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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dickens Fair - a 3 Day Endurance Test

Dickens this weekend managed to run the full gamut of emotional responses by the end of the first weekend. Usually it takes a couple of weeks to reach the "Why do I do this crazy thing?" phase. But opening the day after Thanksgiving had me there on day one as I drove in from Sacramento, having gotten up ealier than any day this year for my paying job. We'd been told the weekend before that Fezziwig's would be open and visible to customers at 10:00 daily rather than our usual 10:45. Fair opens at 11am, so that means we had to be dressed an on a full hour before anyone else in the fair, and we're also the cast the bids the guests a fond farewell at the end of the day, wrapping about 7:30, a half hour after everyone else has changed clothes. This wasn't something the directors were told in advance. In fact, the first they heard of it was at dress rehearsal when it was announced to the entire fair. This had me set on edge from the outset. No one works harder or longer than the Fezziwig's, and we get little in return, and now they were demanding more of us without so much as checking to be sure that's okay with our director.

I fought my way through wind and rain and early morning drowsiness to arrive on time for the first day, fully dressed, to be told that we were opening early. The first person who told me, I assumed they meant 10am, and yeah, I knew that. But then another person told me and included "at 9:45" to which I replied, "Oh fuck that!" I dropped my belongings and headed out to get my breakfast and coffee. Another person told me about the early opening on my way out again. Before I'd had a sip of my coffee, four people had informed me of the early opening time.

Now here's a tip: don't rile the Ammy before she's had her coffee. Results will be predictable and fiery.

I told the director that this was unacceptable and that he has to learn to say no to the management and that we're people not automatons. I told Arthur that boundaries have to be set. I complained to everyone standing still that any idiot who shows up over an hour early to the door of an event should be left standing outside in the rain (under the tent provided no less) rather than having the burden of their inability to read being placed on a cast of 55 (Fezziwigs).

But it turned out their fantasy could not be realized as they hadn't managed to get the fire marshall in for their inspection prior to opening, so the doors were opened at 10:30 after the fire marshall signed off. The only loss was our morning warm ups, which I did sorely miss a few hours later.

But then fair started. The daughters got their big laugh in the tableau. The place was busy. Erik and I pretty much nailed our scene first time out of the gate. The Brassworks played in the afternoon and the floor was packed. I went to see the naughty French Postcards with Mr. Scrooge, though they were made significantly more entertaining through commentary from Jeremy of Jeremy's Escort Service. I headed home at the end of the day and soaked my feet and had leftover turkey for dinner.

Day two. I decided not to be foolish enough to risk drama before coffee and headed straight to Mr. Brown's. On the way, I bumped into Phil, whom I'd managed to miss entirely the day before. Fast on his heels were Chris, Bates, and Erik. I exchanged hugs and greetings with Phil, and a little catching up, then noticed the other three gents still behind him. I inquired, "What's going on?" and they replied, "Well this is the queue for the hugs isn't it?" I love these guys. "We Brits are great a queuing!" Hugs through the line, with Phil jumping in at the end for a second. This is it. This is why I do fair. And yes, I'll be getting coffee before going by Fezziwigs daily.

Day two brought other treats as well. Kerry brought me a trinket from the set of Rent which I'll be adding to the decorations in the blue bedroom. I helped another friend make amends with an lost friend. And at the end of the day, we bundled up and headed to Palo Alto for a quick bite at the Whole Foods Market and an hour in the hot tub. Best idea I've had all year. After an hour in hot water, my body was significantly less grumpy about the exertions of the previous two days. Indeed, when I rose the next morning, my body was not screaming unpleasantries as I'd expected.

So, off for Dickens Fair, day three. On my way in in the morning, I passed Elizabeth arriving in her mini-van. She fairly growled and said, "Why do we do this?" There is no reasonable response. Erik said, "Ah Mrs. Fezziwig - one vast substantial groan." By the end of the day, we were a third of the way through the run, with 3 weekends to go. I was doing pretty good, but trying to treat my feet as kindly as possible. If not dancing, then sitting. No standing around chatting in the streets. We had some really magical moments including a little child becoming completely overjoyed at the sight of the fiddle-playing Christmas tree and a marriage proposal on the Fezziwig's dance floor. After the proposal, Mr. Fezziwig declared that the happy couple should have once around the floor, followed by onece around the floor by all the married or engaged couples. This led to a small problem - two Ebenezers. I tried to think - dance with both or pick one? Which one? Meanwhile, the audience started laughing. Mr. Fezziwig shouted, "Oh just pick one!" and someone else shouted, "Well you're really engaged to the young one. The old one gave you up!" So I grabbed Erik and we headed around the floor, intending a cut-in after a few rounds. We finally caught up to Martin and traded him partners, though he really wanted to keep both girls. Anyway, by Sunday, things were going prety well until the magic of Christmas scene at the end of the day. Old Scrooge was expecting a particular cue/intro and Mr. Fezziwig said a different line and neither of them realized what was happening until way too late. A long pause with lots of staring had developed. And it was well past Shamu hour* so things devolved into an impressive giggle fit on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. And giggles are contagious, so pretty soon, we were all cracking up, trying to get the scene moving again, and failing utterly. Finally, the Scrooges get introduced, and Martin starts his Magic of Christmas speech where he entreats us all to spend time with our loved ones rather than money on gifts, and we're trying not to giggle. And Martin keeps turning around and shouting "Shut up, you." and "Crazy old fool." and generally being giggle inspiring. Oh lordy. Finally Mrs. Fezziwig declares, "We should sing." and we sing Joy to the World and Deck the Halls and head out singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas. During carol-out by the door, I kept catching myself drifting off and forgetting to sing. I think I might have been tired or something. Oh, but it was a good sort of tired. On my way out I passed Elizabeth. She was back to one vast substantial smile. Or grin. Or face full of happiness. For all the trials and tribulations of Dickens, we do it for the smiles it puts on our faces.


  • Thank you! This was a great entry and made me feel just a wee little bit better about not being able to be there this year. We really miss Dickens, and not because we love to work our asses off and spend our hard earned money to be there (and park!) just to make someone else a bit of money. No, it's because of the folks like you that we get to work (play!) with. I'm a little melancholy about not being able to get in the 'hug queue', but it was fun reading about it. Hope the rest of the run is great for you!

    By Blogger Flonkbob, at 7:14 AM  

  • We will be seeing you there on Sat.

    Please save one for me.

    By Blogger vile, at 1:59 PM  

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