Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stage Dirt

Photo by Ivan Phillips
This past weekend I have come to realize the importance of Tamora's dirt. 

I put her on in stages, donning the dingy layers of her costume, slipping my hands into her ragged gloves, stretching her massive hat over my dreadlocks so it towers lazily above me like a deflating hot air balloon. But I don't feel like her yet. Every faire day I put the garb on, and before I complete the look, I get comments from fellow performers about how weird it is to see her fresh faced. I look in my feather fan mirror and I don't see Tamora yet either. I see myself with odd clothing. 

It's only when I line my eyes with smeary eyeliner and apply my beloved stage dirt that she really comes forth. She smiles through the filth and dirt (made up of "the cleanest dirt you'll ever find", lovingly handmade by the town's "Rat Catcher") and suddenly I feel like her again.

No one told me Tamora's face needed to be dirty. I was fascinated by the Rat Catcher's stage dirt and on a whim decided I would try it out. I started with a small amount and as time goes on she has gotten grubbier and dirtier and by now it is one of the major and defining features of Tamora. 

How odd was it then to take it all off in the middle of the day.
I decided to take a half day off on Sunday and patron the faire. I cleaned my face, put my glasses back on and changed  into street clothes. This experience was unreal to me, walking faceless through the crowd as the other patrons looked right past me. The rest of the entire summer season had been spent as a larger than life individual who gets stopped by strangers to have their picture taken with this odd woman. I felt invisible then, wandering around as myself. I was an observer, watching these other larger than life characters who did double takes when they saw me and tossed out side comments like "You look wrong!" 

That invisible feeling was somewhat liberating as I could step outside of the world of performing and appreciate the hard work and efforts of the other big and cartoony folks that roam the Streets. I had come to know these loud and hilarious characters as actual people and I enjoyed being able to take in their shows and antics as an outsider for the afternoon. 

But as much fun as it was to play the role of the patron, the entire time I kept feeling the urge to fall back into the dialect, to spin my modern umbrella the way Tamora spins her parasol, to let my hands float around me the way Tamora lets hers. She won't be kept at bay for long. I both long for and dread this coming weekend.   Being the final weekend, I can't imagine how much it will hurt to say goodbye. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mid Season Epiphanies

photo by Jenny Badame
I began this blog to be a place to share the stories and adventures that I collect during this journey and here it is now suddenly five weeks later and it has all gone by far too fast for me to capture any of it. I will try harder from now on  to grab on to the pieces  before they all pass by and the best summer of my life thus far comes to an end.

This past weekend was one of the most memorable despite the fact that Saturday began so awfully, with a migraine gnawing at me throughout the whole day and a sudden weather shift that chased the majority of patrons away. But those that held in there were witness to rare and fabulous sights such as Robin Hood and his men fighting with imaginary weapons and Tamora getting advice on how to be a proper lady by Maid Marion herself.  The gates closed and we sang our finale song to a sparse few dedicated patrons who truly seemed to appreciate the efforts more than ever.

Being the middle of the season, Saturday also included a quiet moment sitting with my director and assistant director to evaluate my work so far. Still battling my massive headache and the heat, this meeting was daunting until it actually began. I was delighted to hear their thoughts and I babbled about how very much this has all come to mean to me. I can't say enough how big of a place Bristol has in my heart. The kind words I was given during that meeting gave me the strength to carry on that day, and fueled the rest of the weekend.

Sunday morning I had the inexplicable feeling that it was going to be a good day. I felt confident, the weather was wonderful and the people were all in good moods.  No matter what, I was determined to make it a good one.

My vegetable cart has broken in some manner every weekend thus far. Some part of my beloved shabby old girl always inevitably needs adjusting, reattaching or downright rebuilding. So when the only thing on the entire cart that needs fixing that whole weekend was a postage stamp sized piece of leather that covers a sharp screw end, I'd say its a win.

I had more pictures of me taken that day than any other it seemed. I could not go more than ten or twenty feet before another family called me over and begged for a portrait with my filthy face smiling in it. I loved each one, happily declaring "Now at the count of three, everyone say "SKUMM!" and throughout the day I had some of the best interactions ever. From spirited impromptu didgeridoo concerts with my pretend wooden straw didgeridoo to having someone ask me quietly, "Are you american? Or are you really from england? You sound really REALLY convincing..."

 But the one that I will never forget, the surreal one that threw me so much that I look back on it and wish desperately that I would have spent more time with her and been a bit more eloquent, was when I met what was basically myself about ten years ago.

I was walking quickly to get somewhere I needed to be at a certain time and an awkward teenage girl in big glasses with mousy brown straight hair wearing a baggy tie-dye shirt approached me, looking like she stepped right out of my past. She gushed that she loved my big floppy hat and then my whole patchy and mismatched distressed outfit. Then her eyes went wide and she asked "OH MY GOD! Do you have dreadlocks!? I have ALWAYS wanted dreadlocks!"  This girl was me a decade ago. Everything about her echoed my past and it took a fair amount of focus to stay strong and in character.

I wish I would have said something better to this girl. I can't even really recall what it was that I said for sure, being in a hurry and being just so shocked. But I just know I damn near cried backstage after she raved about my costume, dialect, getting to be part of the faire and my dreadlocks (especially my locks, a feature that Tamora and I share and that have more meaning than a hairstyle probably should), and she said the phrase "I wish I could BE you!!!"

What I wanted to have said was, "Give it time, love. Follow your dreams"