with a Queen- Part 1

This weekend was the Riverside Dickens Faire.  For the last several years now I've been involved with the Queen's Tea show at First Congregational Church.  Yeah, me, doing a show at a church.  Hey, it's a cool church.

They put out a very nice meal with tea and a music hall show.  There are fresh-baked scones, finger sandwiches, pastries, fruit, and chocolates, lemon curd, jam and clotted cream.  It's really quite good.

The music hall show is written and directed by a dear man named Chris.  Over the years there have been many different people involved with the show, but usually the cast will consist of three or four people.  This year it was to be Chris, me, a guy named Walt and a girl named Bethie.  Walt had done the show twice before.  He's not an experienced actor, but he's got a lot of enthusiasm and he's very pleasant to be around.  This was Bethie's first time with the show.  She's sixteen years old and has an amazing and mature singing voice.  Everything started off in the usual way, but very quickly the show got into trouble.  Chris became very ill with a nasty mix of ailments, with pneumonia leading the pack.

At first there was very little communication with Chris' family.  Walt and I were reluctant to pester them with our issues about the show, but we really needed to know how to proceed.  Eventually we found out that Chris was in bad shape.  I also found out that the Dickens committee at the church had had a meeting where it was announced that two hundred tickets had already been sold, and that Donita could dive in and take over (and no, Donita wasn't at this meeting but heard about it the next day from Walt).  So, ok, here we go.

Mr. Walt basically leapt into action with emails and texts, while I privately bitched and whined about not wanting to do what I knew I would end up doing.  Whatever Chris had planned for the show had to be rewritten without him.  We had the recorded piano parts from last year on a cd, and the story idea he had come up with for this year.  Walt hunted down the missing sheet music and converted the piano music to an mp3.  I began to write dialog.  Two scripts were needed; one for the show that included Queen Victoria, and one for the non-queen shows.  Both scripts had to tell basically the same story

So here it is-

Mr. Treacle (Chris) took on a protege for the show this year.  She's a young, high-born girl who just wants to act upon the stage.  Since she's an aristocrat, this activity is forbidden to her.  Her real name is Felicity Farthingale, but she's calling herself Maisie Duckett.  Dame Hermione Fabersham (me) has been with Mr. Treacle's show for years and is very suspicious of this new girl.  Mr. Broderick Bumblepitch (Walt) is a wealthy benefactor of the music hall who just loves to perform, and is completely smitten with Dame Hermione.

The show is ready to begin but Mr. Treacle is nowhere to be seen.  Dame Hermione receives a note, flies into a panic and shares the news with Maisie and Broderick.  Mr. Treacle has had an unfortunate encounter with a carriage horse which resulted in him receiving a well-placed kick upon his bum.  The poor man cannot perform and the rest of the cast must make some hasty changes to the show before the queen shows up.  When the queen arrives, Hermione introduces the cast to her.  She recognizes Felicity/Maisie, but doesn't expose her just yet.  Hermione's suspicion goes into high gear and Maisie gets verrry nervous.

As the show progresses, the queen from time to time plays a bit of cat-and-mouse with Maisie.  The dialog links a total of nine songs together.  At the end of the show Maisie is exposed as the daughter of a lord, Hermione is furious, Broderick convinces her that Maisie's father may send his patronage their way when he hears of the enjoyable and diverting afternoon the queen spent in their music hall, and all's well that end's well.  Huzzah.

For the non-queen show we had Felicity's cousin Jeffrey (played by a guy named Jeff) show up in the audience.  When Hermione and Broderick leave the room, he pounces on Felicity/Maisie and threatens to tell her father about the whole thing.  Felicity/Maisie begs him to let her perform just this once.  Jeffrey (a bit of a cad) agrees to not tell her father, but lets her know he expects her to return the favor one day.  The show goes on and in the end Felicity/Maisie is exposed and so on and so forth.  Huzzah.

And so we commenced to rehearsin'.   We had three weeks to pull it together.