Performer Scott White writes from his experiences on the road with Smile Theatre's "A Christmas Carol", running until December 20, 2014:
Our first two show day. We started out in Etobicoke at a small venue, and the only way to load in was up a small flight of stairs, so the dollies that we usually use to load in the bins, boxes and sound equipment were left in the van.
The greeting of the residents was warm and wonderful. The space was intimate ... much smaller than yesterday, but there were still over 40 people in attendance. We performed the show and were touched by the audience response. One of the residents spoke of the beauty of Gabi and Mark's voices. One spoke to me about how when she saw Scrooge cry during Belle's song, she suspected he might have a heart after all and she was rooting for him to see the mistakes in his life. Meanwhile, some of the 80 year old men were insisting on helping Laura our stage manager with the load out ... she politely declined, but I suspect had we let them, the van would have been packed before we had time to change.
At the end of the pack-up, the coordinator insisted we all come back. When we entered the room, a gentleman asked the entire room to stand ... a way to give us the ovation that many of the patrons hadn't been able to do spontaneously earlier due to walkers and wheelchairs. But with a little notice, they were all ready to rise to their feet with the help of their canes. They gave us a warm round of applause that lasted over a minute. It was overwhelming. At the end, they presented us with gift bags of chocolates from a specialty store down the street. Truly our hearts were ready to burst.
Laura our stage manager drove us back for the dinner break, and by now the snow was falling heavily. Fortunately our evening show was only a few blocks from home base. We arrived on time, but the performance venue was the dining room and the residents were still eating. We couldn't set up until 6:30 for a 7:00 PM show, but even by the third show of the tour, the company have found ways to set up the show quickly and efficiently. We started the show only a few minutes later than planned and had a rapt audience.
Our puppets were acting mischievously, and one of them had the nerve on a quick move with his head, to leave his body behind, but some improvised "new choreography" got him back into the show in a blink ... he acted up a few more times, but the audience didn't seem to mind. Tomorrow, we'll see if we can't find a better way to ensure that the Ghost of Christmas Present doesn't lose his head.
Sometimes the shows are not only meaningful to the people who attend, but also to the people who act as caregivers. During the end of the show, as I was singing the final number, I noticed one of the coordinators of the home was getting rather "misty eyed". After we finished I spoke to her, and she told me that her father was 84 and had Alzheimers. A Christmas Carol is one of his favourite shows, and she was truly moved by the production.
The care givers in these homes give tirelessly, and often we hear that they enjoy the productions as much, if not more than the patrons. The work is about making people feel joy.
Now it is a night of rest ... tomorrow ... we go to Gravenhurst. It will be an entirely different show as we play a more public venue dedicated to seniors activities. Until then ... goodnight from the Scrooge who gets sad in the show (along with Gabi Epstein who breaks my heart every night as Belle.)
|Gabi Epstein and Scott White in Smile Theatre's "A Christmas Carol". Photo by Warren MacDonald.|