(NOTE: The most recent posting is at the top; earlier postings are further down.)
DAY EIGHT: Thursday, July 4th
Woke early and we all grabbed one last glorious breakfast in the dining hall (one last humongous serving of bacon, one last baked tomato, one last spoonful of homemade baked beans, one last mini-fruit-yogurt smoothie, one last powdered-sugar-topped-Belgian-waffle…. Oh, just typing this makes me miss the Banff food…. With full bellies, we drove back to Calgary (most of the teens slept all the way, since they got only a few hours of sleep last night) and got to the airport in plenty of time!
About a month ago, when we did our last run-through of the play in New York before tech, Chris made a bet with the teens: “Anyone who makes it through this run through of the show without calling for line gets to make the Ensemble do anything they want on the trip… As long as it causes no physical or emotional harm to any person.” Well, after that rehearsal, Lily, Samantha and Tino were the big winners. They knew their lines perfectly! So today, at the airport, they took their opportunity to cash in their “wins.” Samantha wanted the whole Ensemble to hold her up in the air while we took a picture. Lily wanted everyone to get on their hands and knees in the airport gate waiting area and baa like lambs while she “shepherded” us around. And Tino wanted everyone to give him a compliment, and give Chris an even better compliment, and if he didn’t like the compliment or didn’t think it was sincere, the person had to do 10 push-ups. Most of us paid nice compliments…. But Jason and Armando ended up doing some push-ups! I would attach pictures of these airport shenanigans, but I was sworn to photographic secrecy on these potentially embarrassing shots…
We wore our cowboy hats onto the plane (it ends up that they are surprisingly easy to stack, and Master Packer George was able to make them all stow away easily in the overhead compartments of the plane!) And after a somewhat bumpy flight, we were back home.
As we approached NYC, worried that this would be the “end” of their time together, consensus was made to have a big Thanksgiving Reunion Party!! With turkey…. though vegetarian Lily said she would have Tofurkey.
So it seems their journey is not over. This Ensemble will have many powerful memories to bind them together for life. And I was honored to ride alongside them on this leg of their journey. I look forward to seeing where each of their journeys takes them next, what new challenges they conquer, and what new “wins” they cash in.
For…. as we now know… It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do you.
DAY SEVEN: Wednesday, July 3rd
Our last day… we were all able to have free time in the morning, a rare treat on a Project trip. Some went to town to shop for souvenirs, a lot of people swam in the pool, and of course, Carol and I got massages. Aw yeah.
We met up after lunch to do a dress run of our show. It was the first time we’d really tried to put the whole thing together in this big theater, and to my overly-critical eye, the show seemed out-of-focus and rushed. It’s hard for the teens to know where to enter and exit from, and the theater is so big that it takes a lot longer to get to where you need to be! But we got through the rehearsal, and talked through some notes, and took a much needed dinner break.
I tasked Ashley and Armando with posting flyers around the Centre, and they fearlessly went up to others in the dining hall to invite them to the show.
After a nice break, we headed back to the theater to warm up and to read out loud a note that Gus has sent from New York to the teens. We started to get a bit emotional, but I said, “there will be time for that emotional stuff later! Let’s get pumped up now!”
And we did indeed get pumped up… which was good because there were over 200 people in the audience! Not to mention that Banff has printed tickets (from TicketMaster) and specially printed programs (much like a Playbill). All of this made us feel like we were in the big leagues!
For the curtain speech we did a Shakespearean trivia contest, and Lynne Rosenberg, one of our Shakespeare coaches from NYC, was in the audience and won a hat!
(Here are the two questions. Would you have been able to answer them?
1) What other Shakespearean comedy features not one, but two pairs of twins?
2) What Hollywood movie about Shakespeare ends with Shakespeare beginning to write “Twelfth Night”?)
The show was fantastic. The teens stepped up their game, the audience was warm and generous with laughter and applause (even giving Johanna exit applause after her first scene!) and it looked beautiful. Many people came up to Carol, George and myself at intermission and after the show to ask more about the Project, and at the end of the show we got a standing ovation!!
As seems traditional at the Banff Centre, we were asked to do a short Q&A after the show for any audience members who wanted to stay (about 2/3 of the audience stayed) There were several kids in the audience, and one little boy asked a couple of questions; most people asked about how long we had been working on the show, what the teens thought of Shakespeare, what they have learned from working as an ensemble, etc. The teens said that being in this experience has taught them about commitment, that it has allowed them to be able to deal with many differing personalities, and that they feel that they could do more challenging things now that they have completed this challenge. Armando also admitted to the crowd that “SparkNotes” was his secret weapon in understanding Shakespeare’s text!!
After the talk back we quickly and easily struck our set, said goodbye to our #1 Fan Lynne, and all headed up to a lounge area to have a final Ensemble meeting. Two years ago, when the teens first started the Ensemble, Chris and I had them all write letters to themselves: hopes, fears, etc. for the next two years. They sealed the envelopes that day in 2011… And I brought those very same letters to Canada and presented them all with their own words on this last night. What followed was a moving and emotional couple of hours where we all got to reflect on the experiences of the Ensemble, and of being a member of The 52nd Street Project. All of our conversation reminded me of a song lyric that the teens wrote last fall, after reading “Twelfth Night” for the first time:
“It doesn’t matter what you do/
As long as you do you”
Chris had written a beautiful sonnet for the teens, text below:
A SONNET+FOUR FOR THE 52ND STREET PROJECT 2013 TEEN ENSEMBLE, IN ALPHABETICAL POSITION (more or less)
WHEN in the twilight of our group endeavor,
I think upon the work that we have done,
I have no doubt that I shall now and ever
Recall with pride the joys of our brief run.
For every teen a star now shines on high:
Count Alvin dazzles on his mirthful throne,
While Ashley’s madcap wit flares ‘cross the sky;
Armando, feigned cynic, sits alone,
Yet still his subtle grace doth light the rest;
Wise Doris glows to guide all wand’ring ships,
As Jason ponders God’s eternal jest,
And Kia past Orion streaks and flips.
Lily’s wily smile doth dim the moon,
Melissa tunes the music of the spheres,
Kind Tino dances like some mystic loon,
And now Samantha’s voice shakes Pluto’s ears.
‘Though now, alas, we set aside our Art,
Our constellation shall ne’er come apart.
Emotionally spent, we had a big group hug and went back to our rooms, to attempt some sleep before our big travel day.
DAY SIX: Tuesday, July 2nd
Got all 10 teens up and out the door by 8:30 a.m. for a hike to Lake Louise—a pristine Alpine lake near several distinctive peaks (including a mountain that looks like a beehive). We didn’t have a LOT of time this morning, but we wanted these teens to have the experience of this hike, and the rewarding views from the top!
Doris and Armando had already been expressing some concern about their asthma. While this is not a strenuous hike, by any means, we are at a much higher altitude, which affects different people different ways; mostly shortness of breath and light-headedness if you overexert yourself.
Tino led the way, walking with a big walking stick that Chris found for him early on. He bravely led the pack, expressing enthusiastically at each turn how much he was enjoying the hike. In fact, he purposefully was in the front because he knew some of the teens might complain along the way about the bugs or the horse poop at our feet or the length of the hike, and he didn’t want to have to hear any of that. He said that he liked the scenery, the waterfall, he loved the texture of the lake (covered in blue green minerals from the surrounding mountains), and he loved his Wizard-esque walking stick. He discovered, today, on his first hike ever, that he liked hiking. “I felt accomplished when I reached the top, “ he said. “It’s just like life: when you start at the bottom and have to work your way up and up to the moment, and when you get there, you feel accomplished; like the king of the world… Plus, it’s a fantastic workout!”
At some point, about halfway through, some of our group decided to turn back. Or so we thought…. Five teens remained on the hike, (Jason, Alvin, Tino, Lily and Melissa) and we trucked it all the way to our destination, Lake Agnes, a mirror-like lake that reflects the mountains that surround it and we could look back down at where we came from and see how high we had climbed. We were so high up that there were even hills of snow and we had snowball fights and took tons of pictures and kept repeating “Wow! That’s so beautiful” every time we turned around. Jason loved the snow and kept saying, “This is so cool.”
We were so proud of “The 5” who made it….and we began our descent to tell the others of the glorious scenery we had seen….. But WAIT!! We ran into another four teens who had been slowly but surely (like The Little Engine That Could) working their way up the mountain! Armando, Kiya, Ashley, and Samantha (who were all with Johanna) came around a corner and shocked us! We really had thought that everyone had turned around and gone back down to the bottom. But NO! They had pushed themselves and each other to make it to the top!!! “I’m not stopping! You can’t make me,” declared Armando. George and Vanessa went on with them (as we were running out of time to get back down and get back to the Centre for lunch) so that they could make sure everyone got back in time…. And the second group of 4 ended up being just as awed as the first by the scenery at the top. Armando said, “I am so glad I did this,” as he got to the top. Doris and Carol were the only ones who did not make it all the way, but Doris’ asthma was acting up, and Carol’s hiking shoes were wreaking havoc on her feet, so the two of them waded around in the Lake and enjoyed the dandelions and turquoise blue water and people watched until we all joined them again. It was a very special morning!
We all sped back to the Banff Centre for lunch and a swim before heading to the theater for the rest of the day. It was time to get down to business! Got to the theater, and met with our amazing tech team: onstage support, lighting and sound interns, and a professional crew of technicians ready to help us. Our set looks beautiful in this space, and the stage has a back-lit scrim that can be lit different colors for different scenes. It looks simple but beautiful and the kids are already picking up their game to fill this big theater with their voices.
I was worried about the teens’ energy. After the physical and emotional demands of the morning hike, now we are asking them to focus on the play in this new space and rehearse all of our technical moments from the show. Chris led a line-through of the show in the Green Room dressing room (Yes, there is a green room, a space right off the stage with couches and chairs and mirrors where the cast can relax and prepare and get ready for our show!), while Vanessa and I worked with the lighting and sound operators. Then we brought the kids onstage to begin rehearsal. Even though they were tired (“Megan, we just hiked a mountain today!” was the response when I asked how they were feeling), they remained focused and kept each other on task. It also helped that I had a “God” mike so that I didn’t have to yell instructions to them, I could just calmly get on the microphone and make suggestions or let them know what we needed to do next.
We miraculously worked cue to cue through the entire show by 9:00 p.m. and then… the power went out. The power went out all throughout Banff, apparently from some big winds and a tree going down (all happening while we were in the theater, oblivious to the real world). We had gotten all the way to the final moment of the play: a final tableau of all the teens, singing “We are the Wind and the Rain” onstage… and it seemed the winds and the rains outside had caused havoc with the power system!
Our dedicated and responsible technicians made sure we got out of the theater safely, and headed back to our power-less residence hall where we patiently waited (well, that’s not really true… the kids played a bit of manhunt outside, and we adults took a walk around campus), and the outage only lasted about an hour and a half. We were greatly relieved, since the teens were worried about what would happen to our show if the power remained out. And serendipitously, as we walked out of the theater we saw a rainbow: a nice reminder that beautiful things come from a storm.
Tomorrow will be the only day on the tour that we don’t have a scheduled activity in the morning. We are actually going to let the teens sleep in!!! (Unless, of course, they want breakfast, which means getting to eat BACON, and for many of them that is a serious scheduling concern). Carol and I are getting massages, some of the teens are going souvenir shopping, and I’m sure many of them will be hitting the pool—which they all love since the pool, while indoors, is in an all-windowed space that makes it feel like you are outside.
Tomorrow is our final show, our final night, and our final reflections together as an ensemble. I have been so proud of this ensemble, and I continue to be impressed and surprised by them.
P.S. At dinner, Armando got up the nerve to speak to the table of Mathematicians who have been doing research and presentations this week. Since he wants to be a math teacher, he wanted to pick their brains on what courses he should take in college. He walked up to them in his Mets pajama pants and found out all the courses he should muscle up on over the next few years!
DAY FIVE: Monday, July 1st
(This blog post was happily written on a laptop while gazing at the Rocky Mountains…)
Got up and out in the morning, packed up all of our belongings, and said goodbye to the University of Calgary. We had a wonderful stay there, and the kids felt very at home, to be sure.
We then embarked upon the GORGEOUS drive to Banff. As George pointed out before we left, we would see a huge shift in terrain. Calgary is Plains country, while Banff is Mountain country. We experienced a little bit of traffic in the middle. We could see where the flooding had ruined the Trans Canada highway, but repairs were underway, and after seeing looming, majestic mountains, huge ski slope jumps, and a funny dog in a helmet in a sidecar of a motorcycle, we pulled into the quaint and beautiful town of Banff.
The Banff Centre, whose motto is “Inspiring Creativity” is an exquisite complex, set in the Rocky Mountains. We are staying in the Professional Development Center, a gorgeous building in the woods, with fancy rooms that look out into the trees. I’d forgotten how much I love this place. It really is a luxurious home for artists, which makes everyone feel so respected and worthy of doing good things.
We were oriented to the rules of the Centre, and tempted with the amazing sports facilities. We got our “Artist Card” ID cards, which some kids almost immediately lost. We were also instructed about Quiet Time, and told that if we had noisy neighbors, we should call security. Ashley thought our orienteer said “nosy neighbors,” though, which we all thought ALSO deserved a call to security!
After a delicious lunch in the dining hall (that has 360 degree views of the mountains — you feel as if you are eating in mid-air!), we decided to meet up at 3:30 to go downtown for the Canada Day parade and festivities. Downtown Banff had a central market of local artisans (artsy belt buckles, silk screened t-shirts, I Heart Canadian Women buttons, etc.) but let me tell you, it is HOT. Sunny and HOT. But the parade was worth it!!! We found a good spot on the shady side of the street and enjoyed marching bands, a local dentist with a Tooth mascot, cowgirls on horseback, more marching bands, and the Banff Centre even had a float (a pickup truck with a woman playing a piano on the back!).
We headed back to the Centre to get a tour of the whole facility. Our tour guide post-dinner was Jim Olver, who showed us all kinds of hidden treasures on the Banff Campus. Dueling pianists on two grand pianos in a concert hall, sound studios — state of the art — where bands and musical groups come to record and mix albums. Alvin was especially excited to see this, since apparently he wants to be the next Pharell/Timbaland/etc. and be a music producer. Also on the tour was a jazz recording studio that even has extra couches and mood lighting so that the jazz musicians will feel right at home; a commercial and filming room that is completely green-screened; and of course, our theater — where Armando walked in and said, “I am loving this. I am flippin’ loving this.” The kids ran into the audience and demanded that their fellow cast mates say one of their lines from the play. Then they demanded the lines be louder and clearer!
Some kids were dragging and feeling a bit ill. We had to impose an early bedtime because we are planning on getting up extra early tomorrow for a hike — and then all afternoon in technical rehearsal in the theater. We’re hoping to make the kids go to bed EARLY tonight, but not before Canada Day fireworks!!! The perfect way to end the day. We went up on top of a residence building and with other actors and singers and dancers, we watched the town fireworks amongst a backdrop of glorious mountains. O, Canada, indeed!
DAY FOUR: Sunday, June 30th
While waiting for everyone to gather this morning in the front of our residence hall, an older woman, one of the evacuees staying at the University, came up to us. We’ve had several conversations with her; Ashley especially connected to her; and she apologized for not making our show last night. She had been very tired, and wasn’t able to come out. Ashley reassured her that it was okay, but the woman insisted on hugging all of the teens, wanting to show them how much she cared— just after meeting them a couple of times and a few short conversations.
We had a huge day on Sunday: 2 Big Adventures: The first was Heritage Park!
Heritage Park is a serene trip back in time, to Canada circa 1910. All of the buildings are restored to look like they did during that time, as well as all the staff, or “interpreters,” who play roles of the time-period, all dressed in period costume and always in character. We began with a tour with our guide: Katrina, and for hours and hours we watched live dramas unfold before us (Armando even volunteered to join in one of the short plays—about the “evils” of boxing), helped to make butter (by shaking a milky mixture in a mason jar), rode a train (Kiya noted that even though the train had extremely rocky starts and stops, none of us had any trouble. “It’s because we’re New Yorkers,” she said), and rode myriad carnival rides: Ferris wheel, the swings, and the infamous “Caterpillar”, which caused QUITE a stir when it was first introduced in the 1910’s because couples on dates would be completely covered by a green covering and their “chaperones” couldn’t see what they were doing underneath the covering! However, after Armando and Ashley and Johanna rode the bumpy, careening jolting ride, we couldn’t imagine anyone doing anything inappropriate inside!!
Other highlights of Heritage Park were the post office (where you could send real postcards home), a blacksmith shop, a print shop, and a glorious candy store where we all got rock candy or salt water taffy. Delicious.
Armando and Ashley bought $1 Canada Flags. “A bargain! Only 1 dollar! “Armando shouted to any onlooker who would catch his eye. We waved them from the train window, and from the Paddlewheel boat that we all rode (except, of course, for poor Samantha, Alvin, and Jason, who missed the boat by mere seconds, and were left at the dock as our boat pulled away from the pier, waving sadly to their friends…)
In fact, while on the boat, a woman recognized Lily from her radio interview! We’re famous!!
After our Fantastic trip back in time, we ventured out to the Airdrie Rodeo, one of the oldest and biggest rodeos in Canada. We pulled up in our gingham shirts, cowboy hats, big boots, and cameras at the ready.
We were greeted by one of the staff, who generously gave us all gelatos, and then took us to our first tour stop: the RODEO CLOWN. Dennis Halstead was a character. He described his job as having a fun part and a serious part. The fun part is like being a stand up comedian for the crowd and providing jokes and banter while the rodeo riders get ready. He and his fellow bull fighters go around the “rodeo circuit” and do this all the time— living out of his “professional Rodeo Clown” trailer. He autographed photos for all of us, and told us we should all go check out the rodeo at Madison Square Garden. (MSG?!?!?, you say? Well, as Tino quipped, “Madison Square Garden’s got EVERYTHING.”)
Last time around, the rodeo was overcast, cold, and rainy. We REQUIRED the teens this time to bring their jackets, long pants, boots, etc. Well, nature is a fickle friend, and this time the sun beat down on our faces and shoulders, glared us in the eye, and we all sat on the bleachers (10 feet away from the action) sweating and squinting and wishing for some clouds!! But it was worth it. Those fierce and brave cowboys wrestled steers, lassoed bulls, rode bucking broncos and got the crap beaten out of them in front of our eyes. It was quite a spectacle of skill and courage and we were amazed at what these athletes go through for their sport.
Home late, we all went to sleep (well, some of the teens thought it would be funny to all sleep on the kitchen floor: Doris, Melissa, Armando, and Jason ALL slept on the kitchen floor in Carol’s apartment. She awoke to find them this morning. Then they all quietly snuck into MY apartment at 7:15 a.m. to plant themselves on our kitchen floor. Ha ha haha).
DAY THREE: Saturday, June 29th
Everyone was tired this morning. Hard to wake up and get going… but we had to get going! We had a 9:30 a.m. call at the theater so we could re-spike the stage, get all of our props in place, get into costume, welcome Kathleen Foreman and Jeffrey (our wonderful audience members), warm up our bodies and voices, so that we could do a full dress-run of our show at 10:30 a.m.
The bleary eyes of the teens made me a bit nervous. Would they be energized? Would they remember all of the changes we made to the show just the day before? Would they feel comfortable in this brand new space that is so different from our Five Angels Theater? Did we have everything that we needed?
I needn’t have worried. As they worked through the show, they opened up to each side of the theater, and got more and more confident, and started having a lot of fun.
Carol arrived before lunch, and we welcomed her with excitement [the teens] and relief [me!]. Having more staff is a good, good thing!
We broke for lunch, and saw that the University is a-buzz with other groups: the evacuees are still residing, and there was a B-Boy B-Girl dance competition about to begin after lunch. We elected to try the swimming pool again, and rest up a bit before heading back to the theater this afternoon. Refreshed from the pool, and ready for an audience, the cast met back up at the theater in the late afternoon. We did fun warm-ups and got everything as ready as possible, and awaited our audience.
We had been told we would be overflowing… but it turned out to be a healthy crowd of about 100 (the theater holds 149). But it meant that the whole front section of the audience was full, and they were a responsive and kind crowd. (Oddly enough, no evacuees. Mostly friends and family of our hosts, and the college theater community.) For the teens, this was their best performance yet (in my humble opinion). They were energetic and kept a great pace, and were really listening and responding and finding new moments onstage. All this while adjusting beautifully to a new theater shape. Chris and I couldn’t have been more proud of them for this show.
Over the past few days, there’s been a consistent curiosity about college life. They keep asking, “Will we get to know more about this university?” And tonight they got a glimpse into College Theater Student life. About 10 or so of the cast of “The Threepenny Opera,” a show that closed last night in the theater, came to see our show tonight. Young, energetic, expressive and dramatic, these college theater students LOVED our show. Dan, our intern, encouraged them to talk to our teens, and a love-affair-of-sorts followed. Clumped in the lobby, giggling and shrieking with laughter, the two casts shared stories and jokes and dance moves. All of a sudden, the lobby got quiet, and a song began. The “Threepenny” cast had begun a big song and dance number from their show and were performing it right there in front of the water fountain! They leapt and harmonized and kicked and belted and our kids hooted and hollered for this impromptu excerpt. Their performance morphed into big circle theater games, dance parties, and grand showcases of everyone’s special skills. Our teens begged them to stay for pizza, which we had delivered to the lobby for a post-show snack.
Sadly, after pizza and more camaraderie, we said goodbyes to our new friends, and brought all of our costumes and set pieces and props back to the residence hall. One show down, one to go. And adventure awaits us tomorrow at the rodeo.
DAY TWO: Friday, June 28th
Late last night, Kiya and Lily scored us a coffee pot, so waking up this morning was a lovely experience. Other girls came over to have breakfast, and we chowed down on cereal and juice to start our first full day in Calgary. Cute little bright eyed collegiate “volunteers” came to our door this morning to tell us of the activities that are happening on campus; I was delighted to be so taken care of and invited… but when I said, “Oh, we’ll be in the theater all day for our show tomorrow,” they quickly realized that we were not evacuees, and they did not need to be checking in on us. They also, for the record, had no idea about our show, nor really where the theater is… But we did tell them to tell all the evacuees and anyone else they see to come to our show.
Melissa and Lily were on the RADIO today!!! (CLICK HERE to stream the episode). After breakfast George took the two of them to CBC, the major Calgary radio station where they were interviewed about New York City, the Project, and our show. Plus, they got to perform one of the songs from our production on the radio, complete with their ukulele and melodica. They handled themselves with characteristic eloquence, humor, and grace. They taped the segment and later in the day we actually caught it live-streaming and plugged it into the theater’s sound system so we could hear it “loud and clear.”
After lunch, Raj, our awesome U of C lighting designer, designed and lit our whole show in a matter of 30 minutes while Chris continued spacing out the show on the new stage. It was challenging being in this new space— 3/4 in the round. We even had to re-block our curtain call… I mean, you want to make sure everyone can see you while they applaud and you bow!
BBQ dinner at Vanessa’s parents Al and Faylene Valdes: burgers and hot dogs, chili and potato salad. Bocce Ball tournaments, mosquito swatting, and a huge gift of 10-gallon Stetson hats for the WHOLE ENSEMBLE!! We gave the gift of our Twelfth Night t-shirt to the Valdes’ and Clem Martini, the director of the theater department at the University.
We all spoke in Texas accents, pretended we were cowboys, and looked forward to our Sunday trip to the rodeo, where EVERYONE will be wearing cowboy hats, and we’ll fit right in. But we also wondered how in the world we would fit all 16 of these hats on the return plane flight with us…
Ashley bemoaned losing these Canadian coin-dollars—they are easy to lose… “I feel rich in Canada dollars— but I’m still as broke as I was in NYC….”
Tomorrow’s our show at the University, and Carol arrives. Saturday’s gonna be a great-day.
Follow the adventures of The Project’s Teen Ensemble as they travel to Calgary and Banff with their production of TWELFTH NIGHT.
DAY ONE: Thursday, June 27th
4:45 a.m. Lisa Kerner, coming to the rescue, called all the kids for a wake-up call, and waited like a sentinel at the foot of the stairs with all the duffel bags, costumes, and even wore a 12th Night shirt.
Miraculously, all 10 teens (and several parents) showed up by 5:00 a.m. Armando showed up in a black cowboy hat, and sunglasses that had crosses in the middle of the lenses, and a long silver chain holding a huge silver cross. Jason Gil, for whom this is the first plane trip, hugged his mom for a good full minute. She said he was feeling very nervous about this first flight. Indeed, he was uncharacteristically quiet.
At the airport, the teens were examples of good behavior. We played Mad Libs (a marvelous story entitled “Talk Like a Pirate”) and I played Canadian Money Banker (Ashley was very concerned about Canadian Math: “If something costs 18 Canadian dollars, and I give them 20, will I still get 2 back???”), and we boarded with no issues. Alvin managed to score a seat next to Jason to comfort him during take off and the flight. Alvin himself was accompanied by his own comfort-system: his teddy bear named “Captain”; a dapperly dressed bear wearing a blue plaid shirt and denim pants. As the plane prepared to take off, Ashley proclaimed loudly from her seat: “Now I want to call my mother and tell her I love her!”
We arrived in Calgary on a beautiful day—75-degrees and sunny. We got to the University, which is bustling with the remnants of many evacuees from the Flood. Our residence hall is full of families and community members who have been staying here because they live in a “red zone” (where the danger of flooding was too dangerous to stay at home). Today is their last day here, and it is a strange mix of people. It definitely feels more like a relief center than a college dorm today.
Because we couldn’t go explore the downtown neighborhood (flood-damage), we were left without a clear itinerary. George and Vanessa also needed to go do some housekeeping (quite literally, with Vanessa’s house) and meetings with flood insurance agents and picking up groceries. Chris and Johanna and I and the teens had some quiet time, followed by attempting to visit the campus pool. However, we spent a good 10 minutes just trying to navigate the locker room and by the time we found the pool, we were told that there wasn’t time to swim. A swim team was practicing and it was not recreational swim time. Ah well… a quick tour around the student center and the bookstore led to an impromptu work-out session at the outdoor gym/playground. We’ll try for the pool another day.
We figured that tonight we’d go to dinner at Peter’s Drive-In and get a chance to look down at the downtown area of Calgary and see how the flooding has affected the city. Peter’s Drive-In is a classic burger joint with onion rings and huge bags of fries and “Poutinen” which is fries smothered in gravy and cheese curd. (The Canadian national dish) Tino bravely ate it, but no one really liked it! (Sorry, Canada). We drank milkshakes and floats and our fried gooey goodness, and Kiya declared that she felt “so content” afterwards.
We drove to a couple of key vantage points above the city to see the Bow River and Prince’s Island. Mosquitos were all around us, and Kiya was having a hard time adjusting. We were bounding across a well-manicured lawn in a beautiful park when she hysterically screamed, “I’m too New York for this!” batting the mosquitos with both hands and both feet.
We came upon a wading pond, where Vanessa and George quickly took their shoes off and led the pack into the shallow water. Soon, all the teens were ankle deep… then thigh deep, then falling in whole body and racing each other from one end to the other. (Forgot to mention, we met our Canadian intern Dan Perry at Peter’s Drive-In. He came up to our boisterous group and at first seemed a bit overwhelmed. He’s a bit quiet at first meeting, but as we started talking he opened up about his studies and the city and about how he would be involved in our show.) But at the wading pool, he observed that we were all much more “laid back” than he had been expecting. He said he never would have thought that we would all gladly and swiftly jump into a wading pool and risk “tetanus” so easily. (For the record, he did NOT get in the water…). But he greatly enjoyed our joy in the water.
Soaking wet and giggly we all realized that our time in the wading pool was karma’s way of repaying us for the swimming pool that was not available to us. Samantha waved her finger in the air saying, “They said ‘no swimming today,’ but I said, ‘NOPE!’” And Jason whined all the way back to the vans “Can we just go HOME!? I’m just so TIRED!! And there are so many BUGS!!” But it was mixed with giggles and satisfied glee at the water races he had just won.
Came back to the dorms where the kids settled down, and Johanna and I had a toast to a great Day One. I realized that, while this was a very LOOOOONG day, it will perhaps be the least hectic and the most relaxed scheduled day that we will have on this whole trip.
I’m looking forward to getting into the theater tomorrow, where we will figure out this new iteration of “Twelfth Night” and get to share it with a whole new crew.
More soon, Megan.