While we (the puppeteers) were initially told we would be helping put the set together the night before (from midnight to 6 AM) Theo fortunately took pity on us, realizing we would be giving better performances if we weren't actually sleep deprived and enlisted a few of his friends to help put the thing together. (I did get a text message in the middle of the night asking if I could bring along our drill the next morning. Groggily I texted back that it wouldn't be a problem...and almost asked if they needed it right then...but I didn't dare send it because I was afraid the answer would be YES.)
Texas picked me up at 6AM and then we picked up Ben and finally Sadie. It was close to 7 when we finally arrived at the hotel..and stumbled across a scene of nearly done chaos. We all pitched in, helping finish up wiring and lighting, getting the puppets and equipment in place and then went through a run-through of the show. Generally our first shows, while accurate aren't as lively and energized as the following performances s so we figured we'd just do it once without an audience to knock the sludge off as well as getting used to the place.
It went well though there were some technical things we had to fix. The queen is one of only three puppets with two rods and one was missing. It's possible to run her with only one moving arm but she is much more powerful a character with two arms, especially for her big dramatic scene. I had a hard time getting her fixed since the sewing needle required to poke the hole through her finger and pull the thread through was missing. It was about 20 minutes before our first show and I still hadn't figured out how to reattach her rod.
We had discussed using tape to just tape the thread to her finger, but all we had was electrical tape. While rummaging through our boxes, desperately searching for something...I saw the Band-Aids in our first aid kit...and was hit with a moment of inspiration. I quickly cut a strip of the bandage and used that as tape to secure the string. It held like a dream and we didn't tell Theo about our jury rig until the very end of the day.
Unfortunately, the fairly benign problem of the Queen losing a rod only served as the precursor to the rest of the problems we were going to experience the rest of the day.
I was rather tired and was still feeling the effects of my tooth extraction...and I wasn't the only one dealing with that particular recovery. Texas had also had a back molar extracted and, unlike me, was dealing with some major infection as well. Both of us were aching and on various drugs. I still don't know exactly what happened...but 10 minutes or so before we were to go on, I felt like every muscle in my abdomen was on fire. It was like my muscle wall had been completely wrenched and then I had nausea on top of it. I honestly didn't know how I was going to get through the performance.
I excused myself from our little group already sitting in the puppet theater and went to the back, out of sight and focused on my breathing. I also through a quick but oh so fervent prayer heavenward, pleading for enough comfort to get me through the performances.
There's a whole `nother post I should write on...how I don't think Heavenly Father doesn't *really* care who wins superbowls or Oscars and I don't really think there are "key angels" who help you find missing items...and yet at the same time I very much believe in the power of prayer and who am I to doubt when the scriptures say that God cares about the smallest sparrow...why shouldn't He care about our little puppet show?
Anyway...it felt near miraculous. As quick as the pain came on, (and it was bad folks,) it dissipated almost as quickly. Not one to overanalyze a gift, I scrambled back into the puppet theater mere moments before the show started.
I would say that our first show ran nearly flawlessly. There were some jitters but nothing disastrous. Texas and I shot each other a quizzical look during our major scene change...a procedure that requires us to both reach up, grab some handles on either end of the stage and pull down a 20 lb counterweight and hook each end to a piece of scenery that slowly rises as the counterweight sinks back down.
As we pulled down it felt ... heavier, less smooth...kind of WRONG but we didn't think much about it and went on through the rest of the show.
The audience was phenomenal...they laughed and applauded through the entire thing. It was great and after all the post show schmoozing Theo had received...as my family calls it...very encouraging news. More on that later.
All hell broke loose for our second show though. As we both pulled to bring the weight up and attach the colonade it was immediate apparent that something had gone horribly wrong. Instead of the pulley system feeling smooth, it felt mcuh heavier and rough. Something had come loose. I tried to whisper frantically that we should just chuck it and not bring the piece up since something had gone so wrong and I didn't want to risk bringing it up only to have the weight snap and have the scenery come crashing down on us but there wasn't enough time to convey the message before Texas and I had to grab our puppets and get back onstage.
It was then that I became hyper aware that the smoke machine wasn't working either which would have worked wonders to help cover our lurching and sinking piece of scenery. I was so jittered by it that our next few scenes felt stilted. Everybody backstage was a major trouper but boy we all missed Lisa that particular show. Rather than the weight holding the colonnade up I realized Ben was underneath the piece of scenery straining at the rope holding it up himself. Later he said that as he was holding the rope to help the weight support it, he heard a snap and turned to see the entire weight breaking free and swinging right at his head. It just barely missed him and now he was supporting the whole weight of the colonnade.
As he had to get back onstage with the queen Stephanie and Sadie took turns holding the piece up. Fortunately we all didn't have to be on at the same time so there was always someone who could hold the rope. It was still sinking though and I feared we looked like the Titanic going down.
Fortunately the scene finally ended and we were able to put it down...but it affected the rest of the performance. It took us a while to find our groove again and I think the audience sensed it. They were a good audience but weren't nearly as vocal and as high energy as the first and I can't help but think it was our fault.
We got the counterweight system working again (It hadn't been drilled in properly plus the block had split) and prepped for our third show. It went really well though our smoke machine was still on the fritz. It's amazing how much mood and effect it adds to our puppet show. Our last audience was really great as well...full of a lot of kids, engaged adults that again laughed at the jokes, applauded at the scene changes and cheered at our curtain call.
Unfortunately we had no time to bask in our appreciate audience because after the last show we had exactly two hours to clear out of the Starlight Room. This is no easy task breaking everything down and packing it up and getting it down the express elevator. I fear we've got some retouch painting to do to make up for our hasty exodus. Let's not to mention vacuuming up all the glitter confetti we blow around. We made it out very much by the skin our teeth and then had to load it all up into the truck...drive the truck into Oakland and unload it at Theo's house.
Most of the puppeteers had dogged out by this point leaving just me and Ben to help Chelan, Henry and Theo. We got everything transferred, Theo treated us to dinner (mushy food for me!) and then Henry drove Ben and I back across the bridge to San Fran. It was 10:30 or so by the time I got home. Long, long day.
It was an exhausting day...but the show was really, really well received. Theo thinks it won't even be a month before we start getting bookings for it...(and here on out...we get paid per show) and that encouraging news? The Starlight room wants to book the show there from Thanksgiving to New Years. AWESOME. THAT'LL be a very, very nice chunk of change.